Improving Buffalo: How To See The Difference

By Griffin Jones

In 2010, Visit Buffalo Niagara released a very popular video called This Place Matters. I can’t back pedal now; I hated it. It drove me nuts.

Three years later, VBN co-sponsored another film, this time by Paget Films called Buffalo: America’s Best Designed City. John Paget’s film was beautifully shot, visionary, and masterfully edited. All things I had initially hated about “This Place Matters”. Yet, I allowed myself to enjoy John’s film the way everyone else does. I could articulate the difference immediately.

The Premier of "Buffalo: America's Best Designed City" at Larkin Square

The Premier of “Buffalo: America’s Best Designed City” at Larkin Square

At a recent event, I heard Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, President of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership make reference to Buffalo’s anonymous malcontents on the internet. I think the phrase she used was “basement people”.

In 2010 I was a basement person.  I resented Buffalo for everything it wasn’t. It’s low skyline, poverty, and lack of professional opportunities deeply aggravated me.  I was missing “the moment of our time” by living in Buffalo. My “basement” attitude was compounded by my first exposure to the This Place Matters video.

I watched it from link after link on Facebook and Twitter from Buffalo expatriates living in New York, Chicago, and Boston. I felt patronized. They were allowed to live “the moment of our time” in these incredible places, yet idealize Buffalo however they pleased. I projected that indignation toward “This Place Matters”, to VBN, and to just about every optimist in town.

The new film was released two days ago. For me, the difference was palpable.  The environment in which I watched the film captured the way my habits have transformed my attitude toward Buffalo.  This time, I didn’t learn about it from people who will never have a role in this community. I didn’t watch it alone on a lap top in my apartment. I was among an audience of people who have invested their lives into making Buffalo a better place to live.

My friend Charlie Fashana said, Buffalo “is what it is, is for the people who stay,”

After the last year or so, I am honored to call many of these people my friends. As I watched helicopter shots of cloudless sky, and flattering redevelopments, similar to the shots that had infuriated me years ago, I looked around.  I stood next to people who’ve helped me push at-risk-youth on a tire swing, through Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I stood behind people who taught me how to plant chard in urban gardens. I was surrounded by the people from B Team Buffalo who cram their schedules with volunteering  until they have no more spare time. All… in a beautifully redeveloped area…under a cloudless sky.

Contributing to Buffalo is a life-long cause. We’ll never get to celebrate and say we’re done. So for those that stayed, and for those that come from elsewhere to take ownership of our city, it’s nice to let the world know we feel good about that. “America’s Best Designed City” does that perfectly.

Now back to work we go…

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4 thoughts on “Improving Buffalo: How To See The Difference

  1. I love this, Grif! How great that you appreciated this pro-Buffalo video more the second time around because of the changes you’ve made in your life, and how much more involved you are in your community. I’ll be including this in my links round-up tomorrow!

    1. Thanks Zandria. You’re a part of that. We can’t sustain just by people that are from here originally. We need ppl like you who not only move in, but take ownership of their role here too.

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