The Incredible Strip Mall Jungle



The wind blows through the empty street, past the hollow storefronts begging to be leased. No, it is not the beginning of a Western showdown, but a battle is raging. There are those who wish to preserve all the historic value and attraction downtown Buffalo has to offer. Their battle is against those who take their $40,000 SUVs and push the ever-expanding limits of the "greater Buffalo area."

In a time when you couldn't pay a business to lease a downtown storefront and the asking price of a house with a Buffalo mailing address automatically drops, Niagara Falls Boulevard is overrun with traffic. Every chain store and restaurant that one could think of spending his or her hard-earned dollar at is prospering.

Our world is obsessed with recycling, yet we keep tearing down downtown Buffalo and building up the suburbs. We forget to recycle the history and pride of Buffalo. Yes, the clean, new houses of the suburbs are fantastic and have every convenience money can buy. But do they have hidden passageways or neat little niches for children to call their own? Do the owners have the pride of turning an older house into their own with a little bit of elbow grease?

One of the turning points of the urban flight is UB's choice of a suburban campus opposed to an urban one. Now South Campus is virtually ignored and the administration is trying to conceive a plan where one would never have to leave North Campus to get everything one needs.

A manufactured neighborhood, such as the one being created on campus, does not give people a reason to be neighborly. If everything they ever need is pumped into the apartments, why would anyone need to socialize with their neighbors? Community centers that try to lure people in with free food and corny event nights still can't do what a lousy landlord or busted pipes mean towards neighborly bonding.

Yes, I live in a university apartment. Last year, things were not coming together well in the apartment hunt. Luckily, I got a phone call that my roommate and I got into the apartments off the waiting list.

Just like everyone else, I fell for the convenience and the all-inclusiveness. It is something that other apartments can't compete with. But as I look at my living room that has been rearranged a hundred times to look more homey and inviting, I cringe.

I cringe because my furniture looks like everyone else's. My walls are institutional white. When I moved here, I gave up the option to have my own furniture. Mismatched and secondhand as it is, it's mine. From the very beginning, I found it futile to spend what little money I had trying to turn metal tables and uncomfortable furniture into something unique and interesting. The only option I saw that could accomplish such a feat was to buzz saw the existing furniture - not a feasible option.

I now return to my original theme from my extended tangent. Erie County Executive Joel Giambra is attempting to move ECC to a consolidated downtown location, a move touted as one of the things to revitalize downtown. This could have been UB's position when the second campus decision was made. Who is to say what Amherst would look like without the university? Maybe it would look like Pendleton, N.Y., where people still have a little distance between each other and land to call their own.

No, the university would not have such a sprawling campus, with hundreds of apartments that go up in a matter of months. Sometimes, I suppose when one gets prematurely sick of loud music and drunken antics like I have, a diverse community of families, singles, and other community would be appealing.

In May, I will no longer pay over $400 for an estranged, isolated environment. I will pay less and decorate a home as my own. I'll have neighbors I complain about the heating system to on our way to work in the morning and do everything I can to let people know about the hidden gems that make Buffalo more unique than the strip mall that is Niagara Falls Boulevard.