Making Buffalo home
On the corner of my street, there’s a European-styled café with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that has sat empty since before it was remodeled.
A few houses down from me, the feral cats my landlord rescues lounge on his front steps and occasionally follow me to my front door.
Down the block are Kleinhan’s Music Hall and the epic First Presbyterian Church.
A 10-minute drive and I’m at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Burchfield Penney Art Center, Delaware Park and the beloved cafes of Elmwood Avenue.
And with just a 10-minute walk, I’m in Allentown, meandering through the quirky and ever-hip neighborhood, usually swooning over the incredible homes instead of popping into bar after bar after bar.
I’m an off-campus student, I don’t live with my parents and I certainly don’t live in the Heights.
And neither should you.
UB is technically SUNY University at Buffalo, but there’s nothing about UB that’s Buffalo except for the Medical Campus, and we all know how many undergraduates ever go there – uh, none.
South Campus pretends to be in Buffalo.
It’s in that weird purgatory where Amherst and East Buffalo meet and have a creepy baby who smiles like an angel one moment and pulls a knife on you the next.
But I admit there are benefits to living in the Heights.
Your rent is probably about $50 cheaper than mine, you’re within five minutes of a bus stop to take you to North Campus and all the other cool college kids live there. Oh, and since your house is probably already is pretty rough condition, you don’t have to worry too much about keeping it clean and lovely. College parties galore!
But living downtown, in Allentown or in North Buffalo has its relatively unadvertised benefits. And UB is making no effort to change that.
We constantly read articles about how awful South Campus landlords are – there’s three articles in this issue alone that mention the problems UB students face living off, but near, campus.
(My landlord is a Buffalo detective. Just saying.)
Granted, not all city of Buffalo landlords are created equal and, no matter what, you should do research before you rent from someone.
But UB doesn’t offer any incentives for students to move away from campus and into safer neighborhoods, homes that landlords care about and areas that offer more culture than Northside. Oh wait than, Mojo’s. Oh wait, Molly’s. Oh wait…
The easy bus commute from the Heights to North is tempting, but the 15-minute drive from downtown to UB is also short, quick and easy.
But what would be even better is if UB would jump on the bus-wagon and offer NFTA passes to UB students, like every other major college in the area. If students had access to the Metro Rail or the busing system without shelling out $75 a month, living downtown, or at least visiting the city, would be easy and cheap for students.
UB routinely advertises the benefits its shells out to the City of Buffalo by building big buildings with lots of glass windows, but by failing to encourage students to live, work and play in the city – not just in the wealthy suburbs – UB isn’t helping Buffalo make lifelong residents out of its students.
My idea may not be a fix-all solution, but with increased access to public transportation, the atrocious parking situation on campus would be dampened, students could visit the namesake city of their university and the city itself would reap the benefits of having students roam its restaurants, shops and streets.
UB, if you really want to be the University at Buffalo, introduce your students to Buffalo. And students, Buffalo isn’t far, the drive isn’t bad and the houses are gorgeous – before you make your next housing decision, consider living in the city.
There’s nothing that beats coming home to the lower West Side after a stressful day at school just before the sunset and walking around Symphony Circle or Arlington Square. The orange glow of the sun highlights the dignified steeples of Holy Angels Church and basks the colorful Victorian homes of Richmond Avenue and North Street in a marvelous glow.
And away from UB’s imposing brown buildings, hordes of students and reminders of after-class lectures you should be going to, you can breathe. You’re home.
Emma Janicki is a managing editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org