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The Buffalo Continuum

I recently visited my home town of Buffalo (I live in Albany now) and stayed in the area around the waterfront. While there I saw many projects that have come to fruition and some that are still underway that I had been involved with in some way in my prior career. It was a strange, slightly sad feeling. I’ve been trying to come up with words to try to describe what, and why I felt. One of the useful things about writing this blog is that it helps me see things through a different lens — finding the Bowie connection sometimes helps me think about something that really isn’t about David Bowie.

So the Bowie connection is this: one of the never-before-revealed clips from last year’s documentary, Moonage Daydream, was footage of Bowie singing, “Rock’n Roll with Me” in Buffalo. The footage came from a concert at Buffalo’s old War Memorial Auditorium in November, 1974. Like Bowie, “The Aud” no longer exists. In its place is a children’s museum and three construction sites. The “Aud blocks” are part of an evolving area now known as Canalside, which became an international destination during the Cuomo Administration of which I was a member. I was personally involved in several of the infrastructure projects that helped transform Buffalo’s waterfront.

It wasn’t Bowie, but Bette Midler who, from the very same Memorial Auditorium quipped to her audience, “I love what you’ve done with your waterfront.” At the time, people got the joke— she was making fun of the wasteland that existed for most of the time I have been alive, before my team got to work.

But my team was not the first to get to work. While walking around the Waterfront I came across a plaque dedicating the opening of Erie Basin Marina, from 1974– the same year as Bowie’s performance. Some of the names on the plaque included some members of the Buffalo Common Council whose political careers overlapped with my own— Tony Masiello (who, as mayor, married me), Carl Perla and George Arthur. Some of the others, like Chester Gorski and Bill Hoyt had children whose political careers overlapped with mine. In fact, Hoyt’s son, Sam, was my former boss and later colleague in the Cuomo administration who was a driver in some of the most important waterfront accomplishments.

Sam and I, and for that matter Andrew Cuomo, are not likely to get a plaque on Buffalo’s waterfront. But we were part of the same continuum as the names on the plaque. My hope is that the transformation continues in the same progressive direction.

I’m not posting a link to the Bowie song today, but I will do so tomorrow. Instead, I’m posting some pictures I took of Buffalo’s waterfront, including the plaque. The picture of the obvious construction site is on the footprint of the old Aud. The one picture taken in the daytime of a river setting is further up the Niagara River from Buffalo in Tonawanda, along the Empire State Trail, which is a contiguous bike trail stretching from Niagara Falls to New York City and beyond which was another accomplishment of the team of which I was a part.

Bowie’s gone. The Aud is gone. Sam, Cuomo and I have all moved on. There’s a sadness to all this. But the waterfront has improved greatly since Bowie was there and Governor Rockefeller opened the marina. Sometimes what comes next is better than what came before.

I don’t know how well that explains my feelings, but that’s what I got. Enjoy the pictures.

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