Originally published in 2007.
It is easy to dismiss Buffalo as the poster child of urban decrepitude and dysfunction. It is also wrong. Mark Goldman resurrects Buffalo’s forgotten role on the cutting edge of the literary, artistic, and musical avant-garde. Here is how Buffalo, much to the envy of Boston, peacefully and successfully implemented a court-ordered school desegregation program. Here is how Buffalo, with diminishing resources and little outside help, saved some of America’s finest architectural treasures; and how Buffalo integrated one of its most desirable neighborhoods without rancor or white flight.
Author James Howard Kunstler, a noted critic of suburban sprawl, has argued that after decades of massive investment in suburban expansion, the result is places not worth caring about, not worth defending. In City on the Edge, Goldman shows us a city that, even after massive disinvestment, survives as an inspiring and magical place worth caring about and worth defending.
Goldman tells the story of a passionate and committed citizenry betrayed by inept if not corrupt leadership. On the one hand, City on the Edge is a painful history of desperate politicians who squandered scarce dollars on worthless if not damaging development, which resulted in sickeningly gleeful architectural and urban amputation. It is also homage to a city blessed like few others with engaged caretakers and activists, people who stay and fight to mend the city they love. Goldman’s final chapter is an anthem to the extraordinary sense of place that seizes the hearts and minds of those who are lucky enough to make Buffalo their home.
Goldman’s Buffalo is a city on the edge of rediscovery, renewal, and regeneration—if only its officials will respect the leadership, wisdom, and passion of its citizens. Read it and be prepared to discard your most cherished stereotypes.