I’ve always wanted to visit Buffalo.

Friends say I shouldn’t bother.

I can see why they say that.

From a story in today’s Times:

Vacant Houses, Scourge of a Beaten-Down Buffalo – By Ken Belson, The New York Times

Gangs, squatters and teenagers [in Buffalo] have been burning down hundreds of houses a year, straining the meager resources of the Police and Fire Departments. Some of the properties have been turned into crack dens and places to stash guns and drugs. A few have been booby-trapped or had their floors ripped out by scavengers looking for pipes they can sell to metal dealers.

The burned-out and boarded-up buildings, which are visible on nearly every street in east Buffalo, have deterred even the most pioneering investors from moving in.

So Mayor Byron W. Brown recently unveiled a $100 million five-year plan to rip down 5,000 houses, about half of all the vacant houses in the city, which ranks second only to St. Louis in the percentage of vacant properties per capita nationwide.

Again:

ranks second only to St. Louis in the percentage of vacant properties per capita nationwide

That’s terrible.

What’s wrong with Buffalo?

According to census figures released last month, nearly 30 percent of Buffalo’s residents live in poverty, a rate surpassed only by Detroit among the nation’s largest cities. As a result, large numbers of homes continue to be abandoned, and there is not enough money around to build new ones in their place.

That’s really terrible.

Buffalo is not the only city considering such drastic measures.

Philadelphia’s efforts led to a mini-renaissance in recent years; Detroit has had more mixed results. Youngstown, Ohio, is debating whether to bulldoze entire neighborhoods and turn them into parks. (Youngstown being the basis for the Bruce Springsteen song, of course.)

(In a similar way, some people proposed that a “new” New Orleans be rebuilt as a much smaller, safer city, but of course, any calls for reconfiguring that city were shouted down in a chorus of political correctness.)

Of course, tearing buildings down is the “easy” part.

Deciding what to put in their place, is hard.

Getting the new buildings built, is harder still.

Boston has done a pretty good job of tearing down old, abandoned buildings.

It has done a fair job of replacing the empty lots that remain with new housing and community centers.

Yet, too many empty lots remain. You can see what I mean if you ever take a drive through parts of Dorchester and Roxbury.

Still, seeing what Buffalo’s going through, you have to be pretty thankful that we’ve got it this good.

Meanwhile, a local developer has proposed this 23-story residential tower (with a library, community room, wine cellar, multi-media room, and doorman).

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