Category Archives: Buffalo Central Terminal

Items related to the former New York Central Terminal in Buffalo, NY and the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation

Derek and Amanda retire from the CTRC

This year marks the tenth that Amanda and I have been volunteers with the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation, and my fourth serving on the Board of Directors.  The CTRC is in the best position it’s ever been in to succeed and move into the future, and with that knowledge Amanda and I are both “retiring” from our roles.

It’s tough to leave an organization that you’ve been so heavily invested in for so long.  I went from being just one of the volunteers, removing broken glass and boarding up problematic access points, to being on several committees, to serving as PR lead, volunteer coordinator, IT guy, and eventually being elected to the Board and as Treasurer.  Amanda similarly served in a number of different roles – as merchandise coordinator, volunteer coordinator, and this year developed the CTRC’s first official docent training program.

I’m amazed and proud at how far the organization has come.  We’ve grown our income by leaps and bounds.  We’ve put out a master plan, showing how the building could be redeveloped in a phased approach.  We’ve landed grants from a number of organizations, including a $300,000 grant from New York State for canopy restoration and two grants from the Wendt Foundation which have allowed us to fund an executive director.  We’ve brought national media attention to the building on a number of occasions.  Most importantly, we’ve completed the first phase of replacing the roof – a major step in rehabilitation of the Central Terminal.

So why leave?  Life is different today than it was ten years ago.  When Amanda and I started, we were just married and had no kids.  I was blown away by the Terminal and the fact that such an amazing building existed in Buffalo that I never even knew about, and I lived in WNY my whole life.  It was clear that the building and the organization could use all the help it could get and I had time to give.  Now, we have a daughter starting kindergarten and a preschooler still at home.  Our weeknights and weekends are more precious than ever.  Career-wise, I’ve moved up the ladder and as such things go it requires more time and focus.  I frankly don’t feel like sitting in front of the computer for a few hours in the evening after being glued to it all day anymore.

The organization is different now as well.  We have a Board of Directors with a much wider range of skills and experience.  We have an Executive Director who can serve the daily needs of the organization.  We have more volunteers serving as leaders in key roles.  The CTRC’s focus now isn’t on basic fundraising events and keeping the lights on, but major restoration and preparation for tenants.  It’s not the scrappy scramble that it used to be, which is a good thing, even if I do miss it from time to time – the feeling that individually you are essential to the success of an event, a project, or a goal.  Of course, the organization can’t grow and thrive if it never advances past that stage, and I’m comfortable in knowing that I’m stepping back at the highest point thus far in the organization’s success with a group of talented people pushing it forward.

I chose to “retire” from the Board on September 1st – Mike Miller Day, as proclaimed by the Mayor of Buffalo at Mike’s wake four years ago.  It seemed fitting, given that it was Mike’s enthusiasm and inclusiveness that cemented my dedication to the CTRC, and his unfortunate passing that ultimately led to me serving in a greater capacity.  I’m sure Mike would be proud of the work that Amanda and I, and the entire organization has done in his absence.  I look forward to being at the Central Terminal’s grand re-opening celebration some day, knowing that we played a role in it’s survival and revival.


Upgrading to Lightroom

So…  let’s quickly recap since it’s been a couple months since I posted anything.  My PC finally died (which was really Amanda’s old PC because my last PC died first, and I just adopted hers).  Got a new PC.  Picked up a copy of Adobe Lightroom with my nonprofit discount because as it may be apparent, it takes me a long friggin’ time to post process all the photos I take.  I have tons that I have yet to really even look at, much less post.  I was using the painful process of shooting RAW, adjust and convert using Canon’s Digital Photo Pro, then tweak for web and style in Picasa.  Stop laughing, professional photographers, I know.  So, besides needing something to speed up the workflow, I badly needed some better tools, as while I’m often happy with the shots coming out of the camera, I’ve been disappointed in my ability to really do what I wanted to do with them in post.

Enter Lightroom.

So I actually spent a couple hours going through some of Adobe’s online tutorials to get some insight into how to really use the tool.  Very helpful.  I learned all sorts of things I would have never discovered on my own.  Then I set off to adjust a photo of the Terminal that I love, but hated certain aspects of.  Here it is:

Love the tone, hate the noise and the darkness of the Baggage Check arch.  So, I tried out a multitude of Lightroom tweaks and got this:

I could easily fix the perspective distortion, the chromatic aberration and the luminance noise, perk up some of the darker areas, and easily add back in the lens’ vignetting after adjusting the cropping.  Not bad for a first time shot at using Lightroom!

Next up…  transferring it to Photoshop to remove that damn EXIT sign…

Ghost Hunters Live from Central Terminal

I’ve gotten out of the habit of cross posting all the stuff I post over at Buffalo Central Terminal on here, but this one deserves a special callout.  In case you’ve missed it, SyFy’s Ghost Hunters will be broadcasting live for six hours from the Terminal on Halloween night.  Whether or not you believe in ghosts, it’s still great to see Buffalo, and especially the Central Terminal in the national spotlight.

The Terminal has been closed all week, even to most of us in the CTRC, as their crew has been setting up and prepping for the show.  We met the cast last time they were at the Terminal for the TAPS ghost hunt event in May 2009.  Wow…  look how small Ariella was!

Anyways…  the live show starts Halloween night at 7pm on SyFy.

Is government the Statler solution?

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything of substance here. I blame that on the fact that I’ve been doing more of substance since being elected Treasurer of the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation. As I’ve spent the last few months gaining a deeper understanding of the many facets of the project, I’ve also been keeping an eye on the Statler saga. It’s a sad story for a storied building, but it’s fate will be one to watch as other Preservation projects, like ours, are probably more tied to it’s future than we’d like to admit.

One of the most frequently cited negatives of the Central Terminal project is that we’re located too far away from the downtown core. Yet with the Statler we have a historic building of the same age as the Terminal in the most prime location in the center of downtown. Yet, we have some people arguing it has a negative market value? That seems extraordinarily unlikely seeing that there were at least two bidders for it in the last auction, and the prior owner paid a couple million for it. There are hundreds of buildings in the city that you actually couldn’t give away which would fit the “worthless” moniker much better.

Of course, you have the people parroting for it’s demolition, but demolition is expensive for a structure like this. First, the building undoubtedly has asbestos that would need to be removed first. Asbestos removal is one of the costly items to deal with when rehabbing an old building. Second is the question of what do you replace a demolished building with? Buffalo isn’t in need of any more parking lots or shovel-ready sites. So if you don’t have a project waiting in the wings for this lot, and if you’re going to be stuck with an expensive taxpayer-funded demolition, what do you do? Exactly what is being done with the Statler – you seal it up and wait until the right developer comes along.

I think we can go one step better, actually. More needs to be done to preserve these key buildings that give Buffalo it’s unique feel and tie in it’s historical roots. Most business tax breaks are frequently criticized as being overly generous to a small number of companies, and many people are unsettled with the concept of handing over taxpayer dollars to businesses. The other “solution” has been instead to throw millions of dollars into brand-new development somewhere where there’s a clean slate, but that only distracts attention away from the problems at the city’s core.

Most people agree that infrastructure maintenance is a role of government. So, why not treat these buildings as infrastructure and take the money being thrown away for silver-bullet development and given away to companies that can afford to operate without the various tax breaks and subsidies and instead create a fund that will be directed towards preserving and preparing these key structures for the future? Focus on the areas that are expensive and problematic which deter the private developers – remove lead paint and asbestos, prevent water damage by sealing up roofs and windows, keep drains flowing and basements dry, and prevent scavengers from getting inside and stripping elements for scrap. Rather than letting the building sit dormant and slowly decay, make the investment to keep it usable for the future and more attractive to a developer who can focus on redeveloping it for current-day uses.

Everyone agrees that vacant, boarded up buildings have a negative impression on their area, so making sure there is a few of them as possible is an improvement to the entire community. A reinvestment plan like this makes the area more attractive to businesses, and will ultimately lower the cost of doing business by making buildings cheaper to rehab, thus lowering rent. It’s an investment in the city itself, which is what our tax dollars should be going towards.

It’s laughable to hear people say that the Statler it’s past it’s time. The Statler is nowhere near unsalvageable – it still had tenants in right up until it’s close. The Central Terminal has been largely vacant for 30 years. The Statler is a general-purpose building that can be easily adapted to a variety of purposes, unlike the Central Terminal’s purpose-built function which requires more imagination to adapt. And yes, the Statler is within spitting distance of the City Hall, not segregated a few miles away. I’ve read some comments from people saying a group like the CTRC should take over the Statler because we’ve done a commendable job with the Terminal, but volunteers are not what the Statler needs. If our group could get the Central Terminal back to the condition the Statler is in, that would be a success in itself. It’s the next phase of restoration that’s difficult and expensive and can’t be done simply by having dedicated people that love the project. Fixing the problems of the past to prepare for the future is where government can step in and do something tangible to help. Investing in your own property is something individuals and businesses alike can understand and regularly do, so we should be able to extend that philosophy to the public level.