Category Archives: East Side Buffalo

East Side specific issues and commentary

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.


A funny thing happened on the way to the Terminal

Earlier this week the Central Terminal Restoration Corporation announced changes to the Board of Directors, and I was part of them. I was elected to the Board, and as Treasurer. Mark Lewandowski, former VP and Treasurer, was elected President. Tony Bylewski was elected Vice-Chair. Sara Etten and Jeff Ingersoll, both former Board Members, were re-elected. The moves were made to ensure the continued stability of the group, which following Mike’s passing was down to only five Board Members.

It’s a bittersweet moment for me. I had previously applied for a Board position back in 2006, but was beat out by none other than Mark himself and Kate Resetarits, whose term ended earlier this year. Regardless of not getting on the Board, I continued working with the group, creating and fulfilling the roles of Media Relations Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator, and helping out with rebuilding the website. Last year, Mike moved into the President’s role after Russell’s departure, and Mark took on the VP position while still acting as Treasurer. It was clear earlier this year that Mark was quite overextended, and I offered to Mike and Mark to step in as Assistant Treasurer (Assistant to the Treasurer?). Since both were former Treasurers, I would have plenty of mentoring. Both thought it was a great idea and that I’d be able to pick up the role without any problem.

Then, things abruptly changed. Before I had time to get very far into the new job, Mike died. Mark was the logical choice to step up to become President, but that meant he could no longer legally hold the role of Treasurer. None of the other existing Board Members were particularly interested in the job, so I was asked to join the Board.

I’m already accustomed to keeping extensively detailed personal financial records, so the main challenge of taking on this role is learning QuickBooks. That’s where my IT background comes into play, and where Jeff’s experience as former Treasurer and owner of his own business will help.

So, how have things changed for me? Well, I’ve made more trips to the bank in the last two weeks for the CTRC than I have in a year in handling our personal finances. My [useful] email volume has probably doubled as I bounce a lot of questions and thoughts off the other Board Members. And, much to Amanda’s chagrin, I’ve certainly been spending more time at the Terminal lately and not with her.

The good news is that the CTRC is moving full steam ahead, now beginning work on a master plan for redevelopment ourselves, no longer waiting around for a developer to step up to the plate and take on the project. The loss of Mike, tragic as it was, did not derail our efforts in the slightest bit. Instead, we took it as a reminder that we need to get this project finished. As I said to Mark Sommer when he interviewed us for the Buffalo News article (he misattributed the quote to Tony, but no hard feelings, Mark 😉 ) we’ve always felt we had a responsibility to keep the Terminal around. Now, we also have the responsibility to finish this project for those who put so much effort into it and aren’t going to see it completed.

I’m happy to be an even bigger part of that effort.

Memories of Mike Miller

Mike and Derek

Last Thursday, our good friend Mike Miller passed away. Many people knew Mike from the work he did for the Buffalo Central Terminal, Broadway Fillmore Alive, and most recently Preservation Buffalo Niagara. We knew Mike first as a friend, and a great advocate for Wesern New York second.

You often hear people say, “He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet” about a person. With Mike, this was genuinely the truth. I’ve never known another individual to be so selfless, so caring, and so genuine in everything he said and did. That was Mike – always quick to point out a person’s redeeming qualities when others might not see them. Always the level-headed mediator. Always willing to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Whenever we would have Mike over for dinner, he’d remind us he was a “meat and potatos” guy, which was both literal (seriously – we learned not to try and give the guy broccoli) and figurative. Mike was never interested in the politics of a situation, he just wanted to get things done. It’s one of the things that made him so successful at what he did. I’ll always remember the first CTRC board meeting after Russell had left and Mike assumed the role of President. He said, “My goal is to replace myself as soon as possible,” feeling that he was inadequate for the job. However, not only did he not need replacing, his work with the CTRC and BFA led to him getting his dream job as Executive Director of Preservation Buffalo Niagara.

Mike helped Amanda get her foot in the door at M&T when she was frustrated with her own career path, and was always available to her when she needed to vent about anything. He was thrilled to find out when Amanda was pregnant and called himself “Uncle Mike” to Ariella. In another month, he would have been able to celebrate her first birthday with us.

When we’d have him over for dinner, he’d arrive with a magnum of white wine and it would be gone by the end of the night. That led to one unfortunate incident of me passing out in the bathroom one night, twisting my ankle in the process, which led to ongoing ribbing about me being a lush. Sadly, ironically, last week I scheduled a physical therapy appointment for Tuesday to deal with the lingering effects of that night. I’ll have to cancel it to spend one last day with the instigator.

Losing a member of the CTRC family is sad. Losing our president and guiding light will be difficult. Losing our friend is hardest of all. God Bless, Mike. We miss you.

Mike and Amanda

Former CTRC President Russell Pawlak has passed away

Former CTRC President, Russell Pawlak, has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Russell was a tireless supporter of the Terminal, taking it from the pipe dream of a bunch of preservationists, to a successful event venue, bringing thousands of people per year back to the East Side of Buffalo. The Central Terminal Restoration Corporation would not be in the position it is today without his work.

Services will be held at the Buffalo Central Terminal Wednesday from 1pm-8pm. His obituary is reprinted at

Russell Pawlak

Oh, no. There’s no room for one more track at the Central Terminal!

It’s a good thing we have all those braniacs working at the New York State Department of Transportation to tell us things like “the presence of freight traffic would make the Central Terminal ill-suited to be a passenger rail station again.” They must have done a lot of work coming to that conclusion. I mean look at this picture:


There’s no room… like… ANYWHERE from that view to put one more track. The Terminal was only able to handle 80 passenger trains a day in it’s heyday with 14 platforms and… oh… underground access from the [now disconnected] passenger platforms to the main building.

Nope, don’t see how that could possibly work.

Update: Here are two photos that show the amount of track that used to be around Central Terminal.