Archive for 2011

How The West Was Lost

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Concrete, Industrial

To Station
Through the days of the Erie Canal, Buffalo rose from a western outpost founded in 1802, into the 8th largest city in the United States by 1900, on its essential position as a market city and trading port to the frontier West. With the rise of the railroads, naturally this position translated into being a hub in that system as well, and just before the Depression the tracks along Lake Erie were the busiest in the world, with close to 200 passenger and 500 freight trains passing daily toward Chicago and New York. The previous station, located on the present site of the Sabres’ arena downtown, was massively insufficient for this level of traffic, so in 1928 the New York Central Railroad commissioned a landmark station, at the time the tallest, and among the largest, yet constructed (and which would only be surpassed in the US by their own construction in Detroit). Buffalo Central was, for its entire life, a station of excess — by its completion in 1930, it, and its companion Michigan Central Station, both opened to drastically reduced traffic, and would only come close to capacity with the troop trains of the second World War. The jet age led to the demise of these stations in 1979, and their replacement with dull prefab buildings hardly fit for the legacy of what once was. One can only wonder if stations like these could restore the glamour of train travel… while certainly far slower than flying somewhere, with the TSA being what it is, and the price of gas on the rise again, not to mention the sense of adventure and authenticity, will the railroads finally rise again? Will this station someday serve its purpose again as the gateway to the wide open West?

The station itself is an incredible 3 1/2 blocks long, from the end of the freight house to the tower.
Imposing

This building, which finished its life as the freight house, was once a sort of second-class station for interurbans, short line trains which served small towns on tracks averaging 10-60 miles. (One would not be mistaken comparing this to the light rail that still thrives in the East Coast cities). Amazingly, these tracks were not even counted in the 200 daily trains serving the main station, and probably added at least as many departures.
Interurban

Continuing toward the tower, the next building is the mail house, dedicated to sorting the incoming mail arriving in Buffalo. These numbered columns referred to wards of the city in the pre-ZIP-code system, to serve the mail trucks that would pull up to the loading docks.
Mail house

Warehouse

Any ideas? There were a number of these coarse-toothed iron gears around the mail house. Each weighs at least 50 pounds, and is on a rod that seems far too weak for the job.
Gears

Sometimes the way in is just like in the video games…
Entrance

This appears to have been some sort of corporate office. The burned paperwork on the floors was employee and freight records from the early 1930s.
Documents

Outside the mail house, going toward the arrival platforms
Dreary

Arrivals hall in a December sunset
Arrivals

A few notes for anyone trying to explore the Terminal — property lines here are a bit tricky, and well enforced. Buffalo city owned areas include the freight line, interurban platform, mail house, arrivals and most of the vacant land; you should be able to explore these areas without being hassled. The tower can only be accessed via tours, available every two weeks from April to November 2012, as well as special events at the holidays and Easter. Attempts to access the tower and concourse on your own will end badly, like mine did last spring!

Triple Word Score

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Buffalo, Underground

So, after going with Shane to those caves, and getting shaken down for every little bit of information I had about underground Rochester, he finally held up his end of the deal: taking me draining in Buffalo. I already knew exactly what I wanted. I’d even been to the entrance of it once, when the water was too high. It took some convincing to go here instead of Lockport but once I showed him what I thought I knew, he was all about it.

Right from the entrance Scajaquada is an epic drain: instead of an outfall, and going upstream into smaller tunnels, this was an IN-fall, taking in an entire small river into a 25×50 foot concrete pipe!
Epic

One of my favorite sights in all exploring: what’s beyond the bend?
Bend

Off of the giant tunnel there are a series of older brick branches, sewers and storm drains that once flowed into the creek and are now diverted into what appears to be an even more massive, inaccessible tunnel under this one
Branches

These branches are the perfect draining drains: ancient brickwork that is just tall enough to stand up in.
Brick

I even managed, by mostly dumb luck (I admit it) to get a drain shot I actually like. When I saw this I started to think maybe I got my artistic eye back from wherever I lost it last week.
Perfect

This is Shane, with the giant flashlight cannon that made the previous shot possible.
Light

The tunnel finally ended after close to six miles, in Forest Lawn Cemetery, after dark, with one of those wrought iron impaler fences. needless to say, it was a bit of a tight escape, and even once we got out we were basically lost in Buffalo, 6 miles from Shane’s car, soaking wet and in waders. Oops. I don’t think we took into account just how weird we’d look when we got back topside.
Exit

We got onto a bus, after a bit of a hassle when Shane for some reason unknown to all of us decided we deserved to board without paying the fare. I’m sure the driver didn’t even want us there, smelling like sewer and all, before Shane’s libertarian antics, but whatever. I was glad when we got back to Cheektowaga and off of the bus without even being suspected of much… but as soon as the reward was over, and the reeking boots stowed in the trunk, Shane made haste to the nearest bar to loosen me up and try to get any more information I had out of me. I guess exploring with a scumbag is just the price to pay for not having a car, but I really get the idea none of this was for planning future trips together.

Again And Again

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Rochester, Underground

Even though it hadn’t been the best of times for the group, I still managed to get a real explorer in town. Which is an unusual enough opportunity for me I never quite know what to make of it — an explorer with experience, talent, and a car willing to take a weekday afternoon and explore with me is certainly enough to miss class for! It seemed like quite a waste, but she only wanted to see graffiti, so we went back to the easiest and most colorful places I knew.

Cobbs Hill water towers:
Tower

Slimer

I thought this little one was pretty clever, despite far from high art
Mad

Then we stopped by the rave tunnel at Iola because Christina had never seen it and missed all the raves. It isn’t the same anymore; we lost our electric hookup that had made the place possible. A few buildings do still have power so there’s some chance of saving it, but being here in the darkened green room was almost funerary now.
Blackout

In the daytime, a few miserable beams of light do fall into the tunnels through air vents.
Shadow

I do hope with some extension cords and dubious engineering this place will at least live to see its anniversary in January
Scorpion

Finally, we decided to go through the abandoned subway, despite Laura begging me to come home in time for dinner. Probably if it weren’t for her we would have kept exploring all night, but it’s clear now who’s in control. I wonder how much longer I’ll get to explore at all now that I’m stuck going on weekdays and hiding it behind skipped classes?

Subway

In this light, even our ugly old Genesee looks like something
Genesee

Spoiled Oil

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Concrete, Industrial, Rochester

Now that I’ve stopped spending every minute of free time I can find at Occupy, it’s time to get out exploring and following some of the new ideas for our new group, the biggest change of which is to try to explore every Monday instead of taking up people’s weekends. On the one hand this keeps us close to home, but it also opens the group up to many more people. We had a group of about ten for this place, an oil refinery that spent a few years repurposed as offices before closing in about 2000. Its demolition has been pending ever since, held up by toxic ground under the factory.

Unfortunately, my mind is still Occupied or something. While the pictures don’t suck as badly as the caves last week, here goes… a bunch of shit. Yuck.

The one identifiable tenant was an interior design firm of some sort.
Paint
Design

Most of the rest of the building seemed to have been a car repair or similar facility, judging by the open spaces and number of loading docks.
Loading

The graffiti really was the only thing of any interest here, not an outstanding location by any means.
Graffiti

In Dubious Battle

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

After the beautiful solidarity of the march, and fractious GA, we arrived at a controversial decision, and in my mind a heinous mistake: to try, for the third time in five days, to take the park and create a base for Occupy Rochester. By now we were as well apprised of the situation as one could be; there was little drama, and even less political gain, to be had from either outcome, arrests or a continued stalemate, other than a piece of grass and concrete downtown which we weren’t technically allowed to be in anyway. Either way, the scattering crowd when the decision came should have been an alert to the remaining steadfast park camping supporters, that we were alienating our own base, and setting up for implosion. The sentiment of Scott Olsen Day should motivate us, but not guide us – after all, he is (unfortunately just barely) living proof of what can happen in a camp gone wrong, in an action largely wasted on the mainstream media and public zeitgeist. For all that Occupy has given me and taught me, I could no longer subscribe to the actions of the plurality, if not majority, of the group which supports occupying Washington Square.

Chief Shepard arrives and makes things interesting.
Shepard

The revolution will not be televised. A bunch of people waiting for something to happen, however, will be every time.
Televised

Djembe drums. A great way to warm up on a chilly night.
Djembe

Especially now that it’s a routine, we almost tailgate the arrests. Supporters from the online community and members of the original 32 who didn’t want to risk a second arrest brought a massive table of food before the orderly chaos. As 11.35 approached, everyone began to gather on the steps of the statue.
Statue

Uh oh.
Police

Yes, this means you. You can’t do that.
Nope

And that led us to the sight no one wants to see, even when we planned and set up for it…
Arrest

This is the offense that led to 14 arrests tonight: sitting quietly on the steps of a statue. Don’t they just look like Rochester’s most hardened, disorderly criminals? No? I didn’t think so. But of course the RPD sends about 50 of Rochester’s “finest” to deal with the scene. While I admire the bravery of the 46 Occupiers who were arrested this week, I have to sincerely wonder why we sent a second group. Especially since we weren’t even trying to have a camp tonight, only setting up arrests for the sake of arrests. This is where I lost faith in the movement’s main direct actions…
Criminals

They were paraded solemnly away, one at a time…no surprises here, everyone who signed up to get arrested, in fact, was, and no one looking to stay out of jail had their nights ruined. I guess that’s /something/ to be said in RPD’s favor?
Parade

The whole process took only about half an hour this time.
Next

Once all 14 of our comrades were gone, they cleared the park out, conferred for a while what to do next, and ultimately left us to keep a vigil on the sidewalk.
Huddle

I’m not exactly sure what the point of this was. It was well after midnight already, no one was watching the park, and it’s been clear for a while they don’t give a shit on the sidewalks.
Sidewalk

Finally, when everyone else was thinking about leaving, we had two go to sleep in the sidewalk. It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that they, too, were ticketed this morning, for obstructing traffic, bringing the final count up to 48 arrests thus far.
Survivors

I doubt I will be reporting much more about Occupy in the coming weeks… there isn’t much left to say, as long as the park sleepers have their way. A few camps are certainly a necessity, for activist minds and wandering youth to come together. I may still take my own pilgrimage to Zuccotti Park, and try to learn how to do this better, but it’s becoming more and more clear that what we’ve done with the park here hasn’t worked. If, as expected, we can hold onto the park legally, and the fight for it is over, maybe it can be a gathering point for a more effective movement, but so far this is nothing but a war of futility, concentrating our efforts in copying other Occupy sites and not continuing the momentum of change we started with our marches and our open dialogues of just what is wrong with Rochester. Not being able to sleep in a park without getting arrested, is a very low priority to make this city a better place, especially when we are more than capable of making an actual difference.

Words Can Save Us

Written by Concrete on . Posted in Activism, Rochester

November 2 at Occupy Rochester started off a beautiful day. After the arrests on Friday night, our leaders united with organized labor, political groups and even religious groups to put together an impressively diverse march, and finally show ourselves as representing more of the 99% than ever. The march went off perfectly, with no police interference to speak of; even the obnoxious nanny-cam staring down at the park from South Clinton finally left, towed away by a city public works truck a few minutes before the GA started.

Calling the march to order!
Order

WE ARE THE 99%! WE ARE THE 99%!
99%

There were close to 500 of us leaving Washington Square, and we only gained people as we marched through downtown
Marching

Even businessmen joined in…
Suits

Act now, why wait?
Action

Taking the steps of City Hall, to give our demands to Mayor Richards to keep the park
City Hall

He gave a rousing speech on how badly we need national health care, and just how achievable it really is!
Promise

Paul Mabells’ speech on ending the Federal Reserve and banks’ control over fiscal policy
Fiscal

Jake Allen on the importance of labor and workers’ rights to the 99%
Labor

Well fired up by all these speeches, we marched back to Washington Square for our second GA, and working on the future direction of Occupy
Return

GA

I had some very strong opinions about where I thought Occupy Rochester should go, made even stronger by the success of this march, starting with an end to playing chicken with the RPD over a patch of grass that is insignificant in the end, and going from there out into the community to make ourselves heard directly, and make a difference in people’s lives. They wouldn’t even let me finish my speech though — the park was our singular goal, at least for now. I deferred to them, hoping to see just about anything but what happened next…