Tell me about Buffalo, NY

Housing, crime, weather, taxes, gun control, etc, everything I can’t learn from Wiki.

Only traveled to downtown Buffalo a few times on business, maybe 4 or 5 times with overnight stays each time. It was a depressing shit-hole and it wasn’t even during the winter season. My coworker and I joked that it was like being stuck in some Stalin-era Soviet city. Even the public art appeared to have been approved by the Central Committee for the Glorification of Communist Victory over Capitalist Dogs.

It was just bleak, dirty, and lots of vacant business fronts. Those in downtown who were not obvious homeless or business visitors looked depressed and on their way to the mines.

Even the buffalo wings (Anchor Bar) were bad.

I wouldn’t go there expecting all dressed chips…

Double click ruled due to fould language.

I grew up there- in the city proper until I was 9 and then relocated to the 'burbs. Are you talking about the city itself, close by towns (like Tonawanda) or the nearby suburbs like Amherst?

Many of my HS friends either stayed or relocated back and all are pretty happy with their lifestyle- some with kids and some without.

Have you tried the city-data forum?

If i accept the position, working downtown, near the lake, but living could be anywhere with a decent short commute.

I’ve been to the suburbs (Williamsville, etc) but never downtown. The suburbs are fairly standard, not particularly depressing nor particularly inspiring. I strongly recommend comparing the city-data pages for the city of Buffalo and the city of San Jose. They don’t seem to have pages for the metropolitan statistical areas, but I would suggest looking at the pages for a few of the suburbs too.

On the minus side: The weather is cloudy and rainy in fall, cloudy and snowy in winter. Property tax rates throughout western New York are among the highest in the country, on top of high income and sales taxes. Crime is a problem. The city school district has a very poor reputation, but some of the suburbs have good schools. The economy is a mess. The unemployment rate for city residents is 14% but it’s close to the national average in the metropolitan area as a whole.

On the plus side: Summer weather is fairly pleasant, but a bit too humid for my taste. Real estate prices in western New York are are affordable. Buffalo is only an hour and a half from Toronto. The infrastructure was designed for a larger population than actually lives there now. Traffic has not been a problem when I have visited except there’s often a backup at the toll booths just east of the I-290/I-90 interchange. The one time I went to the airport I was surprised at how few people there were even a few days before Christmas.

I grew up in Buffalo in the 80s and I’d say bibliophage just gave a really accurate assessment of the area.

His comment on taxes was really spot on. In the early 90s some magazine, maybe US News and World Report, did an isobar map of the total tax rates (income + sales + property) in the US. The isobars east of the Mississippi looked a bit like an archery target with the bullseye being my parents house just outside Buffalo.

City schools were pretty bad but there were good magnet schools and some of the suburban schools were, frankly, excellent. I and more than a few of my friends went from public schools in the suburbs to Ivy League universities.

There was, at the time, a lot of corruption in city government with lots of no show jobs on the books. I don’t know if that’s improved at all.

It wasn’t a bad place to grow up at all, but once we had our licenses my friends and I spent a lot of time up in Toronto and after I left for college I never looked back although I still yearn for a real Beef on Weck.

Buffalo really got hit with suburban flight. Pretty much everyone who could afford to left the city itself.

And the weather. You’ve probably heard the jokes but there’s reality behind them. The key word is “lake effect” - winds blow the length of Lake Erie picking up moisture and then they hit the shore at Buffalo. The change in temperature turns all that moisture into snow and dumps it on the city. The good thing is it’s very localized - fifty miles inland, you’ll get hardly any snowfall. But if you’re in the lake effect zone, you can get hammered by unbelievable amounts of snow. But at least Buffalo knows how to deal with massive amounts of snow.

My hometown, and I head back there every month or so.

As far as Rust Belt cities go, it’s really not that bad. Think of the city as more akin to a flat Pittsburgh; a bit gritty and a bit time warpy, but with some very vibrant neighborhoods. The city itself is in much better shape than Detroit, Cleveland, and Youngstown. The 'burbs are mostly nondescript, although there’s some quainter, more pedestrian-oriented villages - Williamsville, Kenmore, Orchard Park, Hamburg, and East Aurora.

Real estate: cheap, but it’s one of the hottest real estate markets in the country now, believe it or not. There’s even bidding wars; something unheard of since the 1920s. Think “preservation by neglect”, much like Havana. With the economy in the doldrums for so long, not much got demolished (excepting an experiment at suburbanization in the 1980s and 1990s, and the usual urban prairie on the East Side), so there were good bones in place for when the city started to turn around. There’s quite a bit of gentrification going on in the city, especially on the West Side and in North Buffalo. Even Black Rock, a once solidly blue collar 'hood, is looking a bit more hipster-ish every day. The housing stock is old, though, so expect a lot of houses that haven’t been updated in decades, odd floorplans, “classy” Staten Island-style Rococo details, and the like. 1950s/1960s/1970s kitchens are the norm.

Neighborhoods in the city:

North Buffalo (North Park, Parkside, Central Park: generally middle and upper-middle class. Gentrifying and starting to get pricey by Buffalo standards. The preferred area for those who want an urban built environment with suburban-level schools, crime rates, etc.

Northwest Buffalo (Riverside, Black Rock): very blue collar, once predominantly white ethnic but now a mix; white, black, Puerto Rican, Asian. Hipsters are trickling into Black Rock.

West Side (Allentown (Buffalo’s “gayborhood”), Delaware District, Elmwood Village, West Village, Grant-Ferry): ranges from Blue Book society old money to affluent urban moms to Puerto Ricans to poor immigrants. A polyglot. Buffalo’s most expensive real estate. Museums, galleries, Buffalo Philharmonic, and other prominent cultural institutions. Lots of street life. The preferred destination of young singles and those moving to the region from NYC.

East Side: I grew up there, in a neighborhood that later changed rapidly in the late 1980s… There’s still some decent blue-collar enclaves; Lovejoy (mostly Italian) and Kaisertown (Polish), and Hamlin Park, a small middle class African-American area, but for the most part, it’s quite rough; the most Detroit-like part of Buffalo.

South Buffalo: working class to middle class, mostly Irish. It’s separate from the rest of the city by the Buffalo River and a dense corridor of heavy industry. It’s considered a very safe part of town.

The 'burbs:

Northtowns (Tonawanda, Kenmore, Amherst, Williamsville, Clarance): historically, Buffalo has grown to the north and northeast. Middle- to upper-income areas. Amherst and Williamsville are more diverse than most of Buffalo’s other suburbs; Indian, Chinse, Korean, Jewish, some African-American, etc. Office parks, the first locations of chains that enter the region (usually years after they’ve opened in most other cities), and home to the region’s best school districts.

Eastern suburbs (Cheektowaga, Sloan, Depew, Lancaster): working class to middle class, very blue collar, very industrial, very Polish-American. Some parts of Cheektowaga are experiencing decline, due to spillover from the East Side.

Southtowns (West Seneca, Orchard Park, East Aurora, Elma, Boston): middle to upper-middle class.

South Shore (Lackawanna, Hamburg, Blasdell, Evans, Angola): working class to upper middle class, leaning blue collar. Lackawanna is a struggling suburb that hasn’t recovered from the loss of its biggest taxpayer, Bethlehem Steel, in the 1980s.

Grand Island: its own little paywall-protected world. Upper middle class, very suburban, kind of boring. A good place to live if you’re the fearful type.

Niagara County: Meh.


Buffalo Public Schools have an undeserved bad reputation. If you’re in a good neighborhood, you’ll have a good elementary school. The majority of public schools are integrated. Buffalo had one of the first magnet school programs, and it’s still well regarded.

Suburbs: public schools in NYS are quite good compared to California. The 'burbs of Buffalo and Rochester pump a lot of money into schools – reflected in taxes that are astronomical by US standards – and they’re considered among the best in the state. The best regarded school districts are in the northeast and southeast; Amherst, Williamsville, Clarance, Orchard Park, and East Aurora. (Better yet are those in east suburban Rochester, but you asked about Buffalo.)

I grew up there, I still keep a house there. I really like it. I think bibliophage covered a lot of good points, both pro and con.

I have heard from people who relocated there every possible opinion about the weather - from “it wasn’t as bad as I was fearing” to “it was so much worse.” I think the people who make it through the winter the best are those who are game to get out there and enjoy it - skiing, hunting, skating, in general not letting it keep you housebound.

A short commute could mean a lot of things. Public transportation is not great. Traffic is not terrible, just about everyone drives to downtown from other points in the city, or suburbs. Even the more distant suburbs are not THAT far from downtown.

A neighborhood like Elmwood is extremely walkable. You would most likely still want a car to commute to work and to go other places, but for weekends you could walk to all shopping, restaurants, bars, music venues, etc.

I think housing is one of the best things Buffalo has going for it. It’s extremely affordable and there are a variety of living options, from new apartment/condo towers, to old historic homes.

This might be true about everywhere, but when I think of Buffalo, it is a hard city for people who do not take initiative to go out and get connected with activities, organizations, and other people. There is a lot going on, but you have to jump into it. It can be very easy to get isolated in Buffalo.

I’m slightly better at micro-suggestions, so if you get farther into the decision-making process and want specific information about neighborhoods and lifestyles, I would probably be more helpful. Right now, everything I have to say boils down to “it’s great if you like it, and not so great if you don’t.”

Oh, I always link to this article from New York Magazine about people moving to Buffalo. It’s about five years old, and just about every issue they touch upon is still relevant.

Nice article. thanks for sharing.

Thanks, dudes, some great info. A Comparo of taxes show Income & sales taxes lower, prop taxs much higher.

Wow, I knew the SDMB could come thru with the Straight Dope!

Special nods to bibliophage , delphica & elmwood. I’d be working near M&T Plaza.

What I am having some problem is finding a map that shows the neighborhoods.

I saw one real nice house near Delaware park and another south, in “South Abbott”? Between the Botanical gardens and Cazenovia patk.

Then another couple where elmwood calls Northtowns, say Kenilworth? One of those seems straight shot down Metro rail.

And then the closest in an area marked as “First Ward”. Wow, $50K for a house that big? Crazy.

So, in San Jose, a decent house in a decent neighborhood is $700K. Seems like the same there is $200K? And it would come with a promotion.

Ah, the neighborhoods. I don’t really have a good map, and I just looked online and the even the one I used to use isn’t available any more. This one is not too bad but it’s far from perfect. There’s also the issue that most maps will show the traditional neighborhood names, but now a lot real estate listings use new, trendy, dare I say “made up” names to refer to locations.

Did the Delaware Park one list a neighborhood? It’s a pretty large park, and not all the adjacent areas are similar.

South Abbott is referring to Abbott Road, which places it in South Buffalo. For South Buffalo, think Archie Bunker. Even though you can’t really tell on the map, South Buffalo is cut off from the rest of Buffalo by a heavy industrial corridor, and it’s as if that created a psychological border as well. I like it (this is where my family is from), it’s very safe, there are many areas of nice homes (but a few areas of very “shanty Irish” homes as well). It wouldn’t be my first recommendation for someone moving to Buffalo because it’s very, very residential – you would need to leave the neighborhood in order to do many of the things that make Buffalo a great place to live. You’d always be going somewhere else. (An exception would be that it would be a good place if you had young children, and you haven’t mentioned that so I’m assuming that’s not something you’re concerned with?)

Ha, the First Ward. Don’t move to the First Ward. I love it, it’s got a lot of character, but it’s everything I said about South Buffalo, only more so. Um, and not so safe in some ways. It’s a little rough. If Whitey Bulger was from Buffalo, he’d be from the First Ward. I would not be at all surprised if, in 10 years, young hipster couples started buying up all those $50K homes and turned it into a trendy neighborhood, but that’s still in the future.

Kenilworth is much more promising, that’s where the city proper meets the north suburbs, which are still an urban area. It’s the same general area as the main campus of the University of Buffalo, and I would say it’s a good place for out-of-towners moving in. Parts of it are close to the Metro Rail, and if you are close to M&T Plaza, you could be one of those few lucky people who can take public transportation to work. Please note you would still most likely need a car for other destinations. This area is also pedestrian-friendly and has decent street life.

If you decide to move here, you might look for a short term rental so that you can spend some time getting a feel for the area and what neighborhood best suits your interests and preferences.

The Google Map neighborhoods really don’t always correspond with their real world names. Some had area urbanists scratching their heads.

Anyhow, “South Abbott” - nobody calls it that. Everything south of the Buffalo River, in the city, is South Buffalo. Some very nice parts, some that are more working class, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a new resident. South Buffalo is a heavily Irish-American neighborhood, with residents whose families have been there for generations. It can feel like an entirely different city, in a way.

First Ward: a poor Irish-American neighborhood just southeast of Downtown. A mix of worker’s cottages and industry.

Kenilworth is a neighborhood in the Town of Tonawanda.

If you’re new to Buffalo, and working downtown, I’d suggest any of the areas east of Richmond, west of Main, and south of Delaware Park. This includes Allentown, Elmwood Village, and the Delaware District. Homes are in short supply in the area. Gentrification is creeping west of Richmond Avenue, and prices are much lower than areas east. There’s still a lot of sketchy blocks, though. Think east of Richmond = San Francisco, west of Richmond = Oakland, or the Mission circa 1990 .

If you can’t find anything there, head to North Buffalo; anywhere north of Delaware Park, west of Main Street. If you have to live in the 'burbs, go for Kenmore, or the Snyder neighborhood in Amherst; a short drive to the Metro Rail park-and-ride. I’d only recommend more southerly 'hoods and suburbs to seasoned Buffalonians that can deal with the snow and sense of distance, and the eastern 'burbs if you really, really enjoy bowling, polka, meat raffles, and hanging out at the fire hall.

The days of sub-$100K houses in decent city neighborhoods is long gone. Something under $200K in EV will probably need some work. In North Buffalo, it’ll land you a nice single or two-flat. Kenmore and Snyder, no problem.

Google Streetview is your friend.

Elmwood Village
North Park

I LOLed. Haven’t heard that phrase in years!

Yeah, South Buffalo: the more north and west you go, the more “shanty” it gets. The more south and east, the more “lace curtain”.

Very nice, thank you!

Ok, here are some of the homes we we’re looking at, the last one is the Southern area.
27 Ketchum Pl Buffalo, NY 14213 (Front Park)
156 W Humboldt Pkwy Buffalo, NY 14214(Delaware Park)
175 Sterling Ave Buffalo, NY 14216 (North Park)
731 Woodland Dr Buffalo, NY 142235

83 McKinley Pkwy Buffalo, NY 14220 (South Park)

Mind you, I have not even rcvd a offer yet, but the idea is to us that being able to afford a very nice house in a decent area is part of the package, and will make a difference on what I ask for.

Well, one thing you ought to know about the local wildlife… Apparently Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Sorry. :stuck_out_tongue:

27 Ketchum Pl Buffalo, NY 14213 (Front Park)
Oh, I like this area. It’s right off Richmond, it’s a diverse area with a lot going on. These homes tend to be historic, and, if you like that sort of thing, can really be turned into showpieces. I would live here. I would probably buy a house here without even looking at it, if the price was right. A potential downside is that it’s not that far from areas that have more crime and are not so nice … like MY MOM would be made nervous by that fact, I would roll my eyes at my mom. Tons of normal people live here. It has a very positive urban feel.

156 W Humboldt Pkwy Buffalo, NY 14214(Delaware Park)
I like this neighborhood and it’s considered very desirable in general (Parkside), but this particular street is right up against an expressway and I fear it could be very loud. But if you map this out, you should keep your eyes open for other houses on the market in the blocks north of this street, it IS a great neighborhood.

175 Sterling Ave Buffalo, NY 14216 (North Park)
This is nice, still close to central destinations, but a little more residential.

731 Woodland Dr Buffalo, NY 142235
Now you’re getting out toward the 'burbs. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s, hmmm, I wouldn’t think it was ideal because it’s like you’re getting the worst of both worlds – not very close to central city destinations, no historic city architecture, and not quite the amenities of the suburbs.

83 McKinley Pkwy Buffalo, NY 14220 (South Park)
This is the heart of South Buffalo, as described in previous posts. It’s a nice place to live, you’ll get TONS of house for your money – but it’s boring, and you will probably have nice neighbors who have all grown up together and without even trying, might make you feel like an outsider. (it’s like a white Irish enclave, is what I’m saying. I guess it depends how comfortable you feel with that.)

I grew up about four blocks from here, on Blantyre Road (until I was 9, at least). My parents had a grocery store and a hair salon. Nice, friendly neighborhood.