Considering the City: The Buki Plan, the Viaduct and Erie CPR
The Buki plan, the Viaduct, and Erie CPR
Compelling revitalization plans have recently been created for the county, city, and neighborhoods of Erie. While these have gathered important data and impressive proposals, the urgent need to stop the planned demolition of the McBride Viaduct, a vital pedestrian and bike bridge at East Avenue, has been hinted at, rather than shouted. In his April 2016 transmittal letter published in the Reader, and in his recent presentation at the Jefferson Educational Society, Charles Buki outlined key strategies Erie should embrace.
Buki advised Erie to start "engaging citizens" and working together. Most residents agree that the city needs to be safer, with stronger schools and more jobs. But few recognize that the path to a brighter future requires the ideas and energy of all stakeholders – not only those with power.
Last April, architect and urban planner Toni Griffin spoke at Shiloh Baptist Church about the need to work together to create a "just city" with amenities for everyone. Famed city planner Jane Jacobs once commented, "Cities have the capability of providing something for everyone" if "they are created by everybody."
Thus, Erie CPR: Connect + Respect, was founded last spring with a mission to engage everyone – especially east-siders – and to invite them to help shape their community. Like the lifesaving medical technique of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), the Erie CPR name reflects the critical situation facing Erie that Buki has detailed.
Buki to Erie: Invest in assets
Buki tells us that we must leverage existing assets including our built environment, beautiful Bayfront, and entrepreneurial tradition. He adds that we must stop "mistaking cheap for frugal" and give up our tendency to avoid all risk.
Buki to Erie: Embrace the pedestrian scale
Buki's encouragement to embrace and elevate the needs of pedestrians echoes the advice of many other experts who agree that connectivity and walkability are crucial to creating a thriving city. Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist wrote in a 2015 edition of the Erie Times-News urging retention of the Viaduct as a key walkway.
Viaduct as asset: Creating new jobs
Rather than paying out-of-towners $2.3 million to demolish the bridge, it makes more sense to spend $3 million to re-skin the bridge and allow it to continue in its present use as a safe route to school, work, and play. Fixing the bridge will create good temporary jobs, and an estimated 33 permanent private sector jobs.
Viaduct as asset: Protecting east-siders
Today, children, teens, and adults – some pushing strollers – will make 200 trips over the Viaduct. If the Viaduct is demolished, they will have to walk on a path along the Bayfront Highway as 22-ton semis and speeding traffic barrels by. They deserve better: it is logical to retain the safer environment of the Viaduct.
Viaduct myths: Insurance and maintenance costs
Pro-demolition "experts" repeat the falsehood that the city can't afford to insure the Viaduct. However, there is no evidence that the city's insurance costs will be reduced if the bridge is torn down. And without having to deal with the damage that cars and trucks do to structures, maintaining the Viaduct for pedestrians will be an affordable investment that makes sense.
Will you volunteer with Erie CPR?
Erie CPR volunteers share a vision of working with stakeholders, elected leaders, and non-profit and business organizations to save the Viaduct. This bold investment in an existing asset will be a part of the emergency response to revitalize Erie.
To succeed, more Erie CPR volunteers are needed for the next six to 12 months. Can you devote a few hours a week to pick up trash and pull weeds? Could you take photos or hand out flyers? Are you skilled at social media, data entry, or websites? If so, email Adam Trott at email@example.com.
Meet Erie CPR on Oct. 29
Please bring your family and friends to the Viaduct Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 29 form 5 to 7 p.m. at the St. Nicholas Church parking lot at East 12th and East Avenue, just across from the Viaduct. At 6 p.m. members of Poets' Hall will conduct a reading on the Viaduct; audience members are encouraged to bring a chair. For more details contact Terry Seth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During her visit to Erie, Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove explained that isolating neighborhoods spreads hopelessness and frays social ties. While our leaders claim that the less direct and narrow path along the Bayfront Highway is an adequate substitute for the spacious Viaduct, anyone who takes a walk on both routes will quickly see how wrong they are. It is time to act courageously and save this crucial city asset.
Charles Buki urged us to stop maintaining our "ineffective status quo."
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once explained, "there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right."
It is right to save the Viaduct.
Will you help?
Rev. Anthony Harris, Pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church and Founding Board Chair of Erie CPR, can be reached at 453.4909. CIVITAS members also serve on the Erie CPR board.