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INTRODUCTION TO BUFFALO  AND BUFFALO PUBLIC TRANSIT (current as of Jan. 1, 2000; I will try to update here and there to reflect major service changes, but don't expect complete accuracy because I no longer live in Buffalo. On another note, be aware that my book based on this web page is available at, and; just search under "lewyn" in these pages' search engines)

Selected as a STAMPEDE HOT SITE by STAMPEDE: A City Guide for Buffalo

by Michael E. Lewyn (


The purpose of this web site is to provide a reasonably comprehensive guide to both Greater Buffalo's public transportation system and to the neighborhoods, suburbs and attractions which it serves.  If you are only interested in neighborhood profiles and couldn't care less about public transit, click here to go straight to neighborhood profiles.  (However, I would recommend a look at the Table of Contents first, so you can see what areas are profiled).

Although Buffalo is certainly less transit-oriented than most bigger Eastern cities, it compares very favorably with smaller cities and to the Sunbelt. A third of City of Buffalo households don't have a car, and many other households contain fewer cars than people. In Erie County as a whole, about 15% of households are carless (although these numbers shrink when you exclude people over 65). And understandably so: if you work downtown and live in the city or its inner ring suburbs (two big ifs), you don't really need a car to get to work, and you don't need it for such essentials as grocery shopping because some bus routes go past midnight, many grocery and drug stores are on bus routes and taxicab service is plentiful. Most cultural attractions (such as the local zoo, art museum, and history museum), are either near train stops or are on major bus routes. However, transit service in the suburbs is significantly less plentiful than in the city, and even in the city buses often run only once an hour or so late at night.  The last buses run around 1 AM in the city.  Suburban service varies dramatically depending on where you live; some areas  (most notably Tonawanda and areas near the Buffalo city limits) have citylike levels of service, while others have rush-hour service or none at all.

Even if you do own a car, this web site will do two things for you: (1) it will give you a bit of information about local neighborhoods and attractions, and (2) it can help you navigate the transit system, since even car owners frequently use public transit to avoid parking hassles or driving in nasty weather. This is especially true for residents of Buffalo's northern suburbs, who have the option of parking in Metro Rail stations and taking the train to downtown jobs.


I. Using Transit

A. NFTA Basics

1. Metro Rail

2. Buses

3. Parking

4. How to Get Further Information

B. Not the NFTA

C. Getting Active in Transit Politics

II. Taking Transit To Major Attractions And Major Necessities

A.  The Attractions

B.  A Few Relative Necessities

III. The City And Its Neighborhoods

A. Buffalo's Central Business District

B. The Theatre District: Party Center

C. The Waterfront: Luxurious Boredom

D. Allentown: Bohemian Border

E. The Delaware District and the Elmwood Strip: Upscale Urban Living

F.  Delaware Park/Parkside: Old Money

G. The Lower West Side: Little Puerto Rico

H. Riverside: The Best Of The West

I. North Buffalo: Shopper's Paradise

J. University Heights: A Student Area

K. Polish East Buffalo: Fading Away

L. South Buffalo: An Irish Enclave

M. Other City Neighborhoods

IV. The Suburbs And Niagara County

A. Amherst: The Dominant Suburb

B. Tonawanda: A Transit-Accessible Suburb

C. Clarence: A Rich Outer Suburb

D. Cheektowaga: The Polish Suburb

E. Lackawanna: Steel Town USA

F. The (Inner) South Towns: Hamburg, Orchard Park, and West Seneca

G. Niagara Falls

H. A Few Other Miscellaneous Suburbs

V.  Bibliography

VI.  Links


A. NFTA Basics

The official name of Greater Buffalo's public transit agency is the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority ("NFTA"). NFTA operates a small train system and a bus system that extend throughout the city of Buffalo and its inner suburbs,and provides some service to the suburbs that don't border on the city of Buffalo. Bicycles may be brought on NFTA trains except during rush hours.

1. Metro Rail

Metro Rail is Buffalo's miniature subway system.  For pictures of some trains, click here. Metro Rail extends from Marine Midland Arena at the southern end of downtown Buffalo north to the State University of New York at Buffalo's South Campus at the Buffalo/Amherst border. The subway has one line and does not yet go to the suburbs. (It was originally intended to go into Amherst, but doesn't because the politicians somehow messed up and lost federal funding). However, Metro Rail extension is and continues to be a political football, and I think that the subway will probably go to the suburbs sometime during my lifetime.

Every block of the subway runs down Main Street, the commercial core of downtown Buffalo. The subway begins near Marine Midland Arena (where our hockey team, the Buffalo Sabres, plays). It then runs through the commercial heart of downtown, hits the slowly gentrifying Theater District, then runs through some low-income areas (though the Allen, Utica, and Summer-Best stops happen to be within two or three blocks of more affluent areas, such as Allentown and the "Delaware District" dominated by Delaware and Elmwood Avenues), and then stops in University Heights (the neighborhood that includes South Campus). University Heights is a racially integrated, economically mixed neighborhood that its admirers consider "diverse" and its detractors consider "marginal" and "going downhill".

The subway runs aboveground and is free from the "Auditorium" stop (the southernmost stop a block or so north of the Arena) to the Theatre District stop. Afterwards, the subway runs underground and costs $1.25 per ride.  However, you can save by buying tokens in bulk ($1.15 per token if you buy ten or more, available at the NFTA information center at the Greyhound station downtown or at various other outlets you can learn about by calling NFTA).  You can also get a monthly pass ($44 for a pass that entitles you to rides on subways and buses within the city of Buffalo, half that for seniors and the disabled, more for a pass that includes suburban service).

Newcomers should be especially aware of the subway's unusual payment system. You must buy a ticket in a machine at the subway station (either with cash or with a token). However, you do not have to do anything with your ticket unless an NFTA employee is checking for them (which, in my experience, happens in about one out of every five rides). Otherwise, you're on the honor system. If you are caught without a ticket you will be stiffly fined ($20 for a first offense, and more for later offenses, as I recall). When you get to the subway you will see "INBOUND" and "OUTBOUND" signs. Inbound trains run downtown; Outbound trains run towards South Campus.

During the week and on Saturdays, trains run till midnight.

2. Metro Bus

NFTA also has numerous bus routes running through Erie and Niagara Counties. Erie County buses come in four types:

*local Erie County routes. Unless you live in or near Niagara Falls, you will probably be taking these routes if you use public transit for any purpose other than a 9 to 5 commute. I note that a couple of these go from downtown to Niagara County.

Many buses have subroutes: that is, there isn't just a "1" route, but a 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D. Typically, some of these routes serve just the city and/or terminate fairly early in the day, while others may run till later hours and/or serve the suburbs. For example, the 2B and 2C buses run to the Cheektowaga/Lancaster border, while the 2A terminates at the Buffalo/Cheektowaga border.

*Niagara County routes (all of which are numbered in the 50s).  Most of these routes begin in Niagara Falls and extend to Niagara County suburbs.

*Express routes. These routes are of limited interest, because they (a) usually only run once or twice during the morning to downtown Buffalo, and (b) leave downtown only once or twice around 5:00.

*"School Days only" routes designed solely for school children. They will not be mentioned further.

Some Erie County routes are of more interest than others. The most interesting local routes include:

4 (Broadway)- Runs down Broadway, which was once the main street of Polish Buffalo (and is still the home of the Broadway Market, a kind of "Polish mall" dominated by Polish-oriented bakeries, etc.). And between downtown and the Broadway Market, and even for a few blocks east of the Broadway Market, you get to see some of the city's nastiest slums. This route goes into the heavily Polish suburb of Cheektowaga.

8 (Main): tracks the Metro Rail route, but runs later into the night even on Sundays and serves the blocks between subway stops.

11 (Colvin): One of the system's more middle-class routes because it serves Delaware Avenue (the site of the city's nicest apartment buildings and condos). Starts downtown, then goes through the Theater District, then through some nice parts of Delaware Avenue, then goes around the borders of Delaware Park, then to North Buffalo and Tonawanda. The 25 (Delaware) bus serves many of the same areas. The only difference is that just north of Delaware Park, the 11 takes a turn to Colvin, a street just a few blocks east of Delaware.

15C (Seneca)- One of the few bus routes that goes through undeveloped land.  Begins in downtown, goes through Irish South Buffalo and West Seneca (a rather ordinary-looking suburb), then hits Elma (half-rural, half-suburb) and then terminates in East Aurora, a quaint small town.

20 (Elmwood)- Another upscale bus route (if there is such a thing in Buffalo). Serves Elmwood Avenue, which (1) between Allen and Delaware Park (2-4 miles from downtown), is the site of many of the city's better restaurants, (2) further north near the park, is the site of several of the city's major museums.

40 (Grand Island)- The bus to Niagara Falls. This bus also goes through Buffalo's blue-collar West Side, and through the affluent suburb of Grand Island.

34 (Niagara Falls Blvd.) and 48 (Main)- These buses are the two best (in terms of frequency and lateness of service) buses going to Amherst, Buffalo's suburban satellite downtown. Both buses run till around 9-10 PM on weeknights. The 34 bus is better for shopping, because it stops near Tops International (my favorite tourist attraction, discussed in more detail below) and Boulevard Mall (one of the region's larger malls). The 48 is a better "home to work" bus because it serves more affluent neighborhoods. As you might guess from their names, the 34 runs up Niagara Falls Blvd. and the 48 runs up Main Street until it reaches the Amherst/Clarence boundary.  Both buses begin at the South Campus rail stop, rather than starting downtown.

Bus fares vary depending on your destination. NFTA has four zones.  For example, Zone 1 is the city of Buffalo, Zone 2 is the inner suburbs, and Zone 3 and 4 are successive outer rings of suburbs.   As of Jan. 1, 2000, a trip within a zone is $1.25, and trips between zones are an extra 20-60 cents (20 cents extra for each extra zone).  Enforcement of these rules varies by driver.

You can save by buying tokens in quantities of 10 or more ($1.15 per token) or (if you take over 35 rides a month) by buying a monthly pass.  Bus passes are $44 for a one zone pass (valid only for bus or subway rides within one zone), $53 for an all zone pass.

All fares are lower for seniors and the disabled (half off for passes; for individual rides, .55 for one zone and .10 extra for each additional zone).  To qualify for reduced fare passengers must present approved identification (for more information contact NFTA at 855-7211 or 285-3919). Children under 5 ride free, subject to a maximum of three children.

Transfers from rail to bus (and vice versa) are free.  Bus-to-bus transfers are 25 cents.

3.  Parking

a.  At Metro Rail stations- Free parking is available at the two northernmost Metro Rail stops (LaSalle and South Campus).

b. Park and Ride- In addition, free parking for bus riders is available at:

*Appletree Business Park in Cheektowaga (on Routes 1, 2, 42, 43 and 69);

*N.Y. Route 5 and Big Tree Rd. in Hamburg (on Routes 14, 74 and 76);

*Main and Union in Amherst (on Routes 30, 48, 49, 65 and 66); and

*Niagara Falls Blvd. and Creekside Drive on the Amherst/Tonawanda border (on Route 34).

4.  How to Get Further Information

For timetables for individual bus routes, system maps and other information, go to NFTA's web site at, contact NFTA at 855-7211 or 285-9319, or show up at NFTA's customer services offices at 181 Ellicott St. (the Greyhound station in downtown Buffalo) or the Niagara Falls bus station at 343 Niagara Street in Niagara Falls.   The downtown Buffalo public library (on Lafayette Square) also has some bus schedules, but does not have as much of a selection as the NFTA offices. Alternatively, you can drop a note to Metro Marketing, P.O. Box 5010, Buffalo, NY 14205.  

If you know the number of the route you are trying to ride, you can find out when it reaches or leaves a stop by calling the main NFTA number (855-7211).  The same number is NFTA's lost and found number.  If you are hearing/speech impaired and have a TDD device call 855-7650 for NFTA information.

B. Not the NFTA

Other ways to get around without a car include:

*Greyhound and other intercity bus service.  Buffalo's bus terminal is at 181 Ellicott Street, a couple of blocks east of the Church rail stop.  I strongly recommend buses for trips to Toronto and Cleveland, the two nearest big cities.  Toronto is about a two and a half to three and a half hour ride (depending on whether you are taking an express bus or not) and Cleveland is about a three and a half to four hour ride.  Rochester, the most significant nearby small city, is about an hour to an hour and a half away.

Buffalo's Greyhound station is significantly less nasty than some I have seen, and not all of one's fellow riders look like they have been or should be in prison (probably because Buffalo's geographic isolation and numbingly high airfares force many students and other middle-class would-be flyers onto the bus, at least for relatively short trips).  Also, the Greyhound station is one of the few places in the central business district where you can get something to eat really late at night (which, in Buffalo, can be as early as 9 or 10, especially on weekends). Greyhound fare and schedule information is available on the Internet or through a toll free number (1-800-231-2222).  The number of Trentway-Wagar (the Canadian version of Greyhound) is 1-800-461-7661, and Trailways (Greyhound's weaker competitor, which uses the Greyhound terminal)  can be reached at 1-800-295-5555.

*Amtrak.  Amtrak, the United States' nationwide rail passenger station, provides train service to a variety of destinations.  However, Buffalo's Amtrak service is far more sparse than its intercity bus service, and the Amtrak station itself (on Exchange Street, east of Main, north of the Auditorium subway station and south of the Seneca station) is a little cottage that is frequently closed as early as rush hour.  Further information about Amtrak is available through a toll free number (1-800-USA-RAIL).

*Taxis.  Buffalo has numerous taxi companies providing plentiful service by small-city standards.  You can't hail a cab off the street in Buffalo (except at the airport and in parts of the central business district) but if you call a cab one will usually arrive in 10-15 minutes.

*State University of New York at Buffalo's shuttle buses.  SUNY/Buffalo (or "UB" as most locals call it) runs shuttle buses from South Campus (near the South Campus rail stop) to several stops on North Campus in Amherst.  These buses stop at the intersection of Bailey Avenue and Michael Road, Diefendorf Loop on South Campus, and the following North Campus stops:  Flint Loop, Governors Residence Halls, Lee Loop, Ellicott Complex (on weekends and nights) and Coventry Circle (nights only).  The buses run every 5-10 minutes during the academic year on Mondays through Fridays, and every 30-60 minutes on weekends and during the summer. For more details call the University's Parking and Transportation Services office at 645-7329.

*Rochester Transit- Rochester's public transit system is only slightly less extensive than Buffalo's. It has no rail system, but many routes run till midnight, and the suburbs are only a 15-20 min. ride away (as opposed to 25-30 min. in Buffalo).  For more information call the Regional Transit Service at 716-288-1700.

*Forever Elmwood-  Forever Elmwood, a neighborhood organization serving the Elmwood Strip, has shuttles running down Elmwood Avenue on Wednesday and Saturday nights.  I suspect that the shuttles will eventually be expanded or junked.

*Niagara Scenic Bus Lines (648-1500)- This system operates commuter buses from Buffalo to various rural towns south of the city.  Buses run every two or three hours starting around 6 AM and leaving Buffalo at 6 PM and 9:30 PM.  

*Niagara-on-the Lake- Niagara on the Lake is a quaint town in Canada. To get there, take the 40 bus to downtown Niagara Falls, walk across the Rainbow Bridge to Canada, then take a shuttle (usually around $15-18 Canadian, or $10-15 American, per round trip) to Niagara-on-the-Lake.  Shuttle companies include Border City (905-357-4000), Van-Go (905-468-8554) and 5-0 Taxi (1-800-667-0256).

Niagara People Mover- Shuttles visitors around Niagara Falls, Canada.  For more information call 905-356-7944 (or 905-357-9340).

C. Getting Active in Transit Politics

Buffalo has one organization (that I know of) fighting for better transit service:  The Citizens Rapid Transit Committee (631-8576, or Box 303, 5330 Main St., Williamsville, NY 14221).  The Committee usually meets near the South Campus stop--monthly at noon, quarterly at night.  The Committee's major project is the expansion of Metro Rail to the suburbs.

II.  Taking Transit To Major Attractions And Major Necessities (express buses not listed)

A.  The Attractions

1.  My favorites

Tops International in Amherst (Maple and Bailey, 515-0075)- Quite simply, one of the most unusual stores on Earth.  For example, this store contains almost a full aisle for Indian food alone.  The store also contains sections for Asian, Mideastern,  Turkish, Kosher, Jamaican, Mexican, other Hispanic, Dutch, German, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Italian, and Scandinavian food. If you are coming from the city, first take the train to South Campus.  Then take the 34 or 5D bus to Maple and Niagara Falls, and walk a couple of blocks east to Maple and Bailey.  The 34M bus stops a block or so closer but runs less frequently.

Niagara Falls (and related nearby attractions)- Self explanatory.  From Buffalo take the 40 bus to the Falls.  From anywhere in Niagara County take any of the buses numbered 50-56 to downtown Niagara Falls and go from there.

Broadway Market (999 Broadway, 893-0705)- A 110-year old, Polish-oriented market with an enormous array of shops and delicacies.  On 4 and 23 bus routes at Broadway & Fillmore. As you will see when you get there, it is in a rather decrepit neighborhood, so don't wander too far in any direction.

Architecture- Buffalo has a lot of architectural gems, one or two of which are mentioned in the next section and most of which are mentioned in the discussions of relevant neighborhoods (especially the Central Business District and Delaware Park).

2.  Some others

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1285 Elmwood Ave., 882-8700)- The area's major art museum, (specializing in, but not limited to, modern art) served by the 20 and 32 bus routes.  Take the 20 bus up Elmwood, or take the train to Amherst St. and then take the 32 bus west. The more modest Burchfield-Penney Art Center (1300 Elmwood, 878-6011) is in Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall across the street.

Buffalo City Hall- A beautiful Art Deco building. From Lafayette Square station walk west 4 blocks on Court street, or take any one of numerous buses (including the 1, 2, 4, 11 and 25 buses).

Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens (2655 South Park Ave., 833-0301)- 12 greenhouses feature numerous flowers and plants. On the 16A and 19B routes.  Also a couple of blocks north of Ridge, served by the 36 and 42 routes.  If you are interested in magnificent churches you may want to visit the Our Lady of Victory Basilica on 767 Ridge (828-9444).

Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society (26 Nottingham Court, 873-9644)- More or less next to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and can be reached by the same buses. (The two museums are also in the city of Buffalo's most beautiful  and richest neighborhood; if you want to see a classic early 20th-century rich "streetcar suburb" walk on Nottingham between Delaware and Elmwood, and maybe on a few side streets).  The tony Nichols School, one of the city's best private schools, is also in this area.

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (Lafayette Square, 858-8900)- From Lafayette Square station walk one block west on Clinton Street through the square. Also on numerous bus routes (including the 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, and 24).

Science Museum (formally titled "Buffalo Museum of Science") (1020 Humboldt Pkwy., 896-5200)- From Allen or Delevan stations take the 29M bus to the Museum entrance.  The museum is next to a beautiful park (Martin Luther King Park) but is not too far from some rather decrepit areas.

Buffalo Naval & Servicemen's Park (1 Naval Park Cove, 847-1773)- Numerous old ships, etc. From Auditorium station walk one block south on Main St.  The nearest bus route is the 8.

Buffalo Zoo (Delaware Park, 837-3900)- From Amherst St. station take bus 32 west, or take 11 bus from downtown (or from the suburbs) to Colvin and Amherst and walk a few blocks east.

Delaware Park- Our largest park, and probably the most useful one (because it includes the Zoo, Albright-Knox Gallery, and Erie County Historical Society). On the 11, 20, 25 and 32 bus routes.

Elmwood Strip- The closest thing Buffalo has to a Greenwich Village, a Dupont Circle, or a Cleveland Park--that is, the major urban shopping strip for interesting restaurants and small shops.  On the 20 bus route.

Buffalo Fire Historical Society (1850 William, 892-8400)- A small museum dedicated to Buffalo's firefighters, on the 1 route. 

Forest Lawn Cemetery (1411 Delaware, 885-1600)- This cemetery, just south of Delaware Park, contains the remains of Millard Fillmore and numerous other local celebrities.  One entrance is at the corner of Delaware and Delevan, on the 11, 25 and 26 routes. Another is on Main, near the Delevan-College train stop (and on the 8 and 29 routes)

Frank Lloyd Wright stuff- The most noteworthy of the area's Frank Lloyd Wright-built houses is the Darwin Martin House (125 Jewett Pkwy.). To get there go to Main St. and Amherst (on Metro Rail as well as 8 and 32 buses), walk several blocks south to Jewett, and then go a few blocks west).   Alternatively, take the 8 bus to Main and Jewett and then walk west. Currently being renovated, so you can't look inside yet (as of May 1998).  AND there are other, less noteworthy Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Buffalo as well: the Martin House gardener's cottage (285 Woodward Ave.), the Heath House (57 Tillinghast Place), and the Davidison House (76 Solider's Place). The first two houses are within a few blocks of the Darwin Martin House; the latter is between Delaware (served by the 11 and 25 buses) and Elmwood (served by the 20 bus) near Bird (a couple of blocks north of Delevan, served by the 26 bus).

Kleinhans Music Hall (Symphony Circle, 885-5000)- Where our orchestras, etc. perform.  On 22 and 7 bus lines (if you are taking Metro Rail, 22 goes from Summer-Best station, 7 goes from Allen).  A friend tells me that the Kleinhans is acoustically perfect (whatever that means).

The Peace Bridge- You can walk to Fort Erie, Canada (where there isn't much except for a good Chinese restaurant, Ming Teh on 126 Niagara Blvd. at 416-871-7971, and a flock of others I haven't been to yet) on this bridge. The walk from one end of the bridge to the other took me about 15 minutes.  Take the 5 bus up Niagara, get off at Massachusetts, then walk west to Busti.  Also near 12 route stop at Niagara and Hampshire.

Shea's (646 Main St., 852-5000)- Our biggest theater, a former movie palace that was built in 1926, cost $3 million (a princely sum in those days), still plays movies (mostly older epics) once a month or so, and hosts plays far more frequently. If a Broadway megamusical like "Sunset Boulevard" or "Phantom of the Opera" comes to Buffalo it will be at Shea's.

Studio Arena (710 Main St., 856-5650)- One of several smaller theaters in the Theater District. These theaters concentrate on smaller plays than the extravaganzas that come to Shea's.  Again, at Theater rail station.

Wilcox Mansion (641 Delaware Avenue, 884-0095)- Where the first President Roosevelt was inauguarated after his predecessor, William McKinley, was assassinated.  From Allen station take 7 bus west to Delaware or walk 3 blocks west on Allen.  Also on 11 and 25 routes.  By the way, the site of President McKinley's death is now a parking lot on Delaware Avenue five or ten blocks away, next to Canisius High School.

Marine Midland Arena (140 Main, 855-4100)- Where the hockey Sabres play, as well as the soccer Blizzard and the Lacrosse Bandits.  From Auditorium station walk one block south on Main.

North Americare Park (Washington and Swan, 843-4373)-  Where the minor league baseball Bisons play. From Seneca station walk east one block.  Also served by innumerable bus routes.

Rich Stadium (One Bills Drive in Orchard Park, 649-0015)- Home of the football Bills, our area's pride and joy.  Served by the 14B, 14C and 42 buses, as well as express "game day" buses (which you should call NFTA about if you are curious).

SUNY/Buffalo- South Campus is, of course, at South Campus.  To get to North Campus (which includes law school and most other liberal arts stuff) take SUNY/Buffalo shuttle service (discussed above in "Not the NFTA" section) or take 44 bus from South Campus station.

B.  A Few Relative Necessities

1.  Hospitals- Buffalo has too many hospitals to list here (many of which are listed in the "Links" section at the end of this web page).  However, the most subway-accessible are Sisters (one block north of Humboldt station on Main), Buffalo General (two blocks east of Allen on High St., or on 29 bus), and Roswell Park (a block further east).

2.  Malls- Unless you count downtown Buffalo's desolate Main Place Mall (at the Church station), all the malls are in the suburbs (but nevertheless somewhat transit-accessible).  Greater Buffalo's largest mall, the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga, is on the 6, 32 and 43 routes.  Boulevard Mall in Amherst is on the 5D and 34 routes, and Eastern Hills and Clarence Malls (at the other end of Amherst) are on the 48 and 49 routes.  McKinley Mall in Hamburg is on the 14B, 36B, 36M and 42 routes.  

In addition, there are numerous "strip centers" closer in.  I am most familiar with the one at the corner of Delaware and Hertel (on the 23  and 25 routes) which includes a K Mart and an Ames.  However, the outer reaches of Delaware and Elmwood include numerous such minimalls.

3.  The Airport-On the 24B, 30C, 30C and 30D routes.

4.  Nightlife- Buffalo's major party center is on and near Chippewa between Main and Delaware, and is close to the Fountain Plaza rail stop and to the 3, 11, 20 and 25 bus routes.  Elmwood (on the 20 route) also has a few bars and a lot of coffeehouses.

5.  Movies-  The most transit-accessible movie theatres are (a) the Angelika in the Theater District (near the Theater rail stop), (b) the Elmwood Regal and Super Saver Cinemas on Elmwood in North Buffalo, on the 20 route, (c) the North Park on Hertel Avenue, near the 11 route and on the 23 route, and (d) the Amherst on Main St. a couple of blocks east of the South Campus station,  on the 30B, 30C, 30D, 48, 49A, and 49H routes  (but mostly the 48 after working hours).  Obviously, there are other theaters in the suburbs, which may be convenient even by transit if you happen to live nearby.  

6.  Restaurants- Probably the most restaurant-intensive streets in the city are Elmwood (served by the 20), Hertel (served by the 23) and the upper reaches of Main (served by the 8). Obviously, there are others.

7.  Schools- Middle-class families have more options in the city of Buffalo than in some other Rust Belt cities.  In Cleveland (where I lived before coming here), the public schools had an atrocious reputation, and the only private schools were religious.  So if you weren't Catholic, Lutheran, or fundamentalist enough for a "Christian school" it was off to the suburbs, no ifs ands or buts.  

By contrast, Buffalo's public school system, despite its many troubles, has a couple of "exam schools" -- schools that have excellent reputations because they get to choose bright students.  At the elementary level, the Olmstead School has a very good reputation. At the high school level, City Honors and Hutchinson Central Technical have very good reputations -- so good that our local business magazine, Business First,  recently ranked them as the best and fourth best public high schools in Western New York. Most other city schools ranked poorly.

And Buffalo, unlike Cleveland, also has secular private schools, most notably the Nichols School on Delaware Park.  Nearby is the Buffalo Seminary, an equally expensive girls' private school on Bidwell Parkway just southwest of the park.  And there are also the usual assortment of religious schools (although the only Jewish parochial school that I know of is in Amherst).

8.  Groceries-  As noted above, the two major grocery chains in Greater Buffalo are Tops and Wegman's.  The Tops International I have mentioned above.  

In addition, there are numerous Tops stores in the city of Buffalo.  None of them are as exotic as the Tops International in Amherst, but all are perfectly adequate. For example, there are Tops stores at University Plaza near South Campus (just back of the Amherst movie theater mentioned in my "Movies" discussion a couple of paragraphs ago), Delaware and Linden in North Buffalo (served by the 25 route), Hinman and  Elmwood (served by the 20 route), Broadway just past Bailey on the East Side (served by the 4), South Park and Bailey in South Buffalo (served by the 14, 16 and 19A routes), Genesee & Kerns on the East Side (served by the 24 routes), Niagara and Maryland on the Near West Side (served by the 5 and 29 routes, and with an unusually good selection of Hispanic food, as one would expect in this heavily Hispanic area), and in a variety of suburban locations -- some fairly transit-accessible, some less so.

Tops' rival is Wegman's, a truly magnificent chain.  Wegman's began in Rochester, worked its way through the Buffalo suburbs, and finally, in the fall of November 1997, busted into the city. Wegman's has a palace of food on 601  Amherst just west of Elmwood, on the 32 route and near the 20 route. (As with Tops, suburban locations vary in transit accessibility). Wegman's lacks the variety of ethnic exotica that makes the Tops International great. But Wegman's American groceries -- the take-out counter, the bread section, and so forth -- are truly impressive. Buffalo is a small city, and we lack many big-city amenities--but of the seven metropolitan areas I have lived in since graduating from law school, none have the grocery selections that Buffalo has.

In addition to Tops and Wegman's, numerous more modest supermarket chains inhabit the area, including Quality Markets (on the Elmwood Strip served by the 20 bus, Central Park Plaza just east of the Amherst St. train stop, and some suburban locations), Jubilee Foods (on Kenmore Ave. served by the 30 bus, and a variety of other urban and suburban locations), and the usual array of ethnic markets and convenience stores.

You may be asking yourself:  so what if I can take the bus to the grocery store?  How do I get back with a ton of groceries in my hands?  Obviously, you will have to take a cab or develop very strong muscles.  The good news is that Buffalo's taxicab service is fairly plentiful.  In Cleveland (where I once lived) taxis from anyplace other than downtown or the airport required a two-hour wait, because cabbies did not want to pick up people at less lucrative neighborhood destinations.  But here in Buffalo, where downtown is dull and the airport is tiny (only sixteen gates), taxis are plentiful.  Expect to wait ten minutes and pay $8 for a three mile ride.

9. Colleges- As I have already mentioned, SUNY/Buffalo's South Campus is at the South Campus stop, and its North Campus is served by the 44 bus and the campus shuttle.  Buffalo State is bounded by Elmwood (on the 20 bus route), Grant (on the 3 route) and Amherst (on the 32 route).  Canisius College, a Catholic college famous for producing local politicians, is at the Delevan/College train stop and on the 8 route.  And in addition to these, Greater Buffalo has a variety of smaller colleges, many of which are fairly transit accessible. These include: D'Youville College (on the 5 and 22 routes), Medaille College (a few blocks west of the Humboldt train stop and the 8 bus route), Empire State College (at the Theater train stop), Erie Community College (whose downtown campus is across from the Greyhound station, which makes it a couple of blocks from dozens of bus routes and from the Church St. train stop), and Villa Maria College (a few blocks north of Walden, served by the 6 bus). 



To understand the geography of the city a bit better, click on Buffalo Neighborhood Map and Guide. This web page includes a city map, as well as a listing of city neighborhoods (which differs slightly from mine, in that neighborhoods are named and defined a bit differently; for example, the Delaware District and the Elmwood Strip are considered separate areas, unlike in my discussion below).

For an Avis map (which is better except for the absence of neighborhoods) click here. And for a map of areas near the central business district, click here.

ALSO:  My neighborhood descriptions and boundaries are based on census tract boundaries, which means they include a few blocks here and there that don't "fit in", and exclude a few that do.

ALSO: Next to every bus I add its last departure time as follows: 12-2 AM is "after midnight", 10-12 PM is "late evening", 8:30-10 PM is "mid-evening", 7-8:30 is "early evening", 4-7 PM is "rush hour."

AND ALSO: In order to give you a sense of the safety of various neighborhoods, I have sought to calculate  1997 robbery and burglary rates for various neighborhoods and suburbs.  The suburban crime rates are as accurate as my calculator could make them.  The city crime rates are less accurate because  (a) I was given block by block statistics and had to count the crimes myself (which means they are affected by my clerical errors) and (b) some neighborhoods have lost population since the 1990 census, which means I am underestimating crime rates for them (the overall city loss is somewhere between 5 and 10%, but the poorest neighborhoods have probably lost people faster--so I am probably understating the dangerousness of the worst areas by as much as 10%, and of the better areas by much less). I choose robbery and burglary because they are (a)  usually random (unlike murders and assaults, which are far less frequent if you don't get in barroom brawls or abusive relationships), (b) relatively frequent (unlike murder and rape, where one or two can send a small neighborhood's statistics into orbit) and (c) more serious than car theft or petty larceny.

 AND FINALLY: I talk a lot about "census tracts."  Census tracts are neighborhood-sized areas invented by the Census Bureau to track people geographically.  I can't get poverty/carlessness/crime rates for city neighborhoods without using census tracts, so I use them to define neighborhoods, etc.

To summarize briefly, Buffalo is laid out as follows:  Most of the city north of the central business district and east of Main is African-American, a few chunks of the east side within a mile or so of the city limits are Polish, South Buffalo is mostly Irish, the west side of Buffalo (i.e. everything west of Elmwood)  is Puerto Rican just north of the Central Business District and is polyglot working-class white further north, the upper middle class live in a "central corridor" bounded by Delaware on the east, Elmwood on the west, and Amherst St. on the north, and North Buffalo (i.e. almost everything north of Amherst St., west of Main, and east of Elmwood) is middle-middle class, better off than the blue collar West Side but not quite so affluent as the Delaware/Elmwood corridor.  And by the way, hardly anyone lives in the central business district (though some people live a few blocks away in the waterfront and Theater District areas).

A. The Central Business District (CBD) (no demographic data supplied, because almost no one lives there).

Subway stops:  Auditorium, Seneca, Church, Lafayette Square.  

Buses:  1 (last bus leaves after midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.(P.S. all major holiday service governed by Sun. schedule), 2 (last bus leaves midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.), 3 (last bus after midnight every day.), 4 (last bus after midnight every day), 5 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Fri. & Sun., late evening Sat.), 6 (last bus at or after midnight every day), 7 (last bus leaves 7 PM Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 8 (last bus after midnight every day), 11 (last bus mid-evening Mon.-Fri., late evening Sat., early evening Sun.), 14 (last bus at or after midnight every day), 15 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Fri., late evening weekends), 16 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.), 20 (last bus after midnight every night), 24 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.), 25 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., mid-eve. Sun.), 36 (last bus mid-evening Mon., rush hour Sat., no Sun. service), 40 (last bus late evening every day) (plus all the express routes, nearly all of which terminate around 5 PM or so except for the 74A to Hamburg [early eve. weekdays only] ).

Boundaries: Marine Midland Arena in the south, Chippewa St. on the north, Elmwood Ave. on the west (give or take a block) and Ellicott on the east (give or take a block).

Buffalo's central business district (CBD) is dull. It has few restaurants, a mall that is half vacant and that closes at 5:30 PM, a number of boarded-up buildings, no significant department stores, and no bookstores besides the Waldenbooks in the mall.  If you want to escape from the urban bustle, don't go to the country; hang out around Main Street or its neighboring streets at 9 or 10 PM. It is flanked by housing projects on the east and west (so whatever you do, don't go too many blocks east or west of Main after dark).  On the bright side, the core of the CBD  (i.e. Main Street) is not incredibly dangerous. I haven't read about any murders or rapes there since moving to Buffalo last year; the biggest neighborhood concern seems to be  property crimes like car break-ins and purse snatching.  Personally, I don't mind being on most of Main Street (with the possible exception of the blocks between Church and Chippewa, which are the most desolate) after dark, but I usually avoid the side streets. However, everyone has varying levels of tolerance for risk, and I'm sure that among those of you who are familiar with Buffalo, some of you will think I'm too paranoid and others will think I am not paranoid enough (Please note that I usually don't call the CBD "downtown".  This is because Buffalonians tend to use the term "downtown" indiscriminately, to describe not merely the CBD but the Theater District and even neighborhoods a few miles to the north like Allentown and the Delaware District.)

But even downtown Buffalo has a couple of attractions, most of which fall into two categories: architecture and sports.  At one time, Bufffalo was actually a big city (believe it or not).  A century ago it was the Houston of its day, a boomtown, one of the nation's eight or ten largest cities and home to two Presidents (Fillmore and Cleveland; the latter started his political career as Buffalo's reform mayor).  And in those days of wealth and power (and even for a few decades thereafter, until the Great Depression eviscerated the local elite), many interesting buildings were built, many of which have survived to the present day.  To name a few:

* Buffalo City Hall, a 30-story, highly decorated building on Niagara Square.  When I first visited Buffalo in 1991, the first thing I saw (besides the airport and an expressway leading from the airport to downtown) was this magnificent building.  When I saw it, I thought:  any city that could build something like this is worth a second look.  City Hall is one of the newer nice buildings downtown; it was built in 1931.  (There are many newer buildings downtown as well, but most are a bit more forgettable than City Hall).

*The McKinley Monument, an obelisk on Niagara Square that memorializes President McKinley (who was assassinated in Buffalo).

*Old County and City Hall (92 Franklin)- where Cleveland worked when he was mayor.

*Ellicott Square Building at 295 Main.  At the time of construction in 1895, this building was the largest office building in the world, the World Trade Center of its day. Even today, this ornate building contains plenty of offices, and one minor modern landmark as well: Charlie the Butcher's, one of the best places I know for one of Buffalo's hometown delicacies, beef on weck (roast beef on a very salty roll known as a kimmelweck).  Other Buffalo delicacies include loganberry juice (which I think you can get at Charlie's), Texas hots (hot dogs with a kind of hot sauce), and the omnipresent wings.  The exterior of this building is gray terra cotta, and inside is a glass-covered concourse and a floor with an intricate mosiac tile design.

*The Liberty Building (424 Main), crowned by twin Liberty statutes.

*Statler Towers at 107 Delaware.

*St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral (128 Pearl).  This Gothic masterpiece was built in 1851.

*The Guaranty Building (at Pearl and Church).  This building, which opened in 1896, has a terra cotta facade, decorative iron grilles that enclose the elevator, marble mosaics and a stained glass lobby skylight.  

*The Buffalo Savings Bank Building (now part of the M & T Center at Fountain Plaza).  The interior of this building is graced with murals, and the exterior is dominated by a gilded gold leaf dome.

*Numerous other buildings of somewhat lesser importance.

In addition to architecture, downtown Buffalo is the region's sports capital.  The baseball Bisons and the hockey Sabres play here.  The only sports franchise that has gone to the suburbs is the most popular of them all, the football Bills.  But since the Bills only have eight home games a year, this is not a great loss from an urban development standpoint.

B.  The Theater District : Buffalo's Party Center(No demographic data supplied because this area is too small for separate statistics).

Subway stops:  Fountain Plaza and Theater (remember, these are the only "ride free" stops outside the CBD).

Buses: 11, 20, 25 (see CBD for all times) (NOTE: The 6, 14, 16 and 24 all hit Washington Street and Huron just a block further east and south).

Commuting time from CBD: 5 min. by train or bus, 15 min. by foot

Boundaries:  Main on the east, Chippewa on the south, Tupper on the north, Delaware on the west (give or take a block in any direction).

The first major outposts of non-architectural, non-athletic fun in Buffalo are in the Theater District, an area that centers around Chippewa Street (between Main and Delaware) and Main Street (between Chippewa and Tupper).

Chippewa St. (and, to a lesser extent, some neighboring streets) contains the Theater District's pride and joy:  numerous bars that, on Friday and Saturday night, make Buffalo look like a big, exciting city.  (Even during the week, they are less deserted than the CBD).  There are also a few restaurants, most notably the Calumet Cafe (54 Chippewa, 855-2220) run by neighborhood booster/author/professor Mark Goldman.  Goldman has written a wonderful history of post WW-II Buffalo entitled City on the Lake.  (He has also written another book about Buffalo called High Hopes, which I have not yet read).  The Theater District also includes a coffeehouse that closes later than most of Buffalo (Spot Coffee, 227 Delaware, 854-7768), and a few fast food places, most notably Jim's Steak-Out (92 Chippewa, 854-6666) and Prima Pizza Pasta (396 Pearl, 852-5555).  But by and large, people come to the Theater District for alcohol and entertainment rather than food.

The Theater District also contains much of Buffalo's cultural patrimony, including Shea's , the Studio Arena, and numerous other theaters.  Moreover, Buffalo's one close-to-downtown movie theater, the Market Arcade (639 Main, 855-3022) is in this area as well.

Finally, the Theater District contains the major supply of "walk-to-work" housing in Buffalo. (You can also walk to work from the Waterfront neighborhood).  Most Theater District housing is composed of loft apartments, such as the Ansonia Centre building (712 Main, 856-8538, around $550 for a 1 BR as of 1997). But if you want the type of high-rise or doorman buildings that people in other cities associate with downtown living, you should look a mile or two further north in the Delaware District.  There is one exception to this rule:  the mid-rise, high-security City Centre Condominiums (610 Main, 856-8403).  But City Centre is far more expensive than its Delaware District counterparts; even one bedroom condominums sell for six figures.

C.   The Waterfront: Luxurious Boredom

Buses:  6, 8 (see CBD listing for times)

Commuting time from CBD: 5-20 min. by foot, 5 min. by bus

Poverty rate (that is, percent of residents with incomes below poverty level): 9%

Carless % (that is, percent of households without cars): 27.5%

Boundaries: Water on south and west, I-190 on east, Porter St. on north

(no crime statistics available)

      When I was told that people lived near Buffalo's downtown waterfront, I imagined something like Miami Beach or parts of Chicago's lakefront:  a wall of luxury high-rises, with shops and restaurants a block or two inland.

      For better or for worse, the waterfront is far different and far duller than I had imagined.  The Buffalo waterfront resembles a suburb far more than it resembles Miami Beach.  Instead of high-rises, the waterfront is dominated by rather ordinary-looking townhouses.  Instead of having dozens of restaurants, the waterfront has almost no place to shop or eat.  The waterfront's commercial weakness is understandable when you learn that the waterfront's population density is 2682 people per square mile--lower than most Buffalo inner suburbs (which clock in at around 3000-5000 people per square mile) and slightly higher than Amherst (which clocks in in the low 2000s), let alone the city as a whole (which has about 7500 people per square mile).

       Another caveat: walking to work from downtown is not so easy as one might think.  For one thing, you have to walk under an elevated highway.  For another, the waterfront is the coldest, windiest part of the city.  So many waterfront residents drive to work, just like suburbanites.  

       Despite its blandness, the waterfront is the most expensive part of the city.  The average home value here is $260,000, far more than most suburbs.  The waterfront may be a small, dull neighborhood, but evidently there are some who love it.

D.     Allentown:  Bohemian Border

Rail stops:  Near Allen, Summer/Best (actually, both stop on Main, a block or so from the true start of this neighborhood, and on blocks that are significantly more deserted than the neighborhood's major streets).

Buses:  7 (early evening Mon.-Fri, no weekend service), 8 (last bus after midnight every day) 11 (last bus mid-evening Mon.-Fri., late evening Sat., early evening Sun.), 20 (after midnight every night), 25 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., mid-eve. Sun.), 29 (late evening Mon.-Sat., no Sun. service).

Commuting time from CBD: 5-10 min. by rail, 10 min. by bus

Boundaries:  Main on east, Cottage on west (but most attractions between Delaware and Elmwood), Tupper on south, North on north.

Poverty rate: 27.6% (but  probably lower between Delaware and Elmwood)

Carless %: 36.2 (ditto, I guess)

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents:  14.4/34.6 (ditto, I guess)

Most of Buffalo's more appealing restaurants and small shops, and most of its young professional class (not counting suburbanites) live in Buffalo's "Central Corridor"-- a group of neighborhoods between Delaware and Elmwood.

The oldest such area is Allentown. Allentown is also the most stereotypically urban in every way: it has the oldest, smallest cozy Victorian homes, is (according to its neighborhood association) a "neighborhood of ethnic and lifestyles diversity", and has an alarmingly high crime rate (although the blocks between Delaware and Elmwood are, according to local gossip, safer than the western edges of this area). The "Elmwood Strip" of restaurants and shops begins here.  

Over the years, the Elmwood Strip's center of gravity has probably moved north towards the Delaware District. But Allentown still has some noteworthy sights, including:

*Many of the city's fanciest restaurants, including Enchante (16 Allen, 885-1330), Lord Chumley's (481 Delaware, 886-2220), Fiddle Heads (62 Allen, 883-4166) and Rue Franklin (341 Franklin, 852-4416).

*Kleinhans Music Hall on Symphony Circle, where our orchestra plays.

*The Wilcox Mansion, where Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in (ditto).

*The Allentown Art Festival, which started in 1959 and brings thousands of Western New Yorkers to this neighborhood.  Allentown has a bunch of art galleries, and is generally more artist-oriented than professional-oriented.

*Architecture that has gotten Allentown listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Another attraction that is near Allentown is the Anchor Bar, at Main and North on the 8 route (1037 Main, 886-8920).  The Anchor Bar is the restaurant that supposedly invented Buffalo chicken wings 35 years ago.  Portions are immense, so don't order anything else, at least not for lunch, unless you are a very big eater.  As I mentioned earlier, Main is significantly more deserted and closer to poor areas than the blocks west of Main, so exercise caution in that area.

The major streets here are Delaware (served by the 11 and 25 buses) and Elmwood (served
by the 20 bus).  In addition, some restaurants are on Allen, an east-west street intersecting both Delaware and Elmwood.

E.  The Delaware District and the Elmwood Strip: Upscale Urban Living

Rail stops:  Near Utica (actually, the subway stops on Main, a block or so from the true start of this neighborhood, and on a less affluent block; although this part of Main is visibly low-income, it is less deserted than the blocks of Main near Allentown).

Buses:  8 (last bus after midnight every day) 11 (last bus mid-evening Mon.-Fri., late evening Sat., early evening Sun.), 12 (after midnight every night), 20 (after midnight every night), 22 (mid-evening every night), 25 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., mid-eve. Sun.). Also, the Forever Elmwood shuttle serves Elmwood; dates and times are listed on the "Forever Elmwood" signs on Elmwood.

Commuting time from CBD: 10 min. by rail, 10-15 min. by bus

Boundaries:  Main on east (though area's affluence doesn't become noticeable until Linwood a block to the west), Elmwood on west (though affluence extends a few blocks further west here and there) , North on south, Lafayette on north.

Poverty rate: 14.4%

Carless %: 36

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents:  5.4/14.7 (higher as you go south towards Allentown, lower as you go north towards Delaware Park.) (Also, this area might be slightly safer than statistics suggest: the food/entertainment opportunities around Elmwood mean that the nighttime population is somewhat larger than the resident population, which in turn means that the real crime rate is perhaps a bit lower).

If the city of Buffalo has a young professionals' capital, the Delaware District is it (at least for singles).  Artist types and the pierced-eyebrow crowd tend to live a few blocks further south in Allentown,  while young lawyers, etc. tend to live either in the suburbs or somewhere around this area. Unlike Allentown, this area doesn't really have a clear geographic identity or a name everyone can agree on: I call it the "Delaware District" because I have to call it something. .

       The Delaware District (or whatever you want to call it) is in turn dominated by two streets with radically different personalities: Delaware (served by the 11 and 25 buses) and Elmwood (served by the 20 bus).

        Delaware was once the prestige residential street in the city of Buffalo, and it still is for renters and condo-dwellers.  At one time, Delaware was dominated by mansions -- but during the Great Depression and thereafter, most of the mansion owners lost their fortunes and sold their houses, and most structures on this part of Delaware are now office buildings of some kind. For example, the headquarters of the area Red Cross (786 Delaware) is a former mansion.  A newer but more unusual building is Temple Beth Zion (805 Delaware), the city's only non-Orthodox Jewish synagogue (the rest are in the suburbs of Amherst and Tonawanda).  Beth Zion has a small Judaica museum.

        But even now, other types of prestige housing are a part of Delaware Avenue's landscape.  For example, if you want a building with a 24 hour desk, your best bet is one of two Delaware Avenue condominiums:  the Delaware Tower (the southernmost of the two big blue buildings, 1088 Delaware, 884-0505) and the Park Lane (33 Gates Circle, 885-3250, in back of the restaurant with the same name). (The City Centre building in the Theater District also has this amenity, but is more expensive).  Other tall apartment buildings on Delaware include the other big blue building, 1217 Delaware (883-1430) (which has a night security guard, kind of a poor man's doorman), 849 Delaware (885-0300), Fairfax House (715 Delaware, 884-0500), and Gates Circle Apartments (1310 Delaware, 884-1696).  There are also plenty of not-so-tall buildings.  The most expensive of the apartment buildings, 1217 and 849 Delaware, start at around $650 for a one bedroom. Delaware Tower condos sell at around $80,000-120,000 for a 2 bedroom unit, and around $60-70,000 for a one bedroom unit.

The side streets between Delaware and Elmwood (and for a few blocks west of Elmwood before the neighborhoods get poorer -- say, until Richmond) are dominated by Victorian single- and multiple-family houses, which tend to be slightly bigger and newer than those in Allentown.  Most of these blocks are at least middle-class, and a few are downright wealthy.  But be aware that there are a few blocks that are far more depressed than the rest of the neighborhood, most notably Main, Utica and the blocks just north of Lafayette. (Although the latter blocks also include Forest Lawn Cemetery, home of Millard Fillmore and numerous other deceased Buffalo big shots).  Also be aware that everything east of Main near this area is very low-income (with poverty rates around 40-50%), so govern yourself accordingly.  

Elmwood, as I mentioned before, is the city's premier restaurant street (with the possible exception of Hertel) and has numerous other small shops of varying degrees of interestingness. Some of the more interesting restaurants on the "Elmwood Strip" are:

*Taste of India (494 Elmwood, 881-3141)- A sit-down Indian restaurant, which also has excellent food.

*Ambrosia (467 Elmwood, 881-2196)- Buffalo has plenty of Greek restaurants, but this is the only one I've been to that goes beyond three or four common dishes like gyros, souvalaki, etc. to more unusual dishes.

*Kuni's Sushi (752 Elmwood, 881-6819)- An excellent sushi bar.

*Casa di Pizza (477 Elmwood, 883-8200)- In my opinion, one of the city's better pizza places.  However, Just Pizza (which I am very fond of as well) is a few blocks away in two directions (a few blocks south at 199 Allen, a few blocks north on 976 Elmwood)

F.  Delaware Park/Parkside: Old Money

Rail stops:  Amherst St.(although Amherst is really on the far northeastern fringe of this area)

Buses:  8 (last bus after midnight every day) 11 (last bus mid-evening Mon.-Fri., late evening Sat., early evening Sun.), 20 (last bus after midnight every night), 25 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., mid-eve. Sun.), 32 (last bus runs after midnight Mon.-Fri., mid-evening Sat., till rush hour Sun.).

Commuting time from CBD: 15 min. by rail, 20 min. by bus

Boundaries:  Main on east, Elmwood on west, Linden on north (though the blocks closest to Linden are far more renter-oriented and less affluent than the rest of the area), Lafayette on southwest (but doesn't really include poorer area east of Chapin Pkwy. and south of park), Kensington on southeast.

Poverty rate: 6.6% (no doubt much lower in blocks nearest park)

Carless %: 13.1 (ditto)

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 3.6/10.8 (ditto)

Before the suburbs, there was Delaware Park. The park itself is the centerpiece of a citywide park system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who designed Central Park in New York City and most of Buffalo's larger parks).  The park is a green haven in the city, offering meadows, gardens, trails, a lake, the Buffalo Zoo, the Albright-Knox museum, the local historical museum, a summer Shakespeare in the Park  festival and numerous recreational facilities.

Beautiful and stately homes dating from the first few decades of the century surround the park.  This is not a a small-home Victorian neighborhood like the Delaware District further south; this is a big-house neighborhood for movers and shakers (especially in the blocks just north of the park, like Nottingham, between Delaware and Elmwood). In fact, the census tract just north and west of the park is not only the richest tract in the city, but richer than all but one or two suburban tracts.  Nevertheless, this area is not a sterile, sidewalk-free modern suburb.  Rather, it resembles the great commuter-train "streetcar suburbs" of larger cities like Cleveland and Philadelphia, with immense homes on not-so-immense lots made for people who could walk to a train or streetcar.

The blocks just east of the park comprise an affluent (but decidedly less ritzy) area known as Parkside.  Parkside has smaller, less expensive homes and is more racially integrated (16% African-American) than the blocks further west.  But Parkside's poverty rate (5.2%) is no higher than that of the rest of the neighborhood. Like Delaware Park itself, Parkside was designed by Olmsted, and its curved streets follow the shape of the park. I also note that the northwest few blocks of the neighborhood, off Delaware near Linden, are renter-oriented and not so affluent as the rest of this area. By contrast, at this neighborhood's eastern end there are a few affluent blocks north of Linden (sometimes known as "Central Park").

As noted above, the major attractions of this area are the Albright-Knox, the Historical Society and the Zoo.  In addition, architecture lovers will enjoy the Darwin Martin House in Parkside (125 Jewett Pkwy.), built by Frank Lloyd Wright (see "Attractions" above). This house is just a few blocks west of Main and Jewett (served by the 8 bus) and not too far south and west of the Amherst Metro Rail stop.  AND there are other, less noteworthy Frank Lloyd Wright houses in the Delaware Park area as well: the Martin House gardener's cottage (285 Woodward Ave.), the Heath House (57 Tillinghast Place), and the Davidison House (76 Solider's Place). The first two houses are within a few blocks of the Darwin Martin House; the latter is between Delaware (served by the 11 and 25 buses) and Elmwood (served by the 20 bus) near Bird (a couple of blocks north of Delevan, served by the 26 bus).

G.   The Lower West Side: Little Puerto Rico

Buses: 3 (last bus after midnight every night), 5 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Fri. and Sun., late evening Sat.), 12 (last bus after midnight every night), 22 (last bus mid-evening every night), 25 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., mid-eve. Sun.), 29 (last bus late evening Mon.-Sat., no Sun. service), 40 (last bus late evening every night, after midnight coming from Niagara Falls on Sun. night)

Commuting time from CBD: 5-15 min. by bus.

Boundaries:  Ferry on north, waterfront on south and west (except for areas in waterfront neighborhood discussed above), jagged on east (but generally ends somewhere a few blocks west of Elmwood).

Poverty rate:  43

Carless %: 53.5

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 9.6/23.8 (although local gossip suggests that this area is losing population faster than most, so these statistics may underestimate crime by as much as 10-20%).

Once upon a time, Buffalo had a Little Italy, and that Little Italy was the Lower West Side.  But in the 1960s one expressway separated this neighborhood from the riverfront, and the local government threatened to destroy the rest of the neighborhood to build another.  So the Italians moved to North Buffalo or the suburbs, and were replaced by Puerto Ricans.  Today, one census tract in this area (at its southern end between Virginia and Pennsylvania streets) is majority Hispanic, and the others are 20-30% Hispanic.

The Lower West Side is a poor, depressed area -- but not one of Buffalo's worst.  On Buffalo's Lower East Side (say, along Broadway between the CBD and the Broadway Market, or along parts of Genesee) you will notice block after block of boarded-up and abandoned houses. Here, abandoned houses are the exception rather than the rule (although imploding property values and drugs are problems).  And there are still interesting places to shop and eat.

For example, the commercial spine of this neighborhood, Niagara St. (served by the 5 and 40 buses), has two Puerto Rican restaurants, El Fogon (235 Niagara, 845-5137) and the Niagara Cafe (525 Niagara, 885-2233).  Both are good.  However, the two restaurants are quite different.  El Fogon is a glorified luncheonette with a menu limited to beef, pork and fried food.  Niagara Cafe, although hardly fancy, is more of a sit-down "regular restaurant" with a more diverse menu and a brighter decor.  (I especially recommend the stewed chicken at Niagara Cafe).  Another interesting restaurant, Rendezvous (520 Niagara, 849-1349) specializes in gumbo, a kind of soup that apparently originated in Louisiana.

This neighborhood also has a lot of ethnic grocery stores, including Buffalo Asian Market (594 Niagara, 881-2031), Phu Thai Oriental Grocery (355 Connecticut, 881-1457), Niagara Asian Market (931 Niagara), A Chau Oriental Food and Gift Market (Niagara and Rhode Island, southeast corner),  Frankeling Grocery (234 Maryland, with an excellent selection of Hispanic pastries and candy). A&A Food Mart (274 Maryland), Saigon Market (389 Connecticut, with fresh meats and seafood as well as nonperishable goods), Coqui Latin Market (across the street from A Chau) and a Tops with an unusually good selection of Puerto Rican and other Hispanic food (Niagara & Maryland, 847-6420).  The Asian markets tend to be heavily Thai- or Vietnamese-oriented, with some food from China and other Asian countries (though almost nothing from Japan). Among the Hispanic stores, Frankeling is probably the best for sweets, and Tops is probably the best otherwise. The area also has one Italian bakery specializing in bread, Christiano's at 596 Niagara.

I also note that even though this neighborhood is more dangerous than the city as a whole (which in 1996 and 1997 had around 7-8 robberies per 1000 residents) it is not all that bad by the standards of some bigger cities.  For example, in Baltimore (about 11-12 robberies per 1000 in 1998),   or Atlanta (ditto) this neighborhood would be safer than most.

Also, this neighborhood has a relatively good side and a really bad side:  west of Niagara it looks REALLY awful (and there are housing projects next to I-190 at its western edge), while most of the blocks east of Niagara look relatively tolerable.

H.   Riverside:  The Best of the West

Buses: 3 (last bus after midnight every night), 5 (last bus after midnight every night), 30 (last bus late evening Mon.-Fri., mid-evening Sat., no Sun. service), 40 (last bus late evening every night, after midnight coming from Niagara Falls on Sun. night), 63 (rush hour Mon.-Fri. only)

Commuting time from CBD: 25-30 min. by bus.

Boundaries:  City limits on north and east, river on west, Ontario on south.

Poverty rate:  13.9%

Carless %:  20.2

Robberies/burglaries per 1000: 2.6/8.5

Once upon a time, the far west side of Buffalo was full of stable, white working-class neighborhoods full of industrial workers, from the Lower West Side on the south to Riverside on the north. But deindustrialization and suburbanization took their toll, and today many of these areas are clearly headed in the wrong direction.

The nicest (or should I say, the least poor) of these West Side neighborhoods is Riverside, at the far northwest fringe of the city. Riverside is very very working-class.  Even now, 31% of the neighborhood's residents have not finished high school, and only 32% have been to college (by contrast, the equivalent percentages for Allentown are 19% and 59%, despite Allentown's significantly higher poverty rate).  But it is more pleasant and stable than its neighbors to the south and (unlike in those nearby areas) you can find whole blocks without a "For Sale" sign, so if you want someplace cheap you could do far worse.  The last time I read the Buffalo News, 2 bedroom apartments in this area rented for around $400.

Riverside has a beautiful Olmsted-designed park, Riverside Park, with unusually good views of the river and Canadian shore, which is supposedly unusually dog-friendly.  The blocks near Riverside Park look OK; but be forewarned that there is a housing project a few blocks away on Ontario, which looks as scary as most housing projects do.

One of my most amusing chats with a Buffalonian occurred in Riverside.  I stopped off at a neighborhood bakery, and I got into a chat with the proprietor about drugs and other unpleasant topics.  She admitted that there were "drug houses" in Riverside, but said that she felt safe there at night because the drug dealers were relatively "nice", minded their own business, and didn't use guns.  I'm not sure whether this story made me feel better or worse around the neighborhood.  I note, however, that crime rates compare favorably to the citywide average or even to the affluent Delaware District (albeit not to the suburbs or South Buffalo).

The commercial center of this heavily industrial area is the corner of Tonawanda and Ontario.  If you go very far south of there, you will be in Black Rock (a neighborhood which is similar but has poverty rates twice those of Riverside, and in which "For Sale" signs seem to be far more frequent).  And if you go too far east on Ontario, you will be in front of the aforementioned public housing projects.

I.   North Buffalo:  Shopper's Paradise

Buses:  11 (last bus mid-evening Mon.-Fri., late evening Sat., early evening Sun.), 20 (last bus after midnight every night), 23 (last bus after midnight every night), 25 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., mid-eve. Sun.), 30 (late evening Mon.-Fri., mid-evening Sat., no Sun. service), 79 (weekday rush hour only).

Commuting time from CBD: 20-30 min. by bus.

Boundaries:  City limits on north, Conrail tracks on east, Elmwood on west, Linden on south.

Poverty rate:  10.3%

Carless %:  13.9

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 3.2/9 (but much lower in northern reaches and about 1/3 lower outside commercial area between Delaware and Elmwood)

If you want a neighborhood that's in the city, is less working-class than Riverside or South Buffalo, is less expensive than the blocks around Delaware Park, is safer than the neighborhoods around the Elmwood Strip, and has excellent shopping, try North Buffalo:  the closest thing Buffalo still has to a large middle-middle class neighborhood, the sort of place with more teachers than lawyers or unemployed steelworkers.

North Buffalo is also the closest thing Buffalo has to a Little Italy (which is not saying much). Buffalo, unlike many older industrial cities, has no majority-Italian neighborhoods left. However, North Buffalo is more Italian than the rest of the city, a fact reflected in the existence of numerous Italian markets and restaurants on Hertel (served primarily by the 23 crosstown buses, although the 11, 20 and 25 north-south buses all hit Hertel on various points).

North Buffalo is also the best place in the city to shop for day-to-day needs like socks and groceries.  North Buffalo's shopping streets fall into two types:

*The suburban streets (Delaware and Elmwood).  These streets are dominated by the same type of "big box" stores with big parking lots that you might see in Anysuburb, U.S.A.  For example, the corner of Delaware and Hertel alone is near a KMart, an Ames and a Tops.  There is another Tops at Elmwood and Hinman, and the lone Wegman's in the city is on Amherst just west of Elmwood (kind of at the North Buffalo/Black Rock border).  Finally, there is a Target at 2626 Delaware a few blocks further north (which competes with KMart and Ames).  I note that the crime rates in the blocks between Delaware and Elmwood is significantly higher than in the rest of the neighborhood, because the shopping opportunities increase the population  (criminal and otherwise) in ways not reflected by the census data (and therefore not reflected in per capita crime rates). If you throw out the Delaware/Elmwood census tract crime rates are about 1/3 lower.

Just south of the latter Tops are two movie theatres:  the  first-run Elmwood Center 16 (2001 Elmwood, 871-0722) and the second-run Super Saver (2050 Elmwood, 876-8120). As you may recall, Delaware is served by the 25 bus and Elmwood by the 20.  This far north, the 11 bus runs down Colvin (a more residential street) instead of Delaware.

*Hertel, the human-scale street (served by the 23 bus).  Hertel is like a less hip Elmwood, filled with ethnic grocery stores and small restaurants.  Hertel's Italian restaurants include Little Talia Trattoria (1458 Hertel, 833-8667), Cafe Gar Angelo (1197 Hertel, 875-5057), Lombardo's (1198 Hertel, 873-4291), and La Riviera (1735 Hertel, 837-7712).  I am quite fond of Frank's Sunny Italy a block or two away (2491 Delaware, 876-5449), with its excellent eggplant parmesan and enormous portions.   

Hertel also has numerous ethnic groceries, including Russian, Italian and Mideastern groceries. These include Mideast-oriented City Grocery (1225 Hertel, 873-7773), Aladdin International Foods, which is also Mideast-oriented but more focused on meats (1177 Hertel, 876-9525), Caruso Italian Imports (1212 Hertel, 875-2797), Gino's Italian Bakery (1368 Hertel, 874-2315),  Italian-oriented Johnny's Meats (1191 Hertel, 876-2500), and European Russian Delicatessen (1785 Hertel, 837-9330).  One other Italian bakery is on Delaware (Romano's Italian Bakery, 2625 Delaware, 876-8352).  Hertel also boasts the area's only kosher restaurant that I know of, Mastman's (1322 Hertel, 876-7580).

Hertel also includes one of Buffalo's two major "art film" theatres, North Park Theater (1428 Hertel, 836-7411).  North Park is a bit more out of the mainstream than its major competitor, the Amherst in University Heights. The Angelika in the Theater District is somewhat art-oriented, but less so than the Amherst or the North Park.  I note that Hertel also has a lot of antique shops.

  This area, and the city as a whole, terminates on Kenmore, which has a few restaurants but by and large is less fun than Hertel or Delaware.  However, the northernmost census tract in this area (between Taunton and Kenmore, and including everything in the neighborhood east of Delaware) is the area's safest portion, with less than 1 robbery per 1000 residents.

J.    University Heights:  A Student Area

Rail stops:  South Campus, La Salle

Buses:  Running through the neighborhood- 8 (last bus after midnight every night), 12B (last bus rush hour Mon.-Sat., no Sun. service), 13 (last bus after midnight every night), 19 (last bus after midnight every night), 23 (last bus after midnight every night), 30 (last bus late evening Mon.-Fri., mid-evening Sat., no Sun. service -- this bus also goes to Amherst, but not after rush hour or on weekends), 32 (last bus runs after midnight Mon.-Fri., mid-evening Sat., till rush hour Sun.).

Buses running to Amherst from South Campus- 34 (last bus late evening Mon.-Sat., rush hour Sun.), 41 (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service) , 44 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 48 (last bus late evening Mon.-Fri., mid.-eve. Sat., rush hour Sun.; but note that buses to South Campus run an hour or two later than buses from South Campus), 49 (last bus early evening Mon.-Fri., mid-eve. Sat., no Sun. service--but bus from city to suburbs runs only on weekday mornings, as opposed to buses from suburb to city).

Commuting time from CBD: 15-20 min. by rail, 25-30 min. by bus.

Boundaries: City limits on north, railroad tracks on west, Bailey on east, Amherst on south.

Poverty rate: 28.9% (but probably artificially inflated by student population)

Carless %: 14.7

 Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 5.3/16.9 (slightly lower north of Winspear)

     This neighborhood was once a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood that was also the thriving, student-oriented hub of SUNY/Buffalo.  Today, it is not quite as pleasant as it once was, for two reasons.  

     First, SUNY/Buffalo has relocated in large part to Amherst; South Campus in University Heights still retains a few of the University's facilities (especially in math/science areas), but is otherwise the smaller, poorer junior partner of North Campus. University officials claim that they needed additional space to expand, and that no such space existed in University Heights (I haven't lived here long enough to judge this claim).

    Second, some neighborhoods not too far from University Heights have deteriorated, adversely affecting University Heights itself.   University Heights' safety reputation is significantly worse than that of the Delaware District and other middle-class city neighborhoods (although crime statistics don't entirely support this view).

Nevertheless, University Heights is still student-oriented enough to have a few interesting places to eat and shop, most of which are on Main. These include:

University Heights' more interesting restaurants include:

*Amy's, a kind of cross between a diner and a Lebanese restaurant (3234 Main, 832-6666)

*Doctor Bird's Caribbean Rasta Rant, a tiny Jamaican restaurant (3104 Main, 837-6426)

*Osaka Sushi Bar & Grill (3112 Main, 831-0443) which is exactly what it sounds like.

 *Parkside Candy Co. (3208 Main, 833-7540), an old-fashioned candy shop/soda fountain (by which I mean that it is a few decades old and not visibly rundown)

*The usual assortment of pizza places, Greek-American restaurants, and coffeehouses.

This area also has an excellent independent bookstore (Talking Leaves, 3158 Main, 837-8554) and one specializing in old and rare books (Old Edition Book Shop, 3124 Main, 836-7354).

Everything I've said applies to the south end of University Heights, between South Campus and the LaSalle rail stop. The northern tip near the Buffalo/Amherst border also has a few mildly interesting attractions, including a better-than-average Tops on Main, one of the area's best Chinese restaurants (May Jen, 47 Kenmore, 832-5162 -- there is also a May Jen on 810 Elmwood at 881-0038), and the area's other major art film house (Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main, 834-7655).

By the way, University Heights is probably Buffalo's most racially diverse middle-class neighborhood.  It is about 1/3 African-American and Hispanic.

K.    Polish East Buffalo:  Fading Away

Buses:  1 (last bus leaves after midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.), 2 (last bus leaves midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.) 4 (last bus after midnight every day), 6 (last bus at or after midnight every day), 19 (last bus after midnight every night), 23 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.), 24 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.).

Commuting time from CBD: 10-25 min. by bus.

Boundaries:  City limits on east, Broadway on north (except east of Sumner, where one heavily Polish census tract extends to Genesee), Buffalo River on south, Smith on west.

Poverty rate:  25.4% (but much lower near city limits and near Buffalo River on south, as opposed to poorer western fringes of area)

Carless %:  29.3 (ditto)

 Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 6.5/19.5 (megaditto -- this area includes some of the city's safest neighborhoods and some of its most dangerous).

In the late 19th century, hundreds of thousands of Poles came to Buffalo, creating a large urban enclave with its center at the intersection of Broadway and Fillmore.  After downtown, this area was Buffalo's busiest commercial strip. Like North Buffalo today, Broadway included both small-scale retail and larger operations like department stores. And there was the Broadway Market, a cavernous structure where butchers, bakers, produce merchants and other merchants marketed their goods to the people of the neighborhood. But in the 1960s everything changed. African-Americans moved in from the South, and Poles moved out. The Broadway Market survives (and is still worth a visit for its selection of Polish-oriented goods, especially candies and cookies imported from Poland and various meats), but most everything else is gone. To reach the Broadway Market, take the 4 bus from downtown or the 23 bus from North or South Buffalo.

Indeed, Broadway west of Fillmore is the American ghetto at its worst. Men languish on street corners, and building after building is boarded up.  Broadway just past the market is still more Polish than not, but is poor, and visibly transitional.  The census tract including (and mostly east of) the market is one of the most dangerous parts of the city, with a whopping 18.8 robberies per 1000 residents -- more than ten times the robbery rate of census tracts between William and Clinton near the city limits.

Although the traditional core of the East Buffalo Polish community is dying, other parts of Buffalo's East Side are more prosperous. The general rule is that the further south and east you go, the nicer the neighborhoods get.  For example, the blocks between William and Clinton Sts. east of Babcock have only 1-2 robberies per 1000 residents -- not as low as the suburbs, but as low as the average suburb in cities like Washington and Atlanta (which means it is safer than most inner suburbs in those cities). William is served by the 1 bus, and Clinton  (the most prosperous-looking of the major streets in this area) is served by the 2 bus.  The easternmost blocks of Broadway are not as nice as Clinton, but are not true ghettos either.   Even the best parts of Polish East Buffalo are working-class, and have poverty rates in the 10-15% range.

As I suggested above, the major landmark in this area is the Broadway Market. (For some reason, Buffalo hasn't produced as many Polish restaurants as other heavily Slavic cities like Cleveland and Chicago). One landmark which you can't really visit is the Central Terminal, a once-majestic, now-deserted train station between Broadway and William, a few blocks west of Fillmore.  Because it is deserted, I would think it unsafe to visit.  However, you can see the Central Terminal from a bus by taking the William bus (the 1 bus) and keeping your eyes open. Another minor attraction is the Buffalo Fire Historical Society, a firefighters' museum further down William (1850 William).

One other amusing sight isn't really in East Buffalo, but is connected to it:  the "Bill Clinton" bus stop. At the corner of Court and Main downtown, a sign lists the following buses: "1 William" and right below it "2 Clinton."

L.  South Buffalo:  An Irish Enclave

Buses:  14 (last bus at or after midnight every day), 15 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Fri., late evening weekends), 16 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., late evening Sun.), 19 (last bus after midnight every night), 36 (last bus mid-evening Mon., rush hour Sat., no Sun. service)

Commuting time from CBD: 15-30 min. by bus

Boundaries:  City limits on south and east, Lake Erie on west, Buffalo River on north.

Poverty rate:  12.2% (but significantly higher west of South Park Ave., lower west of South Park and towards city limits)

Carless %:  19.4 (ditto)

 Robberies/burglaries per 1000: 1.8/7.5 (safest city area profiled, and slightly lower east of South Park).

By contrast, South Buffalo, the city's traditional Irish enclave, is far healthier than East Buffalo.  This neighborhood is basically working-class, but, to a much greater extent than East Buffalo, is homogenous, relatively stable, and has some evidence of middle-class existence.  The nicest street here is McKinley Parkway, the Delaware Avenue of  South Buffalo.  

Like other parts of Buffalo, South Buffalo has better areas and worse areas.  The neighborhoods east of South Park Ave. are pretty poor (though they have lower crime rates than most of the East and Near West Sides).  A census tract between the river and Tifft (actually, the least Irish tract south of the river) has a 43% poverty rate.  At the other end of the spectrum, the neighborhoods south of Choate and east of South Park have poverty rates in the 5-6% range, identical to those of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city's northern half.  These areas are not wealthy, but are middle-class: their income levels are comparable to those of middle-class (but not rich) suburbs like Tonawanda and West Seneca.

 South Buffalo also includes most of the city's safest neighborhoods.  One census tract (just west of Cazenovia Park, between South Park and Abbott) had 0.4 robberies per 1000 people, less than the affluent suburb of Amherst.  Other tracts (like the area's most affluent tracts just east of South Park and north of the city limits) have 1-2 robberies per 1000, about as many as most bigger cities' suburbs.  For example, the average suburb of Atlanta has 1.7 robberies and 10 burglaries per 1000 residents -- numbers that are at best comparable to South Buffalo.  And Atlanta's inner suburbs are worse: Smyrna, a middle-class suburb (6.6% poverty rate) that borders on the city's most affluent areas, has about 3 robberies per 1000 residents.

Because Irish food is a little less unusual than, say, Polish or Italian food, I can't say that South Buffalo is a great place to find unusual restaurants or bakeries (although there are some good thrift stores and small discount stores of various types on Seneca, served by the 15 bus).  But it is a perfectly acceptable place to live.

M.  Other city neighborhoods

Most other city neighborhoods are poorer and less unusual than those discussed above, which is why I don't discuss them above.  Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness here goes:

  1.  West Side

a.  Black Rock- This neighborhood, between the Sacjaquada Expressway and Riverside on the river, is another white working-class area.  Black Rock is poorer and more dangerous than Riverside (which means it has a 25% poverty rate but still has crime rates below the citywide average), but safer than most neighborhoods immediately to the south.  Based on my one visit to the area, I would say that Black Rock homes are still fairly well kept up but that the neighborhood has way too many "For Sale" signs for my taste -- a fact which suggests than in ten or twenty years it will be in worse shape. Black Rock's most interesting sights include (a) a kind of beach where you can walk right up to the river, and (b) an Asian grocery, Vietiane Market (1902 Niagara, 871-1456), as well as two European markets, the German-oriented Spar European Sausage 9405 Amherst, 876 6607) and the Yugoslav and Hungarian-oriented Bonko (149 Farmer, 873 9137).  The main street is Niagara, served by the 5 and 40 buses (I don't think the northbound 40 bus stops at all between the CBD and this area).

Black Rock takes its name from a black basalt foundation on the Niagara River.  The rock was removed in 1825 during the digging of the Erie Canal.

b.  Central West Side (a.k.a. Grant/Ferry)- The area between Black Rock and the Lower West Side is (along the riverfront and Niagara) more industrial and less residential than either.  It is also in between the two in terms of poverty and other undesirable social problems, though more boring than either.  The blocks closer to Elmwood and Buffalo State University, however, are a bit nicer, with poverty rates around 15-20% (as opposed to about 30% near Niagara).

This area has one moderately interesting shopping street, Grant Street. Grant was once in an Italian neighborhood, and still has a few Italian-oriented shops. The best of these is Guercio & Sons (250 Grant, 882-7935), the largest of the city's Italian groceries (as far as I know). In addition to having a large number of Italian imports, Guercio also has other European imports (for example, I bought Croatian nougat sticks there).  Russ's Pastry Shop (294 W. Ferry, 881-7080) is a nice little Italian bakery.  Grant also has a variety of Italian meat markets, including Frank Zarcone & Sons (23 Grant, 886-6653), Zarcone's Italian Meat Market (278 Grant, 886-5565), the Sausage Factory (109 Grant).  Generally, the meat markets contain very little that you can't find at a regular grocery store (but I don't have enough experience with them to comment on their equality).

2.  South (but north of the Buffalo River)

a.  Old First Ward- This industrial neighborhood  a couple of blocks south of the Marine Midland Arena is somewhat interesting.  In the 19th century, it was the home of the city's Irish working class, who walked to work in nearby factories (such as the massive grain elevators that are still there, and the Quaker Oats factory that still functions and sometimes even makes downtown Buffalo smell deliciously fruity).  Today, the parts of the Old First Ward south of South Park are still white and working-class, still mostly well kept, and full of cozy-looking cottages along streets named after states (e.g. Ohio, Louisiana) and children playing on the sidewalks -- the sort of neighborhood that would be gentrified in a more affluent city.  But there are a few eyesores, and South Park and the blocks to the north of South Park are the home of a housing project which looks like housing projects everywhere.  This area may be changed forever in the next few years if the Buffalo Zoo moves here (and some local gossips say the fix is in).  The Preservation Coalition of Erie County (852-4831) has published a book about Buffalo's waterfront that discusses this area in more detail.

b.  Valley- An industrial, white working-class neighborhood just east of the Old First Ward.

3.  East Side

a.  Ellicott area- Miscellanous African-American, very poor areas just south of Genesee, and west of the Polish areas that start around Fillmore. Some of the scariest-looking, most boarded-up blocks in Buffalo are in this area, where poverty rates are close to the 50% mark.

b.  Masten area- A variety of African-American neighborhoods that border on Allentown, the Delaware District, and Delaware Park.  These neighborhoods are mostly very poor south of Delevan and near Main ,where most tracts have 45-50% poverty rates (though some streets are fairly well-kept up). Three subway stops (Allen, Summer-Best and Utica) are on Main Street where this area borders more affluent neighborhoods.   This area includes the Fruit Belt (e.g. Grape, Orange, Lemon), a once-German, now African-American area with streets named after fruits (some relatively nice, some not-so-nice).  Some of Buffalo's major hospitals (including Roswell Park, Buffalo General and the Hauptmann-Woodward Research Institute) are just south of the Fruit Belt and cheek by jowl with Allentown.

Hamlin Park, an area east of Jefferson and including Canisius College, has some integrated blocks and  poverty rates in the 20-30%, which are comparable to the citywide average.

c.  Martin Luther King Park/Grider- Another mostly low-income African-American area with some nice blocks near the Science Museum, and probably here and there throughout the neighborhood. Poverty rates here are around 35-45% -- bad but not the worst.

d.  Fillmore/Leroy- a more middle-class African American neighborhood just east of Parkside. One tiny census tract east of Leroy and north of the Kensington Expressway has a 9% poverty rate -- lower than that of most neighborhoods, black, white or whatever.  But the area just west of Leroy is poorer by far.

e.  Kensington/Bailey-  The city's most middle-class African-American neighborhood, just east of Bailey Ave. and University Heights.  The areas north of Kensington have poverty rates in the 10-20% range (and the easternmost blocks, like Eggert, are quite nice).  However, per capita incomes are comparable to those of South Buffalo or Cheektowaga rather than to the elite African-American neighborhoods of bigger cities like Atlanta and Washington.  (Many of the most affluent African-Americans live in integrated areas).  Areas south of Kensington and north of Delevan are significantly poorer.  The main street here, Bailey, is served by the 13 and 19 buses.

Bailey has a few interesting ethnic stores, including the Jamaican-oriented Tropical Paradise (3247 Bailey), Lee's Oriental Grocery (3325 Bailey, 836-7100) and a small branch office of the Lower West Side grocery A Chau (3335 Bailey, 833-5152).  

f. Schiller Park- A integrated but mostly white-working class area east of Bailey near Delevan (served by the 26 bus), Genesee (served by the 24 bus) and the city limits.  The major sight to see is Scharf's Schiller Park restaurant (34 S. Crossman, 895-7249). Scharf's is the city's only German restaurant that I know of. It is good, cheap and attracts patrons from all over. Otherwise, the neighborhood looks kind of troubled: Delevan and Genesee both look like they have seen better days, and the neighborhood's crime rate, although no worse than the citywide average, compares unfavorably to many other white working-class areas. But the easternmost few blocks are a bit more prosperous than those closer to Bailey.

g.  Genesee-Moselle:  A mostly poor African-American area just west of Schiller Park.  

Well, on to the burbs!

THE SUBURBS (and Niagara County)

First, a note or two on miscellanous topics:

1.  Towns and villages- Buffalo's suburbs have an unusual structure:  there are no unincorporated areas (at least in Erie County) and some suburbs are part of two municipalities (not counting the county).  Here's why:  Erie County is divided into towns, so every block of the county is, as far as I know, part of a town.  In addition, some areas within a town are villages with their own tiny little governments.  For example, Williamsville is a village within Amherst, and Kenmore within Tonawanda.  In order to avoid confusion, I shall focus on towns rather than villages.

2. Commuting times are only for regular buses, NOT express buses which are faster but usually only run twice a day.

A.  Amherst:  The Dominant Suburb (includes village of Williamsville)

Rail stops:  Within walking distance of South Campus (since this is the only suburb that is even near a rail stop, I will not mention rail stops further).

Buses running to Amherst from South Campus- 30 (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri.; this bus goes west to the city much later); 34 (last bus late evening Mon.-Sat., rush hour Sun.), 44 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 48 (last bus late evening Mon.-Fri., mid.-eve. Sat., rush hour Sun.; but note that buses to South Campus run an hour or two later than buses from South Campus), 49 (last bus early evening Mon.-Fri., mid-eve. Sat., no Sun. service--but bus from city to suburbs runs only on weekday mornings, as opposed to buses from suburb to city). (Be aware that the 32 "Amherst" bus runs through Amherst St. in Buffalo, not the suburb of Amherst).

 Other bus routes: 5D (last bus late evening weekdays, no weekend service), 64, 65 and 66 (all express buses that run on rush hours once or twice a day).

Commuting time from CBD: 20 min. by rail plus 0-30 min. by bus or 0 min. to infinity on foot (or an hour from CBD on the 5D bus, which only runs every two or three hours after rush hour).

Poverty rate: 5.4% (but probably artificially inflated by student population)

Carless %: 5.5 (defined more by age than by poverty; over 10% of  households headed by someone over 65 are carless, perhaps because senior citizens go home earlier and don't mind that the last buses don't run as late as in the city)

 Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 0.4/1.7 (1998 stats)

Sidewalks:  Sometimes

 1.  Why is Amherst the dominant suburb?

I call Amherst "the dominant" suburb for four reasons.

First, Amherst is by far the largest suburb.  Amherst has 111,000 people, over a third of the city of Buffalo's population.  By contrast, Cleveland's largest suburb (Parma) has under 1/5 of Cleveland's population, and St. Louis' largest suburb (Florissant) has 1/7 the population of the city of St. Louis.

 Second, Amherst is the most highly educated suburb, and one where a disproportionate number of the movers and shaker live. 41% of Amherst residents are college grads, a higher percentage than any other Erie County town (though one village, the village of Orchard Park, has a higher percentage). Of the lawyers in my firm who live in the suburbs, a plurality (though not quite a majority) live in Amherst. When I look through my college and law school alumni directories, Amherst and Williamsville addresses seem to come up more often than anything else. (Williamsville is a village within Amherst).  Amherst is also No. 1 among Erie County towns in per capita income, and No. 2 in family income (behind neighboring Clarence).

 Third, Amherst includes most of SUNY/Buffalo, arguably the area's most prestigious university, its fifth largest employer (behind the federal, city and county governments as well as General Motors) and a cultural center in its own right.

 Fourth, because of SUNY/Buffalo and other businesses Amherst probably has more jobs than other suburbs (although I don't have statistics to back this up).

 2.  Interesting stuff to eat in Amherst

Amherst also has more interesting things going on (or at least interesting places to eat) than in any other suburb.  Of course, Amherst's star attraction has to be Tops International, a grocery store with a truly enormous array of ethnic food.  Tops International is at the corner of Maple and Bailey, near Niagara Falls Blvd. and Bailey (served by the 34 and 5D buses). The 34M stops a block or two closer, but runs far less frequently.

 Amherst also has an enormous variety of ethnic restaurants, including:

*Indian Clay Oven (940 Millersport Highway at Sheridan, 832-1030), a fine little Indian restaurant.

*Jasmine Thai Restaurant (1330 Niagara Falls Blvd., 838-1011).  Niagara Falls is on the Tonawanda/Amherst border, so technically this is in Tonawanda.

 *Saigon Bangkok (512 Niagara Falls Blvd. 837-2115). A Vietnamese/Thai restaurant a few blocks south of Jasmine Thai.

*Korea House Restaurant (402 Evans Rd., 626-5980).

*Natalie's Cafe and Deli (807 and 1/2 Millersport Hwy., 446-9715), a Lebanese restaurant.

*Saigon Siam (3933 Harlem Rd., 839-0561).  Also Thai/Vietnamese.

 *Shogun Ichi (7590 Transit Rd., 631-8899)- Pricey Japanese.

*Branches of Tandoori's (7740 Transit Rd., 632-1112) and Taste of India (3093 Sheridan, 837-0460), profiled above in the Delaware District section.  Tandoori's, unlike Tandoori Express, is a sit-down restaurant.

Amherst also contains a few Asian grocery stores, including the Korean/Japanese-oriented Sung's Oriental Grocery (3605 Sheridan, 836-3311) , Korean-oriented Kim's Oriental Food (811 Millersport, 832-1188), and Appex Oriental Foods (2333 Niagara Falls Blvd., 564-9206) (as well as an Indian store, Super Bazaar (3218 Sheridan, 835-4770).  The area's only kosher butcher shop that I know of is also in Amherst (Brown's Best Kosher Meats, 2111 Eggert, 836-3370).  (However, Mastman's, a kosher restaurant in the city, has a take-out counter for deli meats).

 3.  Some Amherst quirks

 a.  Ethnicity- Amherst is where the majority of the area's Jews live. 3 of the area's 4 Reform and Reconstructionist synagogues are here (the fourth, Temple Beth Zion, is in the Delaware District at 805 Delaware), as are 2 of the 3 Conservative synagogues (the third, Beth El, is in Tonawanda just a few blocks from Niagara Falls Blvd.).  The Orthodox synagogues are more evenly split between North Buffalo and Amherst.  Amherst is also slightly more hospitable to African-Americans than some other suburbs.  Amherst is 2.4% African-American, which may not seem like much until you compare it to Cheektowaga (1%), Tonawanda (0.7%), Hamburg (0.4%), or West Seneca (ditto). NO Erie County suburb is over 10% African-American (the most integrated is working-class Lackawanna, which is close).

 b.  Taxes- Although Amherst may seem like a conservative place, taxes here are enormous.  Although Amherst is split up among numerous school districts with varying tax rates, my impression is that Amherst residents pay taxes hovering around 4% of home value.  By contrast, in the city of Buffalo tax rates are around 2.5-3% of home value, and in most American cities taxes are lower than that (a study published in the Census Bureau's U.S. Statistical Abstract shows that the average is around 1.6%).  Amherst does have the area's most highly reputed public schools (with the possible exception of Clarence). On the other hand, in most metropolitan areas other than Buffalo, there is no correlation between a suburb's tax rates and the quality of its schools.  For example, in metro Cleveland, the suburb of Beachwood has one of the area's lowest tax rates and has among the best schools.

 c.  Planning- Planning?  What planning?  But seriously, in many suburbs around America, houses within a block or a neighborhood are pretty similar -- usually the result of a developer's whim, sometimes the result of an architect's genius or foolishness.  But I have never seen a suburb as unplanned in this respect as Amherst.  Within a given block there will often be bigger houses and tiny houses, wood houses and brick houses and Lord-Knows-What houses, all in every concievable style.  Some blocks have sidewalks, and others a block away don't.

d.  Deer and Mosquitoes-  While reading a newspaper clipping about a candidate for local office in Amherst, I noticed that he bragged that because of his medical background, he could cure the town's problems with deer and mosquitoes -- a claim that suggests that Amherst has a serious problem with them, since I don't know of any Buffalo politicians who claim to be tough on deer or mosquitoes (as opposed to say, crime or absentee landlords). So if you are deathly afraid of either, don't live in Amherst.

4. Getting Around Amherst

 Amherst is not as transit-accessible as some other suburbs. Although Amherst has plenty of buses running during the day, you can't take a bus to Amherst at 1 in the morning.

  Three buses serve Amherst fairly late at night: the 48, the 34 and (to a much lesser extent) the 5.

 The 48 runs down Main Street, which begins at South Campus, runs through the neighborhoods of Eggerstville, Snyder, and Williamsville (in that order as you go east away from Buffalo) and terminates at the boundary between Amherst and the wealthy outer suburb of Clarence.  Eggertsville, Snyder and Williamsville are all affluent, relatively quaint areas (quaintness not being in strong supply in our suburbs, since by and large they were built in the post-WW II era when quaintness took a back seat to traffic engineeering).  Although Williamsville is a separate village, it is no different demographically from the rest of Amherst.

 The 34 bus covers a radically different street, Niagara Falls Blvd. Niagara Falls Blvd. borders considerably less affluent (though still middle-class) areas.  Also, Niagara Falls primarily a shopping strip, and makes no pretense of quaintness.  But many good things are here: a disproportionate number of Amherst's most interesting restaurants are here, as are Boulevard Mall, superstores of every type, and (a couple of blocks east of Niagara Falls Blvd.) Tops International (and a Wegman's just a block or so south of the Tops International, which is also very impressive).  Also, one fairly nice apartment building, Boulevard Towers (120 Meyer Rd., 836-6861) is just off Niagara Falls Blvd

 Finally, the 5D bus goes to Amherst a couple of times at night during the week.

I note that Amherst's main commercial blocks usually have sidewalks, as do the blocks near Niagara Falls Blvd.  Residential blocks, even in the areas closest to Buffalo, are erratic: some blocks  (probably the majority) have them, while others just a block or do away do not.

If you want to live in Amherst, have a job that keeps you at the office after rush hour, and still use public transit, the best areas are the neighborhoods along the Main St. corridor and (if you are a homeowner with modest tastes or a renter who likes Boulevard Towers)  near Niagara Falls Blvd. By contrast, some Amherst neighborhoods (like Getzville north of the SUNY/Buffalo and East Amherst, the richest part of the town) are pretty much limited to 9-5 service.

B. Tonawanda:  The Transit Accessible Suburb (including the village of Kenmore, which is pretty much identical to the rest of the town)

 Buses: 3 (last bus after midnight every day but only to Buffalo/Tonawanda city line), 5 (ditto except for 5D), 5D (last bus late evening weekdays, no Sat. or Sun. service), 11 (last bus mid-eve. Mon.-Fri., late eve. Sat., early eve. Sun.), 20 (last bus goes to Buffalo/Tonawanda city line every night after midnight, goes further north late evening every night), 25 (last bus after midnight every night except Sun., when it goes till around 10:30 PM), 30 (last bus tracks Buffalo/Tonawanda line until mid-eve. Mon.-Fri., early evening Sat., no Sun. service), 34 (last bus late evening Mon.-Sat., rush hour Sun.), 41 (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 60, 61, 62, 64, 79 (last five buses express buses with rush hour/weekday service only).

Commuting time from CBD: 25-45 min. by bus

Poverty rate: 5.0

Carless %: 8.1

 Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 0.5/3.1 (1998 stats)

Sidewalks: Almost always

Suppose you want a combination of modern suburbia and Main Street U.S.A.: a place where sidewalks are nearly universal, where the buses run till midnight, but where you don't have the crime rates of the city and you don't have slums three blocks from your home. And suppose you are willing to have a smaller home than in Amherst and a longer commute than in the city. For you, Tonawanda will be as good as it gets in the Buffalo area.  (Everything I say here also applies to the village of Kenmore, which covers most of the closest-in mile or so of Tonawanda and is demographically pretty similar).  

Tonawanda is a middle-middle class suburb with a smattering of doctors and lawyers, and crime and poverty rates almost as low as those of Amherst.  Tonawanda is both more diverse and less diverse than some other suburbs. On the one hand, it is whiter and more Christian than Amherst.  But on the other hand, it does have a more even balance between middle and upper middle class than most Buffalo suburbs.  There are three types of suburbs in Buffalo: suburbs like Clarence (and parts of Amherst) with a lot of high-status professionals  (say, law firm partners) but not too many ordinary middle-middle class people (say, people who work for the lawyers, like secretaries, paralegals, and the occasional student loan-impoverished associate), suburbs like Cheektowaga with very few lawyers and lots of their employees, and suburbs with a few of each. Tonawanda falls in the third category.

Both Tonawanda and Amherst have crime rates far lower than those of comparable suburbs in other metro areas:  for example, the average suburb of Washington, D.C. or Atlanta has about three times as many robberies per capita as Tonawanda and about 50% more burglaries (for Washington) or more (for Atlanta).  And many inner suburbs in those cities (though not all) have far higher crime rates.

Tonawanda is also one of Buffalo's most transit-accessible suburbs.  The 20 runs down Elmwood till nearly midnight most nights, and the 25 runs down Delaware until after midnight most nights.  (And Niagara Falls Blvd. and Colvin have fairly significant after-dark service by suburban standards, though not quite as much). If you live near Kenmore Ave. you even have crosstown service in the form of the 30 bus (which goes up and down this street that divides North Buffalo and Tonawanda). And these areas run down streets which are as nice as any in this town:  Tonawanda's high-poverty area is on the riverfront a mile or two west, near Black Rock and Riverside.  I am especially fond of Colvin just south of Sheridan.

In my unusual opinion, another good thing about Tonawanda is its architecture.  My favorite kind of house is a tall, brick bungalow.  The brick decays more slowly than wood, and gives an impression of order and durability, while the tallness "respects the street" -- that is, taller homes make a pedestrian feel less overwhelmed by the sky and  (during hours when not many people are out and about) the emptiness of the neighborhood.  (For a more intellectual argument about why taller houses are better than squat homes, read parts of "Home from Nowhere" by James Howard Kunstler.)  Tonawanda is the only Buffalo community I've been in (besides the blocks around Delaware Park) that passes muster on both fronts.  Buffalo homes are usually wooden, and houses in other suburbs are more likely to be squat and ranch-style. (But these are just tendencies; there are plenty of squat homes in Tonawanda and some neat-looking homes in Amherst).

On the negative side, Tonawanda does not have as much that is interesting to see, do or eat as does Amherst or the city.  There are a couple of  Thai and Thai/Vietnamese restaurants on the Tonawanda side of Niagara Falls Blvd.  These are Jasmine Thai Restaurant (1330 Niagara Falls Blvd., 838-1011) and Saigon Bangkok (512 Niagara Falls Blvd. 837-2115), a Vietnamese/Thai restaurant a few blocks south of Jasmine Thai. The same street contains Taj Mahal (850 Niagara Falls Blvd), an Indian restaurant.  Also worth noting are Pete's Lebanese Bakery (2468 Elmwood, 1-800-757-9576) and the Filipino-oriented Manila Oriental Foods (2778 Sheridan, 831-0795).

But by and large, Tonawanda restaurants tend to be less exotic than in Amherst or along the Elmwood Strip. The nearest movie theaters are also in the city or in Amherst. .

But having registered these caveats, I can say without qualification that if I personally was going to live in a suburb of Buffalo, I would pick the Town of Tonawanda over any other suburb in a heartbeat.  But your tastes may vary.

C.  Clarence:  A Rich Outer Suburb

Buses: 48 (last bus mid.-eve. Mon.-Sat., rush hour Sun.), 49 (last bus early evening bus going to Buffalo Mon.-Sat.--no P.M. buses going from Buffalo, no Sun. service) (and bear in mind both buses stop at Amherst/Clarence border rather than going into Clarence), 65, 66A (latter two weekday rush hour only express buses)

Commuting time from CBD: 20 min. train ride plus 25-35 min. bus ride

Poverty rate: 3.9%

Carless %: 3.4

 Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: Not available, but assume the best; Buffalo's outer suburbs tend to have very little crime.

Sidewalks:  Yes on Main Street, almost none on residential streets (though many do have walkable grass paths, and are therefore walkable in good weather, as is true for most Buffalo suburbs).

  In every major city there are usually one or two very rich "exurbs": places that are so far out that they are far more convenient for people with jobs in the suburbs than for downtown commuters, places that are very very very spread out, places where at least some of the houses are estates rather than houses. Washington, D.C. has McLean and Great Falls and Potomac, Cleveland has Gates Mills and Hunting Valley. And Buffalo has Clarence, just east of Amherst.

As I mentioned above, Clarence is even richer than Amherst by some measurements. Of course, even Clarence is not pricey by big-city standards:  the average home here sells for around $180,000, chicken feed in Washington or Boston (let alone New York).  But Clarence is the place to live if you want distance from your neighbors and you want those neighbors to be well-endowed.  However, Clarence is also growing, which means eventually the distance between you and those neighbors will shrink (and in fact many blocks are full of smaller houses or large houses on small lots). In fact, Clarence is one of the few suburbs in Erie County that is booming. Clarence's population has grown by 20% since 1980.  By contrast, most Erie County suburbs have lost population in the past decade or two.  Large chunks of Clarence are undeveloped, and it is the area "hot spot" for new construction.

Clarence has very little bus service. The only buses serving Clarence, the 48 and 49, go to Transit Road on the Amherst/Clarence border, primarily to serve Eastern Hills Mall and Clarence Mall. The 49 is a rush hour bus, and the 48's schedule is discussed above in my section on Amherst.

D. Cheektowaga:  The Polish Suburb (includes village of Sloan and part of village of Depew)

Buses: 1B (last bus mid.-eve., Mon.-Fri., rush hour Sat. except one 10 PM suburb-to-city bus on Sat. night, no Sun. service) 1D (only weekday mornings), 2 (last bus after midnight every night but only mid.-eve. past town's closest-in blocks and not at all on weekends), 4 (last bus after midnight every night, but doesn't go very far past Buffalo city limits after 9:30 or so on weekdays, 6 ish on Sat., or at all on Sun.), 6 buses (some of which stop at the town's west end, others past the town into Lancaster--last  6A bus terminates at Thruway Mall after midnight every night, but buses going further east terminate mid.-eve. Mon.-Fri., early eve. Sat., rush hour Sun.), 24B (last bus mid.-eve. Mon.-Sat., rush hour Sun.), 24C (last bus late evening every night), 26 (last bus late evening every night), 30C (weekday morning only), 30D (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 32C (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 41 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 41B (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 42 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Sat., no Sun. service), 43 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 65, 66, 67, 68, and 69 (last five weekday rush hour only).

Commuting time from CBD: 20-60 min. by bus

Poverty rate: 4.9%

Carless %: 8.8

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 0.8/5.8 (1998 stats)

Sidewalks:  Usually.

Cheektowaga is most noteworthy for three things: the area's largest mall,  the Buffalo airport off Genesee, and Cheektowaga's status as Buffalo's most ethnically identifiable suburb. Over 40% of Cheektowaga residents are wholly or partially of Polish ancestry (as opposed to 21% of all Erie County residents).  In some census tracts, a flat majority of residents are Polish-American.  Because it is so ethnic, Catholic, and working/middle class, Cheektowaga tends to be the subject of stereotypes about lawn ornaments and pink flamingos.  For an amusing look at these stereotypes, see the Virtual Cheektowaga web site, which contains, among other things, numerous photos of Cheektowagans' lawn ornaments. The pictures at the top of the web site include a pink flamingo, a nun (because the town is so Catholic) and bowling pins (presumably because bowling is popular).

Cheektowaga is full of ranch houses (mostly with sidewalks) off commercial streets. It is generally more affluent than neighboring parts of Buffalo and poorer than suburbs like Amherst and Orchard Park.   Although Cheektowaga's crime rates are generally comparable to those of other inner suburbs, it does have some relatively rundown areas.  Crime is somewhat higher at the city's northwest corner (say, near or north of Genesee and west of Harlem) than in areas further from Bufffalo's poorer areas.  

Cheektowaga, like Amherst, has a variety of interesting and important sites, including:

*The airport, served by the 24B, 30C and 30D routes (but mostly the 24B).  

*The Walden Galleria, Greater Buffalo's largest mall and one that would be considered large even in bigger cities.  This mall is served by the 6, 32 and 43 buses.  Of these, the 6 is clearly the most useful in terms of night/weekend service.

*Just about the only Greater Buffalo Polish restaurants that I know of, Polish Villa (2954 Union, 683-9460) and Polish Villa II (1085 Harlem, 822-4908). Polish Villa II is more expensive and serves an excellent Sunday brunch (which serves unusual dishes like lazy pierogi, a kind of pasta salad with onions, mushrooms and sometimes bacon that I have heard of only in Buffalo) while Polish Villa is more down-home.  There is also another Polish restaurant that advertises about its stuffed potato pancakes (Peter K's, 2709 Harlem, 893-9229) and one Thai restaurant in Cheektowaga that I know of (Jasmine II Thai Restaurant,  3719 Union Rd., 683-6553).

Cheektowaga includes two villages: Sloan and part of Depew.  Sloan is at the Buffalo city line just south of Broadway.  It is a bit more working-class than the rest of Cheektowaga, but seems very well kept up. Sloan is served by the 4H and 41 buses.  Depew is at the other end of the town, split between Cheektowaga and the outer suburb of Lancaster.  It is served by the 6C and 6D buses, and is demographically identical to Cheektowaga (other than being less Polish and having less crime because it doesn't border any scruffy parts of Buffalo).

E.  Lackawanna:  Steel Town U.S.A..

Buses:  14 (last bus after midnight every night), 16 (last bus after midnight Mon.-Sat., late eve. sun.), 19B (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 36 (last bus mid.-eve. Mon.-Fri., early eve. Sat., no Sun. service), 42 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., no weekend service)

Commuting time from CBD: 25-40 min. by bus

Poverty rate: 16.7%

Carless %: 22.4

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 0.9/6.2 (1998 stats -- in bad years about twice as many)

Sidewalks: Usually.

 Once upon a time, Bethlehem Steel's Lackawanna mill employed over 20,000 people.  Today it employs 900.  One would expect that the loss of all those jobs would have ruined Lackawanna, turning it into a Detroit or an East St. Louis.  

 But not quite.  Admittedly, the blocks close to the mill, west of the railroad tracks (which in turn are a few blocks west of South Park) do look a bit ghetto-like (with a 38% poverty rate that doesn't equal Buffalo's poorer areas but comes too close for comfort), and Lackawanna's poverty rate is higher than that of any other suburb.

But the rest of Lackawanna, especially the blocks east of South Park, looks more like the nice parts of South Buffalo than like urban slums. These neighborhoods have row upon row of small, mostly wooden, mostly well-kept houses and  poverty rates below 10%. In fact, Lackawanna's crime rates, though higher than those of other Buffalo suburbs, are still lower than those of the average suburb in cities like Washington and Atlanta (and of most inner suburbs in the same cities).  And  I suspect that if you threw out the city's "bad blocks", Lackawanna would probably be as safe as other Buffalo suburbs.

 The most interesting sights to see around Lackawanna are near the Buffalo/Lackawanna line at South Park Ave., including the area botanical gardens, the magnificent Our Lady of Victory Basilica (767 Ridge, 828-9444, at the corner of South Park and Ridge) and Curly's, an expensive (for this part of this area) Jamaican restaurant (647 Ridge, 824-9716). The best way to reach these attractions is to take the 36 past the steel mill and down Ridge (and if you're coming from downtown, remember not to get off until the railroad tracks have come and gone) or to take the 16 to the botanical gardens.  The blocks around Abbott, a bit further east (served by the 14 bus) are probably nicer places to live but less interesting to visit.

 F.  The (Inner) South Towns: West Seneca, Hamburg (including villages of Hamburg and Blasdell) and Orchard Park (including village of Orchard Park)

Buses: West Seneca- 2 (last bus after midnight every night, but only mid.-eve. past town's closest-in blocks and not at all on weekends), 15/15B (last 15 bus after midnight Mon.-Fri., late eve. weekends -- but 15B bus, the only 15 bus going past this town's closest-in blocks, goes past closest-in blocks only till mid.-eve. weekdays, rush hour weekends), 15C (last bus weekday rush hours), 41B (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 42 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., rush hour Sat., no Sun. service), 70, 72, 75 (latter three weekday rush hours only)  

 Hamburg- 14B (last bus mid.-eve. Mon.-Sat., early eve. Sun.), , 14C (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 36 (last bus late eve. Mon.-Fri., early eve. Sat., no Sun. service), 42 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., rush hour Sat., no Sun. service), 72 (weekday rush hours only), 74A (early eve. weekdays only) 74B, 74C, 76 (last three weekday rush hour only)

 Orchard Park- 14B (last bus mid.-eve. Mon.-Sat., early eve. Sun.), , 14C (last bus rush hour Mon.-Fri., no weekend service), 42 (last bus early eve. Mon.-Fri., rush hour Sat., no Sun. service), 72 (weekday rush hours only).

Commuting time from CBD: 25-40 min. by bus (West Seneca), 35-60 min. by bus (Hamburg and Orchard Park)

Poverty rate: 3.2% (West Seneca), 5.1% (Hamburg), 3.3% (Orchard Park)

Carless %: 7.1(West Seneca), 7.3 (Hamburg), 4.4 (Orchard Park)

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 0.4/3.2 (West Seneca), 0.4/6.2 (Hamburg), 0.1/3.1 (Orchard Park)(all 1998 stats)

Sidewalks:  Sometimes.

 Buffalo's southern suburbs and nearby rural areas are generally known as the "South Towns".  They include Orchard Park and Hamburg (and maybe West Seneca, though it is as far east as it is south) and a variety of rural areas to the south.  The three closest-in "South Towns" have a great deal in common.  All are more "white bread" than the northern and eastern suburbs -- more homogenously white and Christian than Amherst, less obviously European-American ethnic than Cheektowaga. All are at least moderately prosperous.  The South Towns are also generally known as Buffalo's snow belt -- and in an area as snowy as Greater Buffalo that's saying a lot!

 There are some differences among the three.  West Seneca is the least affluent of the three, but is still definitely a middle-class community.  It is also the closest to downtown and arguably has the best bus service, since a couple of late night buses go to the boundary between Buffalo and West Seneca.

 Hamburg, known to political junkies as the former home of Jack Kemp (who represented many of Buffalo's suburbs in Congress from 1970 to 1988, ran for president in 1988, and was Bob Dole's running mate in 1996) is a bit more affluent.  (Ironically, the area's present Congressman, Jack Quinn, also hails from Hamburg). Like Tonawanda, this is a community that contains both law firm partners and the associates, secretaries and paralegals who work for them.  Hamburg's bus service is a bit weaker; it has ample rush hour service and even a decent amount of early evening service during the weekdays and on Saturday, but no service after midnight.  The parts of Hamburg served by the 14 bus (running down Abbott Road, the Hamburg/Orchard Park line) generally  lack sidewalks (though there are grass paths to walk on, as in most of the sidewalk-less parts of Greater Buffalo). By contrast, most blocks served by the 36 bus (which runs through the town's center) have sidewalks.

  Hamburg contains two villages. One such village, Hamburg village, is significantly more affluent than the rest of Hamburg (as are the areas along Lake Erie, which have only rush-hour service).  Hamburg village is served by the 36 and 74 buses.  During the weekdays, the last bus reaches this area around 10 PM; however, no weekend buses run that far south.   The other village, Blasdell, is not as affluent, but still perfectly nice.  Sidewalks are the rule rather than the exception in Blasdell, and  the 36 bus serves this part of town on Saturday (but not Sunday), as does the 42 during the week. Hamburg's major bus hub, however, is McKinley Mall, a large (but not as large as Walden Galleria) mall served by the 14, 36 and 42 buses.  

Orchard Park is noteworthy in two respects: first, as the home of the Buffalo Bills (who play in Rich Stadium, reachable by special game day buses as well as the 14B bus and a few buses that don't run on Sundays); and second, as the most affluent of the southern suburbs.  The most affluent part of Orchard Park, Orchard Park village, is comparable to Amherst and Clarence in wealth. Orchard Park is also a classical outer suburb in all the wrong ways: Orchard Park village has only rush-hour service, and the only other buses serving this posh community run down the Orchard Park/Hamburg line, next to drab, sidewalk-less residential streets.

 G.  Niagara Falls

 Buses: 40 (last bus late evening every day), 60 (weekday rush hours only), plus several buses running through Niagara County (50, 52, 53, 54, and 55). Times for the Niagara County buses are as follows:  50- last bus runs mid.-eve. Mon.-Fri., early eve. Sat., rush hour Sun., 52- mid.-eve. Mon.-Fri., end of rush hour Sat (around 7, give or take an hour)., no service Sun., 53-  mid.-eve. Mon.-Fri., early eve. Sat., no Sun. service, 54- same, 55- mid.-eve. Mon.-Sat., early eve. Sun.

Commuting time from Buffalo CBD: 55 min. by bus

Poverty rate:  18.6%

Carless %: 24.9

Robberies/burglaries per 1000 residents: 3.5/19.2 (these stats are a couple of years old so they don't reflect recent regionwide drop in crime)

Sidewalks:  Usually.

I won't describe Niagara Falls' many attractions in detail, because if you click the link above, you should (if I knew what I was doing) enter a wonderland of links describing those attractions.  (Moreover, this is primarily a Buffalo/Erie County page, not a Niagara Falls page).  But I will give you a thumbnail sketch of this town (or should I say, towns).  For the tale of Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Ontario (across an easily walkable bridge) is truly a tale of two dramatically different cities.

 In one corner, Niagara Falls, N.Y. -- a city that, like most of Greater Buffalo, put most of its eggs in the basket of heavy industry (in this case, chemicals). When Carborundum, Occidental and other chemical firms downsized, Niagara Falls shrank at a Buffalo-like pace (40% or so over the past 40 or 50 years, I think).  Today, downtown Niagara Falls can charitably be described as unspoiled, and less charitably described as so dull and deserted it makes downtown Buffalo look like Mardi Gras.  But on the bright side, it doesn't feel extremely dangerous or ominous -- more like a ghost down than a slum.  Niagara Falls' crime rates are high by suburban standards but low by city of Buffalo standards. For instance, Niagara Falls has two or three murders a year (pretty good for a town of 60,000, but not so good by the high standards of suburban Buffalo).

 In the other corner, Niagara Falls, Ontario -- which put its eggs in the basket of tourism.  Today, this Niagara Falls is a wonderland of bright lights and tacky amusements, from gambling casinos to various bizarre museums (such as the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum). In fact, Niagara Falls, Ontario is so bustling, so developed that some locals complain that its skyline spoils the beauty of the falls.

 H.  A few other miscellanous suburbs

 I decided I would say a teensy bit about a few other suburbs that had some transit service, but not enough to justify discussing above.

Alden- A quasirural area in eastern Erie County served by the 69 rush hour bus.

Aurora- A mostly rural eastern area that is served by a few rush hour buses (70, 75A) and another bus that runs until rush hours on weekdays (15C).  This town includes the quaint and affluent village of East Aurora -- a tidy community full of 19th-century homes and sidewalks and minor attractions.

Brant- a quasi-rural , middle-middle class, South Towns suburb served only by the 76 express bus.

 Elma- One of the more affluent outer suburbs, just east of West Seneca.  Family income is No. 3 among Erie County towns, trailing only Amherst and Clarence. But Elma's affluence is different from that of the northern suburbs. Only 22% of Elmans are college grads, a figure below that of several less affluent suburbs.  Large chunks of Elma are still farmland rather than residential space. I suspect that Elma probably has fewer lawyers than other suburbs, but more people like my father -- people who didn't have as many degrees as their Amherst/Clarence counterparts and made money in some unglamorous, get-your-hands-dirty field (like my father's woodworking machinery business).  Served by the same buses as Aurora.

 Evans- see Brant because they are fairly similar and served by the same bus.  

 Grand Island- An island between Tonawanda and Niagara Falls. Also one of the more affluent suburbs. The landscape here, at least on Grand Island Blvd. where the buses run, is very unusual -- very few sidewalks, but no trees either.  Served by the same 40 and 60 buses as Niagara Falls, which means that service goes almost until midnight.

Holland- Another quasi-rural area south of East Aurora, served by the 69B and 69C rush hour buses.

 Lancaster- A new suburb just east of Cheektowaga, full of new construction, and slightly more affluent than Cheektowaga.  Served by the 6C, 6D, 24C, and 69 buses.   Bus service here is sparse but not completely nonexistent after rush hour.

Lewiston- A Niagara County suburb served by the 50 bus that runs from Niagara Falls.

 Lockport- A more working-class suburb northeast of Amherst, served by the 44 and 64 buses.  The 64 bus is an express bus, and the 44 runs till early evening.  Lockport has crime rates comparable to those of bigger cities' suburbs but higher than those of any Erie County suburb. You can get boat rides on the Erie Canal here.

Niagara- A Niagara County suburb served by the 54A bus from Niagara Falls.

 North Tonawanda- A small town-turned-suburb just across the Niagara County line from Tonawanda. Middle-middle class, and it has service from both Niagara County buses (55J, 56) and Erie County buses (20T, 25D, 61, 62A, 79) -- sometimes after rush hour.  I kind of  like downtown North Tonawanda; it is quaint and grubby at the same time -- kind of like a less Disneyized version of East Aurora.  Especially noteworthy is the old-fashioned Riviera Theater on Webster Street.  Also noteworthy are the Farmers' Market at Payne and Robinson and Sweeney Park just a few blocks south and east of both the Farmers' Market and downtown. The Farmers' M Market is only open till 2 PM on Saturdays, so come early! The park is heavily wooded, unlike most area parks (which look as if they had experienced a bit of clear-cutting), and is surrounded by an affluent yet wholesome-looking area with street signs that warn motorists that in North Tonawanda, children actually do play in the street.  

Pendleton- A bucolic suburb northeast of Amherst.  The 44 and 64 buses run down Pendleton's eastern border on Transit Road.

 City of Tonawanda- Just north and west of most of the Town of Tonawanda, and just south of North Tonawanda.  A bit poorer and further out than the town, but fairly transit-accessible (served by the 20T, 25C/D and 79 buses) and crime rates comparable to the Town's.

Wheatfield- A bucolic Niagara Falls suburb served by the 56 bus (which runs from Niagara Falls) and the 61 express bus.


Business First Book of Lists (published yearly)

City by the Lake, by Mark Goldman. A history of Buffalo from 1950 to 1990; I borrowed a bit from this book, for which I thank the author.  A must-read for any newcomer to town.

Crime statistics from the Buffalo police (available in printout form) and from the FBI (available in Crime in the United States, published yearly and available at any downtown public library).

Census tract data from the U.S. Census Bureau (published every ten years and available at most college libraries and decent downtown public libraries)

Links (Mostly Related To Buffalo Or Public Transit)

NOTE:  This list does not include every link listed above. For example, I didn't really see how the individual restaurant links fit in here.


Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, our region's transit agency.

Citizens Rapid Transit Committee: A group devoted to expanding Buffalo's transit system.
Private Industry Council Unofficial Guide to Erie County Public Transportation: This guide is more recently created than mine and much more bare-bones.
Rochester Rail Transit Committee: A similar group based in Rochester.
Rochester Transit: Rochester's bus system.
Auto-Free in Cleveland: A page about my one of my former hometowns that is quite similar to this one.
American Public Transit Association: The public transit trade association, with numerous links to various cities' transit home pages.
National Association of Railroad Passengers: A private group promoting Amtrak and other rail transit, with an enormous number of transit-related links.
Amtrak: Self-explanatory.
Surface Transportation Policy Project:  Transit users' voice in Washington.
Daniel Convissor's home page:  A page with hundreds of links about public policy (mostly transit-related).
Dollars and Sense:  A study showing the economic benefits of public transit.
Sierra Club:  A major national environmental group, which occasionally gets involved in transit issues.  To reach the local chapter e-mail
And try this link for a website listing local environmental resources.
Greyhound: The nation's dominant bus carrier. Especially useful for trips to Toronto and Cleveland, the two nearest big cities.
Congress for the New Urbanism: A group promoting the "New Urbanism", a school of architects and urban planners trying to design more pedestrian-oriented communities. There are no new New Urbanist areas in Buffalo, because there is very little new development, period. But New Urbanist developments in other areas resemble East Aurora or (if they are in bohemian areas) the Elmwood Strip -- streets are relatively narrow and have sidewalks, but densities are lower than in Manhattan and cars are tolerated but do not dominate.


Buffalo News: The local daily newspaper.
Alt- Buffalo Alternative Press: One of Buffalo's "alternative" papers. Very political, very leftist.
Buffalo Beat: Another alternative paper. Much more entertainment-oriented, less ideological (although it does address community issues). I have done a lot of writing for the Beat; to see some of it, type "lewyn" into the internal search engine at the Beat website.
Business First: The local business newpaper.
ArtVoice: An art-oriented local weekly.
Local TV stations:  WIVB and WKBW.
Apartment Spotlight: A quarterly guide to area apartment complexes.  Does not include condos or chunks of multifamily homes.
Stovroff-Potter:  One of the area's largest real estate brokers.


Tops: One of Buffalo's two dominant grocery chains.
Wegman's:  The other major grocery chain.  
Buffalo and Western New York Dining Guide:  A few restaurants profiled, with menus.
Rapoport's Restaurant Guide:  No menus, but an opinionated guide with a lot more restaurants profiled. Also, this guide is interactive: you e-mail the page's author with your opinions about restaurants, and he posts them when he updates the page every six months or so.
WNY Food: A list of food-related links.
Daily Taste:  Another food page, with a bunch of grocery and restaurant links, as well as a few national food links.
Broadway Market:  A 110-year-old, Polish-oriented, market with a wide variety of shops (mostly food, mostly ethnic, mostly Polish).  Don't miss it.


Albright-Knox: Buffalo's major art museum, with an excellent modern art collection.
Science Museum: Buffalo's science/natural history museum.
Buffalo Zoo: Buffalo's zoo.
Central Terminal:  Our beautiful, decrepit, deserted former train station.
Forest Lawn Cemetery- This cemetery, just south of Delaware Park, contains the remains of Millard Fillmore and numerous other local celebrities.
Temple Beth Zion: Not a museum itself, but this synagogue contains a small Judaica museum.
Buffalo Fire Historical Society:  A little museum at the still-Polish fringes of the East Side, devoted to (needless to say) firefighters.
Our Lady of Victory:  An unusually majestic church in Lackawanna.
Wilcox Mansion- Where the first President Roosevelt was inauguarated after his predecessor, William McKinley, was assassinated.


Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra: Self-explanatory.
Irish Theatre:  A theatre specializing in Irish plays.
Allentown Art Festival: A yearly art festival in (you guessed it) Allentown.
Shakespeare in the Park: Summer performances in Delaware Park.
Buffalo Movies: What's showing, where and when.


City of Buffalo: Excellent links, excellent list of city attractions.
Town of Tonawanda: One of Buffalo's most transit-accessible suburbs.
Town of Cheektowaga : Another inner-ring suburb.
Virtual Cheektowaga: A gently satirical look at Cheektowaga, with such amusements as photos of Cheektowaga homes' lawn ornaments.
Town of Amherst: Buffalo's biggest suburb.
Erie County: The official website of the county that includes Buffalo and most of its suburbs.
Town of Orchard Park: Buffalo's most affluent South Towns suburb.
Niagara Falls Links: A truly excellent set of links related to Niagara Falls and Niagara County.
Western New York Regional Information Network- Information about regionalism and other local issues. For census data on every community in Erie County, click to the main Regional Information Network page and look for the link for jurisdictions, or just click here.  (You'll also see another map of the suburbs).


Avis area map:  Self-explanatory.
Avis downtown map:  Self-explanatory, although it really goes north all the way up to the Delaware District.
Buffalo Neighborhood Map and Guide: City map. Neighborhood names/boundaries differ slightly from mine, and the descriptions are less opinionated.
Erie County Map: A map of the county by muncipality.


A few local colleges/universities:  SUNY/Buffalo,  Buffalo State ,  Canisius College, D'Youville College, Medaille College, Empire State College, Erie Community College, Villa Maria College.
City Honors: The city's elite public high school.
Nichols School :  An elite private school.


A few local hospitals:  Buffalo General, VA Medical Center, Erie County Medical Center, Sisters of Charity, Millard Fillmore, Children's Hospital, BryLin.


Marine Midland Arena : Where the hockey Sabres play, as well as the soccer Blizzard and the Lacrosse Bandits.
Buffalo Bisons:  Our minor league baseball team. 
Buffalo Bills:  Our NFL football team. 


Buffalo Houses:  An enormous number of photos of the architecture that Buffalonians actually live in.  If I had the time and technical expertise, I'd stick photos from here throughout this web site.


Dave's Buffalo Page:  A not-very-official page.
WNY Web:  An even bigger list.
MetroGuide: Still under construction.
Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau: A more official site.  In addition to having a ton of links, this site describes a lot of attractions without internet web sites.  This site is especially comprehensive for the arts and recreation (but doesn't have much about neighborhoods) -- kind of the perfect guide for the tourist or the resident out for a good time, as opposed to new residents.


The Talking Phone Book:  One of Buffalo's rival phone books.
Buffalo-Niagara Partnership: A regional business organization that lobbies for lower taxes and has a large membership list.