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Working to right the wrongs of the Kensington Expressway

“It also destroyed the lives of thousands of people"
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Posted at 6:05 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 18:10:51-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — More than five decades ago the Kensington Expressway was built and decimated the Humboldt Parkway neighborhood in the City of Buffalo.

Kensington Expressway in Buffalo.

But now there is a united and renewed call to reconnect the community and end years of injustice for those who live along the divided Expressway.

“What was ripped apart was the guts of a neighborhood,” declared Stepahne Geter, Buffalo resident.

Geter ays she remembers when the Kensington Expressway, which tore through the once magnificent Humboldt Parkway in Buffalo, was being built.

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Stepahne Geter, Buffalo resident, remembers when the Expressway was built.

“I was 8-years-old when they built it and we lived at the other end on Cherry Street right at the corner of Cherry and Lemon and they brought it through and they said it was urban renewal — improvement,” Geter recalled.

But for those who lived there it was considered destruction of a beautifully tree-lined parkway that was part of the Olmsted Parks System.

Humboldt Parkway in Buffalo before the 33 Expressway.

Geter says it divided the neighborhood, creating racial inequity and social injustice for residents.

“It also destroyed the lives of thousands of people and it killed two business districts for us,” Geter noted.

The 33-Expressway is a state highway run by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT).

Friday, Geter, who is also president of the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC), stood with local lawmakers at the Buffalo Science Museum urging the state DOT to expedite an environmental impact study on a redesign for a portion of the 33.

Helping lead the charge is state Assemblywoman and Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

Assemblywoman and Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

“Peoples health have suffered, the economy has suffered, commercial stripes have been shutdown — Jefferson and Fillmore,” remarked Peoples-Stokes.

State Senator Tim Kennedy, who also chairs the states transportation committee, says it is imperative the DOT moves as quickly as possible on an environmental impact statement as the American Jobs Infrastructure funding nears approval so they can have a stretch of the 33 in Buffalo "shovel-ready" for a redesign.

State Senator Tim Kennedy, chairs the states transportation committee.

“And if we are not ready, the funding that's coming into New York State is going to go elsewhere in New York State and we can not allow that to happen,” explained Kennedy.

The lawmakers where also joined by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and U.S. Congressman Brian Higgins.

They all say they are now banning together to prioritize a 33-redesign before recreating the 198 or the Skyway because it impacts residents the most.

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Residents live in homes along the Expressway.

“Because there's not a lot of people who live around Scajaquada and there's not a lot of people who live around the Skyway, but here are a ton of people who still live around here and suffer the results from 70,000 cars going by every day and negatively impacting the economy in their community,” Peoples-Stokes remarked.

Peoples-stokes say there are now very high rates of asthma for residents living along the 33.

Getner says she's been leading a redesign for 12-years and is hoping to see a new parkway bridge, covering a section of the 33.

“It would run from Dodge Street up to East Ferry Street, so you would be able to cross over — those streets would be open straight through,” described Getner.

33 Expressway cut through a neighborhood when it was built.

“If you were to make a plea before President Biden for the funding to make sure this happens, what is your plea?” Buckley asked.

“I would say Buffalo’s been a city that this road has contributed to our intrinsic believe that we’re not good enough for the resources of this country,” responded Getner.

Getner says she's now hoping she could finally see a redesign to restore some of the parkway in her lifetime.

“It would be a place of quiet peace — ride your bike from Martin Luther King Park to Delaware Park — that's cool,” replied Getner. “I’m ecstatic about it.”