Buffalo, New York

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This article is about the city in New York. For the animal species, see American bison. For other uses of the term "Buffalo", see Buffalo (disambiguation).
Buffalo, New York
City of Buffalo
Clockwise: Buffalo skyline from I-190 North entering downtown, Buffalo skyline at dusk, Peace Bridge, Buffalo Savings Bank, Erie County hall, Niagara Square, and the art deco Buffalo City Hall
Clockwise: Buffalo skyline from I-190 North entering downtown, Buffalo skyline at dusk, Peace Bridge, Buffalo Savings Bank, Erie County hall, Niagara Square, and the art deco Buffalo City Hall
Flag of Buffalo, New York
Official seal of Buffalo, New York
Nickname(s): The City of Good Neighbors, The Queen City, The City of No Illusions, The Nickel City, Queen City of the Lakes, City of Light
Location of Buffalo in New York State
Location of Buffalo in New York State
City of Buffalo street map
City of Buffalo street map
Coordinates: 42°54′17″N 78°50′58″W / 42.90472°N 78.84944°W / 42.90472; -78.84944Coordinates: 42°54′17″N 78°50′58″W / 42.90472°N 78.84944°W / 42.90472; -78.84944
Country United States
State New York
County Erie
First Settled (village) 1789
Founded 1801
Incorporated (City) 1832
 • Mayor Byron Brown (D)
 • Common Council
 • City 52.5 sq mi (136.0 km2)
 • Land 40.6 sq mi (105.2 km2)
 • Water 11.9 sq mi (30.8 km2)
Elevation 600 ft (183 m)
Population (2013)
 • City 258,959 (US: 73rd)
 • Density 6,436.2/sq mi (2,568.8/km2)
 • Urban 935,906 (US: 46th)
 • Metro 1,134,210 (US: 49th)
 • CSA 1,213,668 (US: 44th)
Demonym Buffalonian
Time zone EST (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)
ZIP code 14200
Area code(s) 716
FIPS code 36-11000
GNIS feature ID 0973345
Website www.city-buffalo.com

Buffalo /ˈbʌfəl/ is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City.[3] Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County[4] and the principal city of the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area, the largest in Upstate New York. Buffalo itself has a population of 261,310 (2010 Census) and the Buffalo–Niagara–Cattaraugus Combined Statistical Area is home to 1,215,826 residents.

Originating around 1789 as a small trading community near the eponymous Buffalo Creek,[1] Buffalo grew quickly after the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, with the city as its western terminus. By 1900, Buffalo was the 8th largest city in the United States,[5] and went on to become a major railroad hub,[6] and the largest grain-milling center in the country.[7] The latter part of the 20th century saw a reversal of fortunes: Great Lakes shipping was rerouted by the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and steel mills and other heavy industry relocated to places such as China.[8] With the start of Amtrak in the 1970s, Buffalo Central Terminal was also abandoned, and trains were rerouted to nearby Depew, New York (Buffalo-Depew) and Exchange Street Station. By 1990, the city had fallen back below its 1960 population levels.[9]

Today, the region's largest economic sectors are financial services, technology,[10] health care and education,[11] and these continue to grow despite the lagging national and worldwide economies.[12] In recent years, expansions of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus[13] and the The State University of New York have led to private and public investment throughout the city and region.[14] A recent study found Buffalo's April 2014 unemployment rate to be 5.8%.[15] In 2010, Forbes rated Buffalo the 10th best place to raise a family in the United States.[16]

Residents of Buffalo are most commonly called "Buffalonians." Nicknames for the city of Buffalo include "The Queen City", Buffalo's most common moniker; "The Nickel City," due to the appearance of a bison on the back of Indian Head nickel in the early part of the 20th century, "The City of Good Neighbors," [17] and less commonly, the "City of Light."[18]


Prior to the Iroquois occupation of the region, the region was settled by the Neutral Nation. Later, the Senecas of the Iroquois Confederacy conquered the Neutrals.

The city of Buffalo got its name from a nearby creek called Buffalo Creek. John Montresor references 'Buffalo Creek' in his journal of 1764.[19] There are several theories regarding how Buffalo Creek got its name.[20][21][22] It is possible that the area was called "Buffalo" as a result of French fur traders and American Indians having called the creek "Beau Fleuve," or "Beautiful River," in French.[20][21] It is also possible that "Buffalo" was named for the bison as they did at one time range into western NY state.[22][23]

Buffalo Panorama 1911

In 1804, Joseph Ellicott, a principal agent of the Holland Land Company, designed a radial street and grid system that branches out from downtown like bicycle spokes.[24]

During the War of 1812, on December 30, 1813,[25][26] Buffalo was burned by British forces. On November 4, 1825 the Erie Canal was completed with Buffalo strategically positioned at the western end of the system. At the time, the population was about 2,400. The Erie Canal brought a surge in population and commerce which led Buffalo to incorporate as a city in 1832, with a population of about 10,000 people.

The City of Buffalo has long been home to African-Americans. An example is the 1828 village directory which listed 59 "Names of Coloured" heads of families.[27] In 1845, construction was begun on the Macedonia Baptist Church (commonly called the Michigan Street Baptist Church). This African-American church was an important meeting place for the abolitionist movement. On February 12, 1974 the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Abolitionist leaders such as William Wells Brown made their home in Buffalo.[28] Buffalo was also a terminus point of the Underground Railroad[29] with many fugitives crossing the Niagara River from Buffalo to Fort Erie, Ontario and freedom.

During the 1840s, Buffalo's port continued to develop. Both passenger and commercial traffic expanded with some 93,000 passengers heading west from the port of Buffalo.[30] Grain and commercial goods shipments led to repeated expansion of the harbor. In 1843, the world's first steam-powered grain elevator was constructed by local merchant Joseph Dart, Jr. and engineer Robert Dunbar. The "Dart Elevator" enabled faster unloading of lake freighters along with the transshipment of grain in bulk from lakers to canal boats and, later on, rail cars.[30]

Abraham Lincoln visited Buffalo on February 16, 1861 on his trip to accept the presidency of the United States. During his visit, he stayed at the American Hotel on Main Street between Eagle Street and Court Street.[31] The Civil War years saw an increase in the population of Buffalo which grew from 81,029 to 94,210 by 1865. In addition to sending many soldiers to the Union effort, Buffalo manufacturers supplied important war material. For example, the Niagara Steam Forge Works manufactured turret parts for the ironclad ship USS Monitor.[31] Between 1868 and 1896, building on Joseph Ellicott's spoke-and-hub urban blueprint and inspired by the parks and boulevards of Paris, France, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux laid out Buffalo's public parks and parkways system, thereby creating the United States' oldest coordinated system of such recreational spaces and parkways.

Grover Cleveland served as Sheriff of Erie County (1871–1873), and was Mayor of Buffalo in 1882. He was later Governor of New York (1883–1885), 22nd President of the United States (1885–1889) and 24th President (1893–1897).

In May 1896, the Ellicott Square Building opened. For the next 16 years, it was the largest office building in the world. It was named after the surveyor Joseph Ellicott.

At the dawn of the 20th century, local mills were among the first to benefit from hydroelectric power generated via the Niagara River. The city got the nickname City of Light at this time due to the widespread electric lighting.[18] In 1881, Buffalo deployed the first electric street lights in the United States. It was also part of the automobile revolution, hosting the brass era car builders Pierce Arrow and the Seven Little Buffaloes early in the century.[32] City of Light (1999) was the title of Buffalo native Lauren Belfer's historical novel set in 1901, which in turn engendered a listing of real versus fictional persons and places[33] featured in her pages.

Pan-American Exposition – Ethnology Building at Night

President William McKinley was shot and mortally wounded at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo on September 6, 1901. He died in the city eight days later and Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in at the Wilcox Mansion as the 26th President of the United States.

An international bridge, known as the Peace Bridge, linking Buffalo to Fort Erie, Ontario was opened in 1927. The Buffalo Central Terminal, a 17-story Art Deco style station designed by architects Fellheimer & Wagner for the New York Central Railroad, was finished just weeks before the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

During World War II, Buffalo saw a period of prosperity and low unemployment due to its position as a manufacturing center.[34][35] The American Car and Foundry company, which manufactured railcars, reopened their Buffalo plant in 1940 to manufacture munitions during the war years.[36]

With the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1957, which cut the city off from valuable trade routes; deindustrialization; and the nation-wide trend of suburbanization; the city's economy began to deteriorate. Like much of the Rust Belt, Buffalo, which peaked at more than half a million people in the 1950s, has seen its population decline by more than 50 percent as industries shut down and people left for the suburbs or other cities.

Like other rust belt cities such as Pittsburgh, PA, Buffalo has attempted to revitalize its beleaguered economy and crumbling infrastructure. In the first decade of the 21st century, a massive increase in economic development spending has attempted to reverse its dwindling prosperity. $4 billion was spent in 2007 compared to a $50 million average for the previous ten years.[37] New proposals and renovations are numerous, especially in the downtown core. As of 2008, the population has continued to decrease, despite the efforts of city officials. (See demographics section.)

Geography and climate[edit]

Buffalo is located on the eastern end of Lake Erie, opposite Fort Erie, Ontario, and at the beginning of the Niagara River, which flows northward over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario. The city is 50 miles south-southeast from Toronto. Buffalo's position on Lake Erie, facing westward, makes it one of the only major cities on the East Coast to have sunsets over a body of water.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 52.5 square miles (136 km2), of which 40.6 square miles (105 km2) is land and 11.9 square miles (31 km2) is water. The total area is 22.66% water.


Skyline of downtown Buffalo from the Niagara River. Visible is City Hall and the former HSBC Center, now One Seneca Center


The New York Times has declared that Buffalo is one of the top cities in the United States for architecture.[citation needed] Approximately 80 sites are included on the National Register of Historic Places. All of the major American architects of the 19th and early 20th century built masterpieces in Buffalo[citation needed], most of which are still standing, such as the country's largest[citation needed] intact parks system designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. Buffalo was the first city for which Olmsted designed (in 1869) an interconnected park and parkway system rather than stand-alone parks.[citation needed]

The Guaranty Building, by Louis Sullivan, a National Historic Landmark[citation needed], was one of the first steel-supported, curtain-walled buildings in the world. When the building was constructed, its thirteen stories made it the tallest building in Buffalo and one of the world's first true skyscrapers.[38] The Hotel Buffalo, originally the Statler Hotel, by August Esenwein and James A. Johnson was the first hotel in the world to feature a private bath in each room. The H. H. Richardson Complex, originally the New York State Asylum for the Insane, is Richardsonian Romanesque in style and was the largest commission designed by prominent architect Henry Hobson Richardson.[citation needed] The grounds of this hospital were designed by Olmsted. Though currently in a state of disrepair, New York State has allocated funds to restore the complex.[citation needed]

Downtown view from Niagara Square

There are several buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, including the Darwin D. Martin House, George Barton House, William R. Heath House, Walter V. Davidson House, The Graycliff Estate, as well as the now demolished Larkin Administration Building.[39][40] Constructed in 2007 on Buffalo's Black Rock Canal is a Wright-designed boathouse originally intended, but never built, for the University of Wisconsin–Madison rowing team.[citation needed] Along as a tourist destination, it functionally serves many Buffalo-area rowing teams belonging to the West Side Rowing Club. Buffalo has more Frank Lloyd Wright buildings than any other city except Chicago. The Buffalo City Hall building by George Dietel and John J. Wade is a spectacular art deco skyscraper and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Other notable buildings include Buffalo Central Terminal, a massive Art Deco railroad station designed by Alfred T. Fellheimer and Steward Wagner, Lafayette High School, a stone, brick and terra-cotta structure in the French Renaissance Revival style by architects August Eisenwein and James A. Johnson, is the oldest public school in Buffalo that remains in its original building, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, St. Adalbert's Basilica, St. Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr Church, Corpus Christi, St. Paul's Episcopal, Kleinhans Music Hall, Temple Beth Zion,[41] and Lions for the McKinley Monument.Grain elevators were invented along the Buffalo River in 1842, and the city maintains the largest collection in the world.[citation needed]

Albright-Knox Art Gallery from Elmwood Avenue


Buffalo consists of 32 different neighborhoods, including Allentown, Black Rock, Broadway-Fillmore, Central Park, Cold Springs, Delaware District, Downtown, East Side, Elmwood Village, Fillmore-Leroy, First Ward, Fruit Belt, Hamlin Park, Hospital Hill, Humboldt Park, Kaisertown, Kensington, Kensington Heights, Lovejoy, Lower West Side, Masten Park, North Buffalo, North Park, Park Meadow, Parkside, Riverside, Schiller Park, South Buffalo, University District, University Heights, Vernon Triangle, Upper West Side, and Willert Park.[42]

The American Planning Association named the Elmwood Village neighborhood in Buffalo one of ten Great Neighborhoods in 2007.[43] Elmwood Village[44] is a pedestrian-oriented, mixed use neighborhood with hundreds of small, locally owned boutiques, shops, restaurants, and cafes. The neighborhood is located to the south of Buffalo State College.

The Seneca Babcock neighborhood, which was split by the construction of Interstate 190 during the 1950s, is troubled by the presence of a concrete crushing facility which is grandfathered in as a pre-existing use, while dust and truck traffic from the facility strongly impact residences in the neighborhood.[45]

There are currently nine common council districts within Buffalo, including the Delaware, Ellicott, Fillmore, Lovejoy, Masten, Niagara, North, South, and University districts.[46]


Buffalo average temperatures
A typical winter day in Buffalo's historic West Village
Cherry Blossom trees in Buffalo in bloom

The Buffalo area experiences a fairly humid, continental-type climate, but with a definite maritime flavor due to strong modification from the Great Lakes (Köppen climate classification "Dfb" – uniform precipitation distribution). The transitional seasons are very brief in Buffalo and Western New York.

Buffalo has a reputation for snowy winters, but it is rarely the snowiest city in New York State.[47][48] Winters in Western New York are generally cold and snowy, but are changeable and include frequent thaws and rain as well. Snow covers the ground more often than not from late December into early March, but periods of bare ground are not uncommon. Over half of the annual snowfall comes from the lake effect process and is very localized. Lake effect snow occurs when cold air crosses the relatively warm lake waters and becomes saturated, creating clouds and precipitation downwind. Due to the prevailing winds, areas south of Buffalo receive much more lake effect snow than locations to the north. The lake snow machine starts as early as mid-November, peaks in December, then virtually shuts down after Lake Erie freezes in mid-to-late January. The most well-known snowstorm in Buffalo's history, the Blizzard of '77, was not a lake effect snowstorm in Buffalo in the normal sense of that term (Lake Erie was frozen over at the time), but instead resulted from a combination of high winds and snow previously accumulated both on land and on frozen Lake Erie. Snow does not typically impair the city's operation, but can cause significant damage during the autumn as with the October 2006 storm.

Buffalo has the sunniest and driest summers of any major city in the Northeast, but still has enough rain to keep vegetation green and lush.[49] Summers are marked by plentiful sunshine and moderate humidity and temperature. It receives, on average, over 65% of possible sunshine in June, July and August. Obscured by the notoriety of Buffalo's winter snow is the fact that Buffalo benefits from other lake effects such as the cooling southwest breezes off Lake Erie in summer that gently temper the warmest days. As a result, the Buffalo station of the National Weather Service has never recorded an official temperature of 100 °F (37.8 °C) or more.[50] Rainfall is moderate but typically occurs at night. The stabilizing effect of Lake Erie continues to inhibit thunderstorms and enhance sunshine in the immediate Buffalo area through most of July. August usually has more showers and is hotter and more humid as the warmer lake loses its temperature-stabilizing influence.

The highest recorded temperature in Buffalo was 99 °F (37 °C) on August 27, 1948,[51] and the lowest recorded temperature was −20 °F (−29 °C) on February 9, 1934 and February 2, 1961.[52]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1810 1,508
1820 2,095 38.9%
1830 8,668 313.7%
1840 18,213 110.1%
1850 42,261 132.0%
1860 81,129 92.0%
1870 117,714 45.1%
1880 155,134 31.8%
1890 255,664 64.8%
1900 352,387 37.8%
1910 423,715 20.2%
1920 506,775 19.6%
1930 573,076 13.1%
1940 575,901 0.5%
1950 580,132 0.7%
1960 532,759 −8.2%
1970 462,768 −13.1%
1980 357,870 −22.7%
1990 328,123 −8.3%
2000 292,648 −10.8%
2010 261,310 −10.7%
Est. 2013 258,959 −0.9%
Historical Population Figures[57]
U.S. Decennial Census[58]
2013 Estimate[3]
Racial composition 2010[59] 1990[60] 1970[60] 1940[60]
White 50.4% 64.7% 78.7% 96.8%
—Non-Hispanic 45.8% 63.1% 77.4%[61] 96.8%
Black or African American 38.6% 30.7% 20.4% 3.1%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 10.5% 4.9% 1.6%[61] (X)
Asian 3.2% 1.0% 0.2%

Like most formerly industrial cities of the Great Lakes region in the United States, Buffalo has experienced an economic depression brought about by the loss of its industrial base. The city's population peaked in 1950, when it was the 15th largest city in the United States and its population has declined every census since then. The demographic change and the impact of such change on the industrial cities of the region, including Buffalo, is significant; based on the 2006 US Census estimate, Buffalo's current population is equivalent to its population in the year 1890, reversing 120 years of demographic change.

At the 2010 Census, the city's population was 50.4% White (45.8% non-Hispanic White alone), 38.6% Black or African American, 0.8% American Indian and Alaska Native, 3.2% Asian, 3.9% from some other race and 3.1% from two or more races. 10.5% of the total population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.[62]

At the time of the 2000 census there were 292,648 people, 122,720 households, and 67,005 families residing in the city. The population density is 7,205.8 people per square mile (2,782.4/km²). There are 145,574 housing units at an average density of 3,584.4 per square mile (1,384.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 54.43% White, 37.23% African American, 0.77% Native American, 1.40% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.68% from other races, and 2.45% from two or more races. 7.54% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. The top 5 largest ancestries include German (13.6%), Irish (12.2%), Italian (11.7%), Polish (11.7%), and English (4.0%).[63]

There were 122,720 households out of which 28.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 27.6% are married couples living together, 22.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 45.4% are non-families. 37.7% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.29 and the average family size is 3.07.

In the city the population included 26.3% under the age of 18, 11.3% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 19.6% from 45 to 64, and 13.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 88.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 83.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $24,536, and the median income for a family is $30,614. Males have a median income of $30,938 versus $23,982 for females. The per capita income for the city is $14,991. 26.6% of the population and 23.0% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 38.4% of those under the age of 18 and 14.0% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Population of Buffalo, 1830–2006

Buffalo has very sizable populations of Irish, Italian, Polish, German, Jewish, Greek, Arab, African American, Indian, Macedonian, and Puerto Rican descent. Major ethnic neighborhoods still exist but they changed significantly in the second half of the 20th century. In 1940, non-Hispanic Whites were 96.8% of the city's population.[60] Traditionally, Polish-Americans were the predominant occupants of the East Side, while Italian-Americans composed a close-knit neighborhood in the west side. The East Side is now a predominantly African American neighborhood, while the West Side has become a melting pot of many ethnicities, with Latino culture being the strongest influence. Throughout the history of Buffalo, the neighborhoods collectively called the First Ward, as well as much of South Buffalo, have comprised almost entirely people of Irish descent. Recently, there has been an influx of inhabitants that are of Arab descent, mainly from Yemen, as the city's Muslim population has increased to approximately 3000 according to an estimate.[64] Since the 1950s and 1960s, the greater portion of the Jewish population has moved to the suburban areas outside of the city, or to the city's upper West Side.

On October 25, 2008 the United Nations released a report entitled "State of the World's Cities" in which the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area was specifically cited as having one of the worst rates of economic inequality in the world and that it was racially based.[citation needed] The report specifically stated "the report cited figures from western New York state, where 40 per cent of black, Hispanic and ethnically mixed households earned less than $15,000 in 1999, as compared to 15 per cent of white households."[65] In addition, the United States Census department also released information placing the Buffalo-Niagara metro area, as the 8th most segregated area in the United States.[66]


"Elevator Alley", the stretch of the Buffalo River immediately adjacent to the harbor that is lined with historic grain elevators

Today, the economy of Buffalo consists of a mix of industrial, light manufacturing, high technology and service-oriented private sector companies. Instead of relying on a single industry or sector for its economic future, the region has taken a diversified approach that have the potential to create opportunities for growth and expansion in the 21st century.[67]

The State of New York, with over 15,000 employees, is the city's largest employer.[citation needed] Other major employees within the city include the United States government, Kaleida Health, M&T Bank, the University at Buffalo, and Tops Friendly Markets.

Overall, employment in Buffalo has shifted as its population has declined and manufacturing has left. Buffalo's 2005 unemployment rate was 6.6%, contrasted with New York State's 5.0% rate.[68] From the fourth quarter of 2005 to the fourth quarter of 2006, Erie County had no net job growth, ranking it 271st among the 326 largest counties in the country.[69] However, the area has recently seen an upswing in job growth as unemployment has dropped to only 4.9% in July 2007 from 5.2% in 2006 and 6.6% in 2005.[70] The area's manufacturing jobs have continued to show the largest losses in jobs with over 17,000 fewer than at the start of 2006. Yet other sectors of the economy have outdistanced manufacturing and are seeing large increases. Educational and health services added over 30,400 jobs in 2006 and over 20,500 jobs have been added in the professional and business (mostly finance) arena.[71]

In banking, Buffalo is the headquarters of M&T Bank and First Niagara Bank. HSBC Bank USA, which had a major presence in the Buffalo area and was formerly headquartered in One Seneca Center has reduced its local operations in Buffalo and upstate New York as it closed its retail banking centers. Other banks, such as Bank of America and KeyBank have corporate operations in Buffalo. Citigroup also has regional offices in Amherst, Buffalo's largest suburb. Buffalo has also become a hub of the debt collection industry.[72]

Buffalo is also home to Rich Products, Canadian brewer Labatt, cheese company Sorrento Lactalis, Delaware North Companies[73] and New Era Cap Company. A Del Monte Foods Milk Bone manufacturing center is on Buffalo's East Side.[citation needed]

The loss of traditional jobs in manufacturing, rapid suburbanization and high costs of labor have led to economic decline, making Buffalo one of the poorest among U.S. cities with populations of more than 250,000 people. An estimated 28.7–29.9% of Buffalo residents live below the poverty line, behind either only Detroit,[74] or only Detroit and Cleveland.[75] Buffalo's median household income of $27,850 is third-lowest among large cities, behind only Miami and Cleveland; however the median household income for the metropolitan area is $57,000.[76]

This, in part, has led to the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area having the most affordable housing market in the U.S. today. The quarterly NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) noted that nearly 90% of the new and existing homes sold in the metropolitan area during the second quarter were affordable to families making the area's median income of $57,000. The area median price of homes was $75,000.[citation needed]

Buffalo faces issues with vacant and abandoned houses, as the city ranks second only to St. Louis on the list of American cities with the most vacant properties per capita.[citation needed] Since 2000, the city has torn down 2,000 vacant homes but as many as 10,000 still remain. Mayor Byron W. Brown recently unveiled a $100 million, five-year plan to demolish 5,000 more houses.[77] The city's move away from heavy industry and toward a service and bioinformatics economy[citation needed] has brought improved air and water quality, which benefit not only residents and tourists but the bioregion as a whole. In July 2005, Reader's Digest ranked Buffalo as the third cleanest large city in the nation.[78]

Buffalo's economy has begun to see significant improvements since the early 2010s.[79] Money from state governor Andrew Cuomo, plans for different construction programs, and hundreds of new jobs have brought strong economic change to the area.[80]



Bowl of Buffalo wings

As a melting pot of cultures, cuisine in the Buffalo area reflects a variety of influences. These include Italian, Irish, Jewish, German, Polish, African American, Greek, Indian and American influences. Beef on weck sandwich, Wardynski's kielbasa, sponge candy, pastry hearts, pierogi, and haddock fish fries are among the local favorites, as is a loganberry-flavored beverage that remains relatively obscure outside of the Western New York and Southern Ontario area.[81] Another uniquely Buffalonian food is Sahlen's "charcoal-broiled" hot dogs, which are prepared over live charcoal fires. The typical boiled or steamed "franks" of other cities are considered inferior by native Buffalonians. Weber's mustard is a well-known local producer of horseradish mustard, which is popular in the Western New York area. Teressa Bellissimo, the chef/owner of the city's Anchor Bar, first prepared the now-widespread chicken wings here on October 3, 1964.[82]

Local or regional restaurants with a significant presence in the Buffalo area include Louie's Hot Dogs, Ted's Hot Dogs, Anderson's Frozen Custard, John and Mary's Submarines, Duff's Famous Wings, Jim's Steakout, Just Pizza, SPoT Coffee, Tim Hortons, Mighty Taco, Taffy's, Barbells, Cappelli's, Leonardi's, Bocce Club and La Nova Pizzeria. Buffalo's local pizzerias differs from that of the thin-crust New York-style pizzerias and deep-dish Chicago-style pizzerias, and is locally known for being a midpoint between the two.[83]

The city is home to the Pearl Street Brewery and Flying Bison Brewing Company, who continue Buffalo's brewing traditions.

Buffalo has several specialty import/grocery stores in old ethnic neighborhoods, and is home to an eclectic collection of cafes and restaurants that serve adventurous, cosmopolitan fare. Locally owned restaurants offer Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Arab, Indian, Caribbean, Soul food, and French.[84][85]

Several well-known food companies are based in Buffalo. Non-dairy whipped topping, later imitated by Cool Whip, was invented in Buffalo in 1945 by Robert E. Rich, Sr.[citation needed] His company, Rich Products, is one of the city's largest private employers. General Mills was organized in Buffalo, and Gold Medal brand flour, Wheaties, Cheerios and other General Mills brand cereals are manufactured here. One of the country's largest cheese manufacturers, Sorrento, has been here since 1947. Archer Daniels Midland operates its largest flour mill in the city.[86] Buffalo is home to one of the largest privately held food companies in the world, Delaware North Companies, which operates concessions in sports arenas, stadiums, resorts, and many state & federal parks.[87]

Fine and performing arts[edit]

Albright-Knox Art Gallery (left) and Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society (right) from Delaware Park

Buffalo is home to over 50 private and public art galleries,[88] most notably the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, home to a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art. The local art scene is also enhanced by the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, CEPA Gallery, and many small galleries and studios.[89][90] AmericanStyle ranked Buffalo fourth in its list of America's top art destinations.[citation needed]

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, which performs at Kleinhans Music Hall, is one of the city's most prominent performing arts institutions. In the 1960s and 1970s, under the musical leadership of Lukas Foss and Michael Tilson Thomas, the Philharmonic was generally regarded as the leading orchestra in the US for new music.[citation needed] The largest theatre in the Buffalo area is Shea's Performing Arts Center, designed for 4,000 people by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Long known as "Shea's Buffalo" and constructed in 1926, the theatre continues to show productions and concerts.

The theatre community in the Buffalo Theater District includes over 20 professional companies.[91][92][93] Major theatres groups include The Alt at the Warehouse, American Repertory Theater of Western New York, Brazen Faced Varlets, The Irish Classical Theatre, The Kavinoky Theatre, Lancaster Opera House, The New Phoenix Theatre, Road Less Traveled Productions, The Subversive Theatre, The Theatre of Youth, and Torn Space Theatre. These companies present a variety of theatre styles and many present original productions by Buffalo playwrights. Each year, the weekly publication Artvoice Daily sponsors The Artie Awards, celebrating the year in theatre by recognizing top shows and performances.[citation needed]

Buffalo is also home to the second largest free outdoor Shakespeare festival in the United States[citation needed], Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Filmmaker, writer, painter and musician Vincent Gallo was born in Buffalo in 1962 and lived there until 1978 when he moved out on his own to New York City.


Buffalo has the roots of many jazz and classical musicians, and it is also the founding city for several mainstream bands and musicians, including Rick James, Billy Sheehan, The Quakes and The Goo Goo Dolls. Vincent Gallo, a Buffalo-born filmmaker and musician, played in several local bands. Jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra also got its start in Buffalo.[94] The great American classical Pianist and composer Leonard Pennario was born in Buffalo in 1924 and made his debut concert at Carnegie Hall in 1943. Among notable Buffalo-born jazz musicians are saxophonists Grover Washington Jr, Don Menza, Larry Covelli, Bobby Militello, trumpeter Sam Noto, and guitarist Jim Hall. Buffalo also became the adopted home other jazz musicians such as clarinetist Hank D'Amico, saxophonist Elvin Shepard and pianist Al Tinney. Bassist Charlie Mingus and Count Basie saxophonist Frank Foster were artists-in-residence at University at Buffalo in the early 1970s[citation needed].

Buffalo's "Colored Musicians Club", an extension of what was long-ago a separate musicians' union local, is thriving today, and maintains a significant jazz history within its walls. Well-known indie artist Ani DiFranco hails from Buffalo, and it is the home of her "Righteous Babe" record label.

10,000 Maniacs are from nearby Jamestown, but got their start in Buffalo, which led to lead singer Natalie Merchant launching a successful solo career.

Death Metal band Cannibal Corpse reached national fame in 1994 when they appeared in the movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, at the request of lead actor Jim Carrey.[95] The director agreed and decided to actually have Jim jump on stage with the band and start singing a song of theirs in the film to escape two pursuing goons.[95]

Other bands including Every Time I Die, Snapcase, Cute Is What We Aim For, This Day & Age, Malevolent Creation, moe., Lemuria, and Dark Bluud, were founded in Buffalo. most notably associated with Juggalos and the underground scene, got his start in Buffalo.

Several Hip hop artists and groups also founded in Buffalo include Joe Public and rapper Chae Hawk.


Like many large cities, numerous festivals have become part of the city's culture and tradition. Though most of the festivals occur during the summer months, the city has recently pushed efforts to have winter festivals as well in an effort to capitalize on the region's snowy reputation. Popular summer festivals include the Allentown Art Festival, the largest festival of the year on the second weekend of June,[citation needed], Taste of Buffalo, National Buffalo Wing Festival, Thursday at the Square, and the Juneteenth Festival. Winter festivals inclide the Buffalo Ball Drop,[96] Buffalo Powder Keg Festival,[97] and Labatt Blue Pond Hockey.[98]


Points of interest in the city of Buffalo include the Edward M. Cotter fireboat, considered to be the world's oldest active fireboat[citation needed] and is a United States National Historic Landmark, Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society,[99] Buffalo Museum of Science,[100] the Buffalo Zoo, the third oldest zoo in the United States[citation needed], Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, the Anchor Bar, and Lafayette Square.


Buffalo and the surrounding region is home to 2 professional sports teams. The Buffalo Sabres (hockey) play in the City of Buffalo, and the Buffalo Bills (football) play in the suburb of Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo is also home to several minor sports teams including the Buffalo Bisons (baseball), Buffalo Bandits (indoor lacrosse) and FC Buffalo (soccer). Several Buffalo-area colleges and universities are active in college athletics.

The Buffalo Bills, established in 1959, played in War Memorial Stadium until 1973, when Ralph Wilson Stadium was constructed. The team is within the AFC East division. Since the AFL–NFL merger in 1970, the Bills have won the division title seven times (1980, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995), and the AFC conference championship four consecutive times (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993), resulting in four lost Super Bowls.

The Buffalo Sabres, established in 1970, played in War Memorial Auditorium until 1996, when Marine Midland Arena, now First Niagara Center, opened. The team is within the AtlanticDivision of the NHL. The team has won six divisonn titles, one Presidents' Trophy (2006–07) and three conference championships (1974–75, 1979–80, 1998–99). However, like the Buffalo Bills, the team does not have a league championship.

Sport League Club Founded Venue League championships Championship years
Football NFL Buffalo Bills 1960 Ralph Wilson Stadium 2* 1964,1965*
Hockey NHL Buffalo Sabres 1970 First Niagara Center 0
Baseball IL Buffalo Bisons 1979† Coca-Cola Field 3 1997, 1998, 2004
Lacrosse NLL Buffalo Bandits 1992 First Niagara Center 4 1992, 1993, 1996, 2008
Soccer NPSL FC Buffalo 2009 Demske Sports Complex 0
Basketball PBL Buffalo 716ers 2012 Tapestry Charter School 0

* Championships listed are American Football League championships, not NFL championships. † Date refers to current incarnation; Buffalo Bisons previously operated from the 1870s until 1970 and the current Bisons count this team as part of their history.

Parks and recreation[edit]

One of Buffalo's many monikers is the City of Trees, which describes the abundance of green in the city. In fact, Buffalo has more than 20 parks with multiple ones being accessible from any part of the city.

The Olmsted Park and Parkway System is the hallmark of Buffalo's many green spaces. Three-fourths of city park land is part of the system, which comprises six major parks, eight connecting parkways, nine circles and seven smaller spaces. Constructed in 1868 by Frederick Law Olmsted and his partner Calvert Vaux, the system was integrated into the city and marks the first attempt in America to lay out a coordinated system of public parks and parkways. The Olmsted designed portions of the Buffalo park system are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are maintained by the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy.

View of Buffalo's harbor

Situated at the confluence of Lake Erie and the Buffalo River and Niagara Rivers, Buffalo is a waterfront city. The city's rise to economic power came through its waterways in the form of transshipment, manufacturing, and an endless source of energy. Buffalo's waterfront remains, though to a lesser degree, a hub of commerce, trade, and industry.

Canalside at Erie Canal Harbor

As of 2009, a significant portion of Buffalo's waterfront is being transformed into a focal point for social and recreational activity. Buffalo's intent is to stress its architectural and historical heritage, creating a tourism destination.

Recently excavated and rewatered is the Erie Canal Commercial Slip, which is the original western terminus of the Erie Canal System. This is intended to revitalize the original Erie Canal Harbor, with shops, eateries, and high-rise condominiums. Tourists can walk among original stonework that once housed shops and supply houses placed at the Western Terminus. Currently, the topsail schooner Spirit of Buffalo calls the Commercial Slip home port, and offers passengers authentic tall ship sailing experiences on Lake Erie and the outer harbor of Buffalo. The Buffalo Maritime Center also has historical boats moored in the commercial slip for display and use.


At the municipal level, the City of Buffalo has a mayor and a council consisting of nine councilmembers. Buffalo also serves as the seat of Erie County with some of the 11 members of county legislature representing at least a portion of Buffalo. At the state level, there are three state assemblymembers and two state senators representing parts of the city proper. At the federal level, Buffalo is represented by three members of the House of Representatives.

In a trend common to Northern "Rust Belt" regions, political life in Buffalo has been dominated by the Democratic Party for the last half-century, and has been roiled by racial division and social issues. The last time anyone other than a Democrat held the position of Mayor in Buffalo was 1965 Chester A. Kowal. In 1977, Democratic Mayor James D. Griffin was first elected as the nominee of two minor parties, the Conservative Party and the Right to Life Party, after he lost the Democratic primary for Mayor to then Deputy State Assembly Speaker Arthur Eve. Griffin switched political allegiance several times during his 16 years as Mayor, generally hewing to socially conservative platforms. His successor, Democrat Anthony M. Masiello (elected in 1993) continued to campaign on social conservatism, often crossing party lines in his endorsements and alliances. In 2005, however, Democrat Byron Brown was elected the city's first African-American mayor in a landslide (64%–27%) over Republican Kevin Helfer, who ran on a conservative platform.

Buffalo's Art Deco city hall

This change in local politics was preceded by a fiscal crisis in 2003 when years of economic decline, a diminishing tax-base, and civic mismanagement left the city deep in debt and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. At the urging of New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, the state took over the management of Buffalo's finances, appointing the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority. Conversations about merging the city with the larger Erie County government were initiated the following year by Mayor Tony Masiello, but came to naught.

The offices of the Buffalo District, US Army Corps of Engineers are located adjacent to the Black Rock Lock in the Black Rock channel of the Erie Canal. In addition to maintaining and operating the lock, the District is responsible for planning, design, construction and maintenance of water resources projects in an area extending from Toledo, Ohio to Massena, New York. These include the flood-control dam at Mount Morris, New York, oversight of the lower Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario), review and permitting of wetlands construction, and remedial action for hazardous waste sites.

Buffalo is also the home of a major office of the National Weather Service (NOAA), which serves all of western and much of central New York State.

Buffalo is home to one of the 56 national FBI field offices. The field office covers all of Western New York and parts of the Southern Tier and Central New York. The field office operates several task forces in conjunction with local agencies to help combat issues such as gang violence, terrorism threats and health care fraud.[101]

Buffalo is also the location of the chief judge, United States Attorney, and administrative offices for the United States District Court for the Western District of New York.


Buffalo Public Schools serves most of the city of Buffalo. Currently, there are 78 public schools in the city including a growing number of charter schools. As of 2006, the total enrollment was 41,089 students with a student-teacher ratio of 13.5 to 1. The graduation rate is up to 52% in 2008, up from 45% in 2007, and 50% in 2006.[102] More than 27% of teachers have a Master's degree or higher and the median amount of experience in the field is 15 years. When considering the entire metropolitan area, there are a total of 292 schools educating 172,854 students.[103] Buffalo has a magnet school system, featuring schools that attract students with special interests, such as science, bilingual studies, and Native American studies. Specialized facilities include the Buffalo Elementary School of Technology; the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Multicultural Institute; the International School; the Dr. Charles R. Drew Science Magnet; BUILD Academy; Leonardo da Vinci High School; PS 32 Bennett Park Montessori; the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, BAVPA; the Riverside Institute of Technology; Lafayette High School/Buffalo Academy of Finance; Hutchinson Central Technical High School; Burgard Vocational High School; South Park High School; and the Emerson School of Hospitality.[citation needed] Buffalo Public Schools is currently in the process of a $1 billion city school rebuilding plan.[citation needed]

Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College

The city is home to 47 private schools while the metropolitan region has 150 institutions. Most private schools have a Roman Catholic affiliation. There are schools affiliated with other religions such as Islam. There are also nonsectarian options including The Buffalo Seminary (the only private, nonsectarian, all-girls school in Western New York state),[104] and Nichols School.

Complementing its standard function, the Buffalo Public Schools Adult and Continuing Education Division provides education and services to adults throughout the community.[105] In addition, the Career and Technical Education Department offers more than 20 academic programs, and is attended by about 6,000 students each year.[106] The city is also served by four Catholic schools including Bishop Timon - St. Jude High School, Canisius High School, Mount Mercy Academy, and Nardin Academy. In addition, there are two Islamic schools including Darul Uloom Al-Madania and Universal School of Buffalo.

Buffalo is home to three State University of New York (SUNY) institutions. The University at Buffalo and Buffalo State College are the largest institutions of their type in the system. The total enrollment of these 3 SUNY institutions combined is approximately 54,000 students in the area. In addition, the region is served by Erie Community College.

The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library maintains multiple branches across the city of Buffalo and Erie County, as well as maintaining the main building.



Buffalo has increasingly become a center for bioinformatics and human genome research, including work by researchers at the University at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, through a consortium known as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.


Buffalo is served by the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, located in Cheektowaga. The airport, recently re-constructed, serves over 5 million passengers a year and is still growing. Buffalo Niagara International Airport ranks among the five cheapest airports from which to fly in the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. The average round trip flight cost is $295.58.[107] In the last few years there has been a surge in Canadians flying out of Buffalo, mainly due to much cheaper tax and airline surcharges, as compared with Canadian airports and the ability to fly on some US based discount carriers not available in Canada (for example, JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines). As of 2006, plans are in the works by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer to make the under-used Niagara Falls International Airport into an international cargo hub for New York and Toronto, as well as Canada as a whole.[108]

The Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo to Fort Erie, Canada

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) operates Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Niagara Falls International Airport, and the public transit system throughout the Buffalo area. The NFTA operates bus lines throughout the city and suburbs, as well as the Metro Rail transit system in the city.

The Buffalo Metro Rail is a 6.4 miles (10.3 km) long, single line light rail system that extends from Erie Canal Harbor in downtown Buffalo to the University Heights district (specifically, the South Campus of University at Buffalo) in the northeastern part of the city. The downtown section of the line runs above ground and is free of charge to passengers. North of Theater Station, at the northern end of downtown, the line moves underground, remaining underground until it reaches the northern terminus of the line at University Heights. Passengers pay a fare to ride this section of the rail.

A Buffalo Metro Rail station in downtown

A new NFTA project is underway, often called "Cars on Main Street", that will substantially revise the downtown portion of the Metro Rail. It will allow vehicular traffic and Metro Rail cars to share Main St. in a manner similar to that of the trolleys of San Francisco. The design includes new stations and pedestrian-friendly improvements. The first phase of the project, restoring two way traffic on Main Street between Edward and West Tupper, was completed in 2009. When the entire project is complete in the next few years, the downtown portion of Main St. will be re-opened to vehicular traffic for the first time in almost 30 years.[citation needed]

Two train stations, Buffalo-Depew and Buffalo-Exchange Street serve the city and are operated by Amtrak. Historically the city was a major stop on through routes between Chicago and New York City through the lower Ontario peninsula.[109] Additionally, the Pennsylvania Railroad ran trains between Buffalo and Washington, D.C. on the Buffalo Line through central Pennsylvania.[110]

An outbound NFTA Metro Rail train pulls into Fountain Plaza Station

Historically, New York Central trains went through the Buffalo Central Terminal, Lackawanna trains went through its terminal on Main Street until the mid-1950s and the Lehigh Valley Railroad's trains went through its terminal until 1952. From 1935 the Erie Railroad used the Lehigh Valley facility.[111][112]

Freight service for Buffalo is served by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern (NS), as well as Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) railroads from across the Border. The area has 4 large rail yards: Frontier (CSX), Bison (NS), SK (NS / CP) and Buffalo Creek (NS / CSX). A large amount of hazardous cargo also crosses through the Buffalo area, such as liquid propane and anhydrous ammonia.


Buffalo is at the eastern end of one of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie, which boasts the greatest variety of freshwater sportfish in the country. The Lake serves as a playground for numerous personal yachts, sailboats, power boats and watercraft. The city has an extensive breakwall system protecting its inner and outer Lake Erie harbors, which are maintained at commercial navigation depths for Great Lakes freighters.

A Lake Erie tributary that flows through south Buffalo is the Buffalo River, for which the city is named[according to whom?]. Buffalo is historically linked to the fabled Erie Canal, which ends where the Black Rock Channel enters Lake Erie. When the Erie Canal was dedicated in 1825, its conceiver, New York State governor DeWitt Clinton took waters from Lake Erie at Buffalo's Western Terminus of the Canal (now the Commercial Slip). He sailed to New York City on the Canal packet Seneca Chief, which later returned to Buffalo with Atlantic Ocean water.[citation needed] The seawater was poured into the Lake by Judge and future Buffalo Mayor Samuel Wilkeson. Once a major route for passengers and cargo, the Erie Canal played a primary role in opening up the American West to settlers from the east. The Canal is now used primarily for pleasure craft and some light local freight, and in Buffalo it bypasses the swift upper reach of the Niagara River. A tributary of the Niagara River is Scajaquada Creek, which flows though Buffalo, via the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Delaware Lake and Park.


Major highways that serve the Greater Buffalo area


A WIVB-TV truck during St. Patrick's Day

Buffalo’s major newspaper is the Buffalo News. Established in 1880, the newspaper has 181,540 in daily circulation and 266,123 on Sundays. Other newspapers in the Buffalo area include Artvoice Daily, Buffalo Business First, the Spectrum, University at Buffalo’s student-run newspaper, and the Record, Buffalo State College’s student-run newspaper. Online newsmagazines include Artvoice Daily Online and Buffalo Rising, formerly a print magazine.

The Buffalo area is home to 14 AM stations and 21 FM stations. Major station operators include Entercom, Townsquare Media and Cumulus Media. In addition, National Public Radio operates a publicly funded station, WBFO 88.7.

Although no major cable outlets have offices or bureaus in the Buffalo area, major networks have an established presence in the area, including WGRZ (NBC), WIVB-TV (CBS), WUTV (FOX), WKBW-TV (ABC). Other networks with Buffalo stations include publicly funded WNED-TV (PBS), WNLO (The CW), and WNYO-TV (MyNetworkTV).

Movies shot with significant footage of Buffalo include Bruce Almighty' (2003), Buffalo '66' (1998), Henry's Crime (2010), Hide in Plain Sight (1980), Proud (2004) Slime City' (1988) and The Natural (1984).

Notable people[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Buffalo has a number of sister cities as designated by Sister Cities International (SCI):[113][114]


Buffalo also has partnerships with the following towns:[124]

While there is no formal relationship, Buffalo and Toronto enjoy a close link and friendly rivalry.

Consulates in Buffalo[edit]

Honorary Consulates:

  • Austria
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy (Vice Consulate)
  • Japan
  • Switzerland

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official records for Buffalo kept January 1871 to June 1943 at downtown and at Buffalo Niagara Int'l since July 1943. For more information, see Threadex


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]