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By popular demand: Amherst, New York - Audubon New Community

Folks here have been begging for photos of a mythical land northeast of Buffalo called "Amherst."

The Town of Amherst is a big place; 120,000 residents and 53 square miles. Thus, a few photos can't capture the character of the entire town; it has to be absorbed neighborhood by neighborhood.

First, a bit of mythbusting.

Amherst is wealthy. FALSE. The median household income of Amherst in 2000 ($55,427) is actually below that of many large suburbs thought of as middle-class; Mentor, Ohio ($57,230), Westminster, Colorado ($56,323), and Richardson, Texas ($62,392), to name a few.

Amherst does have more elite high-end neighborhoods and subdivisions than other Buffalo suburbs. However, it's not exclusively upper-middle-class like some suburbs it's often compared to -- Beachwood and Solon, Ohio, near Cleveland; and Pittsford and Perinton, New York, ourside of Rochester. Amherst has a large student population, many retirees on a fixed income (most paid off the mortgage of their large houses, so they can still afford to remain), many apartment complexes, some middle-class neighborhoods and subdivisions, and even a struggling working-class neighborhood; the Sweet Home Road area south of Sheridan Drive.

Up until the 1950s, Amherst was a predominantly middle-income community. There were areas like Snyder and LeBrun Road, but those were the exception; not the rule. Drive along the old "long roads" in upscale East Amherst -- Smith, Heim, Dodge, and others -- and most of the homes you'll see will be average, medium-sized 1950s-era ranches and Cape Cods. Often you won't see the McMansions unless you turn off a long road into a subdivision.

Amherst is whiter than a bleached polar bear in a blizzard. FALSE. Amherst has suburban Buffalo's largest African-American community; 3.9% of the town population is black. (No, they're not all living in the Allenhurst Apartments.) About one out of every 20 Amherst residents is Asian. That doesn't include those from the subcontinent; Amherst is the center of Buffalo's growing Indian community. 60% of Erie County's 25,000 Jews live in Amherst.

Amherst has hoity-toity commercial districts - FALSE. Outside of the Village of Williamsville, and parts of Eggertsvilel and Snyder, most commercial development in the town consists of rather generic strip plazas, and one- and two-story professional and medical office buildings. Boulevard Mall is thriving, but the selection of stores there isn't particularly upscale. There are no lifestyle centers in the town; no Cheesecake Factory, no Restoration Hardware, no P.F. Chang's. Amherst has no architectural regulations, so commercial development is often wretched-looking compared to what is found in communities with stricter design controls. At least sign clutter isn't a problem.

Now, let's go to the heart of Amherst; Audubon New Community. Audubon was built in the 1970s, intended to house workers and academic staff from the new University at Buffalo North Campus. Audubon was intended to be a mixed-income community from the start; the home to professors and janitors, scientists and cafeteria workers.

Like UB North, Audubon New Community never grew as large as planned. The last station of the Metro Rail "Blue Line" was planned for Audubon New Community; today, Metro Rail's northernmost station is about five miles south of Audubon. Audubon Parkway, the main street of the community, was supposed to extend all the way to Ellicott Creek Road; today it ends in a barrier bust north of I-990.

The one thing most notice when they visit Audubon New Community is the architectural style of the housing. The vertical stained slats and odd angles are representative of what is known as "shed style" architecture. Shed style architecture is very common in the Pacific Northwest, but quite rare in the Northeast. The shed influence extended outside of Audubon; there are a few other small subdivisions filled with shed-style houses in the town.

Just for comparison, here's some typical new housing in Amherst.







Now, let's look at Audubon. (Note the sidewalks; they're either non-existent, or surfaced in asphalt and lacking tree lawns; very unusual for the Buffalo area. Pedestrian paths run between and behind houses. There are no fenced yards anywhere in Audubon.)

























Most multi-family housing is designed in the same style.

















There are some non-shed style houses in Audubon, but they're the exception.









Commercial areas are concentrated along Audubon Parkway, west of the residential areas. There are no retail uses in Audubon.













The end, if you're not good.



Larger images can be found at http://www.cyburbia.org/gallery .
 

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Great summary and stats!
Boy, that shed style is bad. I imagine they thought it was cutting edge when they were built, but it really is out of place. They built similar homes in Forest Ridge off of Klein Road that are equally bad IMO. Some of the commercial development is decent in the office park along Audubon Pkwy and John Muir. At least the buildings are mostly brick. I can't help but think that the apartments in Audubon are already looking drab and this could be one of Amherst's first blighted neighborhoods in the not too distant future.
 

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I like the Shed style. I think the houses look great together. For a master-planned community, Audobon's houses seem to be pretty diverse.
 

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Interesting tour Cyburbia. I've never been to Amherst, which I guess is kind of surprising now that I think about it. Looks like a million other suburbs in the country, but it does prove that the Buffalo area is not a ghost town waiting for the wind to blow it away. Great summary of the city too. Thanks for the pics and the info.
 

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a couple things:

despite all the myths that are busted, one thing was not addressed. amherst is continuously one of the safest towns in the country, if not the safest. and because of this, i would think that land values are a little bit higher in amherst; after all, people would probably pay a little bit more to live in a safer area.

also, i am now confused as to what amherst is. i am getting the impression that williamsville is part of amherst, as are other places. but my grandmother grew up in williamsville, and my grandparents refer to it as if it is its own town. is williamsville its own town? what exactly is amherst? is it like tonawanda, which has a village and the surrounding town? is it just a specific town, in between tonawanda and williamsville? or is it a town that has grown out in all directions as other places try to associate themselves with the original town?
 

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It is confusing.....another example of the need for regionalization here!

Amherst = Town
Williamsville = Village within Amherst

Eggertsville and Snyder- neither a town or village, but an area within the Town of Amherst- could be considered Hamlets- they have no elected officials or the like
 

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It is easy to be the so called safest city in America when you make sure all of your laws, zoning, and development is geared toward making the city of Buffalo responsible for housing and taking care of the region's down and out and uneducated populations.

Some of those anti low income policies include:

-Limiting the number of bus routes (including killing any chance of a metro rail extention)
-Minimum lot and house size to gurantee upscale home ownership
-Limiting or banning rental apartment developments
-No public housing allowed (can you imagine...The second largest and wealthiest community in WNY has no public housing!!! WHY???)
-Subsidized housing developments only allowed for the elderly
-No halfway houses for released prisoners, mentaly retarded, battered women, etc.
-No homless shelters ( God forbid!!!!)
-Parks only available for use by town residents.

Compare that with the burden Buffalo has to carry.

Buffalo should pay for a giant low income housing project in the center of Williamsville. The racists will come out of the woodwork.

The funny thing is I bet if you compare the best neighborhoods in Buffalo with the best in Amherst the crime rates are very comparable and its probably more likely that if you live in Amherst you will be in a fatal traffic accident or your local high school will be invloved in one of those crazy mass shootings.
 

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Yup, that's what Amherst looked like when I went through it on NY Highway 5, lot of forested areas too, which I liked, and a considerable amount of shed-like homes too, which I guess is what Audobon is like.

I don't know if calling Amherst the safest city in America makes sense even, because it is a TOWN, and not a city, but a very large town. Some of those anti low-income policies certainly are unusual, IMO. I guess that is what city-suburb relations can do and the tax base.
 

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not to defend Amherst, but the Rich will pay to have things their way. I guess it's good to hope for this merger, that way the taxes are all in the same pot and drawn from likewise, it just sucks to see something like Amherst happen, they have thier shit together too much, and Buffalo has a bunch of clowns running city hall. I always get confused driving down the 290 north towards Millersport Hwy, the highrise buildings in Amherst seem misplaced...they belong downtown.
 

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The (SUNY) UB Amherst Campus has a skyline of its own, bigger than some cities in WNY. I am always amazed every time I drive by on Millersport Highway (which admittedly is rare for me, since I intentionally spend most of my time downtown) how that campus just keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Buffalo doesn't need more property tax exempt land
 

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The (SUNY) What a shame it is that the regional planners of the time lacked the foresight to build that thing downtown, on the waterfront, perhaps.
Yeah, without any doubt, UB would've been much better & a lot more interesting & vibant had it expanded within Buffalo, whether downtown near the waterfront or simply expandec around the original campus.

But as often happens around Buff, some of the suburban developers & other movers & shakers carried the day!
 

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I was told that Amherst was a poor suburb by some people I do not know how true that is
 

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I was told that Amherst was a poor suburb by some people I do not know how true that is
I don't think there is any way that someone could classify Amherst, NY as poor.

It's a large town. Sections of it are very wealthy. Other sections are moderate middle class. Most people here would consider it somewhere between middle-class and upper-middle-class in terms of wealth.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
It's a large town. Sections of it are very wealthy. Other sections are moderate middle class. Most people here would consider it somewhere between middle-class and upper-middle-class in terms of wealth.
Just as Main Street forms the dividing line between white and black, rich and poor in Buffalo, among Amherst residents there's growing recognition of Millersport Highway (NY 263) as a similar dividing line. East of Millersport is what comes to mind when the Buffalo Rising crowd thinks of as Amherst; suburban, bucolic, move-up middle class to wealthy, "lowest crime rate in the United States" bragging rights, large Asian/Indian/Jewish population, houses with price tags in the high six and low seven digit range, and so on. West of Millersport is the "poor" Amherst; more duplexes and small "doll house" Cape Cods, more Section 8 and student rentals, Allenhurst projects and Looney Acres, a growing lower-middle class African-American population, and less desirable Sweet Home schools.

Typical east-of-Millersport Amherst scenes (BRO Amherst): http://g.co/maps/yqy24, http://g.co/maps/xajyj, http://g.co/maps/zm7cj, http://g.co/maps/auf9p, http://g.co/maps/6qnct
Typical west-of-Millersport Amherst scenes (The other Amherst): http://g.co/maps/ab8aw, http://g.co/maps/j3vqp, http://g.co/maps/sdsqe, http://g.co/maps/t72tk, http://g.co/maps/7bpfs

Audubon is west of Millersport. Its reputation carries some of the "west of Millersport" stigma, mainly because its apartments and attached housing is home to a growing population of less-monied recent immigrants from Russia and the Middle East.

EDIT: One rule of thumb I heard from a real estate agent is that a "good" location in Amherst will be any place where the mailing address isn't Amherst; e.g. a mailing address of Snyder, Eggertsville, Williamsville, East Amherst, Getzville, or Swormville. Except for some parts of the Eggertsville area, those locations are mostly east of Millersport. If you live in Amherst and your mailing address is Amherst, it's "ghetto" by Amherst standards.
 

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Trying to say that Amherst is "poor" because it has some moderate-income areas would be like me saying the City of Buffalo is "rich" because it has some very wealthy areas. We all know Buffalo is not rich, just as we all know that Amherst is not poor.

aabbcc was told the town of amherst was a poor suburb. That statement is false.
 

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Trying to say that Amherst is "poor" because it has some moderate-income areas would be like me saying the City of Buffalo is "rich" because it has some very wealthy areas. We all know Buffalo is not rich, just as we all know that Amherst is not poor.

aabbcc was told the town of amherst was a poor suburb. That statement is false.
As far as I'm concerned, it makes no differeance as whether a suburb or any place is rich or poor. What's far more important is that those who happen to be poor have the opportunities to move up the ladder into the middle-class.
 

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Trying to say that Amherst is "poor" because it has some moderate-income areas would be like me saying the City of Buffalo is "rich" because it has some very wealthy areas. We all know Buffalo is not rich, just as we all know that Amherst is not poor.

aabbcc was told the town of amherst was a poor suburb. That statement is false.

No city as diverse as Amherst should be classified as a whole. Amherst ranges from "wealthy" million dollar subdivisions to "poor" section 8 housing complexes.

It's a disservice to lump the entire town as one.
 
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