Geography and Climate
Buffalo is located on the eastern end of Lake Erie, opposite Fort Erie, Ontario in Canada, and at the beginning of the Niagara River, which flows northward over Niagara Falls and into Lake Ontario.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 52.5 square miles (136.0 km²). 105.2 km² (40.6 sq. mi) of it is land and 30.8 km² (11.9 sq. mi) of it is water. The total area is 22.66% water.
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. 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 greater than 99 degrees F. 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.
Buffalo has a reputation for snowy winters. The region experiences a fairly humid, continental-type climate, but with a definite maritime flavor due to strong modification from the Great Lakes. The transitional seasons are very brief in Buffalo and Western New York. Winters in Western New York are generally cold and snowy, but are changeable and include frequent thaws and rain as well. Winters can also be quite long in Western New York, usually spanning from mid-November to early April. 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-October, peaks in December, and 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 did cause significant damage as with the October 2006 storm.
Buffalo and the surrounding area were long involved in railroad commerce, steel manufacture, automobile production, Great Lakes shipping and grain storage. Most of these industries have left the city through the years. Major steel production no longer exists in the area, although several smaller steel mills remain in operation. For example, Gibraltar Industries, a leading manufacturer, processor, and distributor of steel products for the building, industrial, and vehicular markets is headquartered in Buffalo. The loss in industries is in line with other Rust Belt cities such as Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Youngstown that have had to adjust to changing economic conditions. While some cities such as Pittsburgh have made adjustments with mixed results, Buffalo is more in line with Cleveland and is faced with continual economic problems and declining populations.
The traditional reputation of Buffalo as a "blue collar" industrial town no longer applies, as much of this industry has left the area. The regional economy can now best be described as 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 has created opportunities for growth and expansion in the 21st century.
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. And 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. Yet 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. 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.
According to the New York State Department of Labor:
Buffalo-Niagara Falls: Since October 2007, the number of nonfarm jobs has increased by 200, or less than 0.1 percent, and the number of private sector jobs has decreased by 1,900, or 0.4 percent. The area’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in October 2008, compared with 6.1 in September and 4.3 in October 2007.
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. This consortium is known as the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. It also includes: Buffalo Hearing & Speech Center, Buffalo Medical Group Foundation, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, Kaleida Health, Olmsted Center for the Visually Impaired, Cleveland BioLabs and Upstate New York Transplant Services. The DNA samples used in The Human Genome Project were also collected from anonymous donors from Buffalo.
Entrepreneurial resources and life science business consultants accelerate the growth and development of emerging companies found within the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and Upstate New York Region. For example, Buffalo BioSciences is a technology commercialization partner to the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences and contributed to the launch and early success of Empire Genomics –- a firm based on research conducted at Roswell Park Cancer Institute by Dr. Norma Nowak enabling the delivery of personalized medicine.
Buffalo is the headquarters of M&T Bank, a Fortune 500 company with assets over $65B as of December 31, 2007. HSBC Bank USA also has major operations in Buffalo (The sports arena, which hosts the Buffalo Sabres NHL franchise, is named HSBC Arena). 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.
Another successful industry in Buffalo is debt collection. There are six major firms located in Buffalo and the surrounding area.
Buffalo is home to both Rich Products, one of the world's largest family-owned food manufacturers, and the American headquarters of InBev, the world's largest producer of beer. Labatt moved its US headquarters to Buffalo in May 2007. This is in large part due to Buffalo's location directly in the middle of the Northeastern Trade Corridor. The city is the heart of the Canadian-American corridor. Over 80% of all U.S.-Canada trade occurs via border crossings in the eastern United States and with five bridges to Canada, the Buffalo area is one of the key eastern border crossing locations.
New Era Cap Company, the largest sports-licensed headwear company in the United States, is based in Buffalo. They opened new headquarters in 2007 in the former Federal Reserve Building in downtown Buffalo.
Ford still maintains operation of its Buffalo Stamping Plant south of the city, and Chevrolet has two plants, a production plant in Tonawanda near the city line, and a tool and die plant in the city. The windshield wiper was invented in Buffalo, and the Trico company still operates some facilities there. For many years, Buffalo was the nation's second largest rail center, with Chicago being the first.
Largest private sector employers
The Buffalo Niagara Enterprise (BNE), "a nonprofit, private business development and regional marketing organization" has released a table containing the largest Private sector employers for Western New York - 2011.
According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the principal employers in the Buffalo Metropolitan Area as of June 30, 2010 are:
# of Employees
Employer Services Corp.
Catholic Health System
Buffalo consists of 32 different neighborhoods: (A map and listing of the neighborhoods from the University at Buffalo) Allentown, Bailey-Lovejoy, Black Rock, 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, Lower West Side, Masten Park, North Buffalo, North Park, Parkside, Polonia/Broadway Fillmore, Riverside, Schiller Park, South Buffalo, University District, University Heights, Vernon Triangle, Upper West Side, and Willert Park.
According to the American Planning Association the Elmwood Village neighborhood in Buffalo is ranked the third best neighborhood in America. Elmwood Village is a pedestrian-oriented, mixed use neighborhood with hundreds of small, locally owned boutiques, shops, restaurants, and cafes.
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens at Buffalo, New York. 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. Begun 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.
Buffalo is a waterfront city. The New York State Route 5 is situated at the confluence of Lake Erie and the Buffalo and Niagara Rivers. 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 is still a hub of commerce, trade, and industry that is essential to its economic prosperity.
Buffalo's waterfront is being transformed from its industrial past into a focal point for social and recreational activity. A literal focal point, viewed from above, is a marina taking the shape of a buffalo (located near the junction of the Buffalo Skyway NY 5 and the New York State Thruway I-190.
Standard of living
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 amongst U.S. cities with populations of more than 250,000 people. An estimated 28.7% of Buffalo residents live below the poverty line; only Detroit and Cleveland have higher rates. 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.
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. This high affordability within the housing market combined with the metropolitan area's short commute time and cultural offerings such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra or professional sports teams such as the Buffalo Sabres or Buffalo Bills offer area residents a good quality of life.
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. 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. The city's move away from heavy industry and toward a service and bioinformatics economy 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.
Buffalo Sports teams
- Buffalo Bills
- Buffalo Sabres
- Buffalo Bisons
- Buffalo Bandits
Like the rest of New York, Buffalo is subject to the state's benchmark evaluation system. The Buffalo Public Schools curriculum is aligned to state standards set by the Education Department. At the high school level, students are required to pass Regents Examinations for each course upon its completion. 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 dropout rate is just 5.3%, and 83% of students who graduate go on to college. 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.Buffalo is noted for its model magnet school system, which attracts students with special interests, such asscience, 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 School; Build Academy; Leonardo da Vinci High School Buffalo; the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, BAVPA; the Riverside Institute of Technology; Lafayette High School/Buffalo Academy of Finance; Hutchinson Central Technical High School; South Park High School and the Emerson School of Hospitality. The City Honors School was recently ranked #8 in the nation by Newsweek magazine. Buffalo is currently in the process of a $1 billion city school rebuilding plan.
The city is home to 47 private schools while the metropolitan region has 150 institutions. Most private schools have a Roman Catholic affiliation, however, there are schools affiliated with other religions such as Islam and Judaism. There are also many nonsectarian options including The Park School of Buffalo, The Buffalo Seminary (the only private, nonsectarian, all-girls school in WNY), and The Nichols School.
Complementing its standard function, the Buffalo Public Schools Adult and Continuing Education Division provides education and services to adults throughout the community. In addition, the Career and Technical Education Department offers more than 20 academic programs, and is attended by about 6,000 students each year. The Buffalo area is also home to the The Gow School. The Gow School is a college prep boarding school for boys, grades 7 to 12, with dyslexia and similar language-based learning disabilities including: central auditory processing disorder, dyscalculia and LD written expression
- Canisius High School
- Bishop Timon - St. Jude High School
- Nardin Academy
- St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute
- Holy Angels Academy
Colleges and Universities
- Bryant & Stratton College
- Canisius College
- D'Youville College
- Empire State College
- Medaille College
- Trocaire College
- Villa Maria College
Buffalo is home to three State University of New York (SUNY) institutions. Buffalo State College, a comprehensive college, and the University at Buffalo, one of the four University Centers in the SUNY system. Each is the largest institution of its type in the system. Combined, they account for roughly 40,000 students in the area. Erie Community College is also affiliated with SUNY.