No Need To Tear Down McCarley Gardens!
I am the great-niece of Reverend Burnie C. McCarley, founder and namesake of the McCarley Gardens housing development that has received so much attention. Most recently there has been a call to tear down the development. As someone intimately familiar with the housing development, its building history, purpose, and mission, I can tell you that McCarley Gardens was built to last and that it is not falling apart. Architect Wallace V. Moll (1920-2012) designed and built St. John Baptist Church and the Burnie C. McCarley housing development. He was selected because his faith and professionalism fit with the mission of St. John Baptist Church to build high quality housing for God’s children. As Mr. Moll’s obituary states “His joy was the designing of Christian churches to the glory of God” and shoddy work was not part of his plan. This does not deny the need for maintenance and sensible rehabilitation. But demolition? Such a proposal disgraces the good work and vision of Reverend McCarley, architect Moll, and the early members of the church who carried out my great-uncle’s vision.
McCarley Gardens is listed in the M.I.T. Press handbook, Buffalo Architecture: A Guide and destroying McCarley Gardens would only add to Buffalo’s list of notable architecture needlessly destroyed. Environmentally and economically, careful rehabilitation has far greater benefits than demolishing and rebuilding. Rehabilitation is greener, cost effective, and provides for workforce development in historic preservation, construction, and design. Local labor can be trained and hired to do this work and at the fraction of the cost of new building. Planning for the McCarley Gardens development took place during the 1970s with the construction occurring 1979-1980. In a city where most of the housing stock predates 1939, it is almost laughable to consider this not quite 40 year old structure so antiquated it needs demolition and rebuilding at the cost of $35 million.
There is no need for you to tear down McCarley Gardens in order to reimagine what is paradise already for those who live there and to those who admire the housing complex from afar. McCarley Gardens is a successful, beloved housing development. We ask you in your quest to tear down a stable structure, where is the humanity in the act of destroying McCarley Gardens? Where is the Christianity?
The need for adequate housing at affordable costs is critical today. Removing and rebuilding McCarley Gardens exacerbates the problem of inadequate affordable, high quality housing in Buffalo. Your plan will disrupt families and disturb the peace and security that the good people in McCarley Gardens experience as balm in a harsh world. Preservation, maintenance, and loving repair will respect the spirit of how and why McCarley Gardens was built: My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. Isaiah 32:18. If McCarley Gardens is in need of repair, then repair the structures, but do not tear it down to rebuild anew.
Linda R. Parker