The Real Reason Buffalo Is Called The City Of Good Neighbors

Buffalo, New York was the scene of a mass shooting on May 14, 2022. As The Associated Press reports, the shooter, clad in military gear, opened fire at a supermarket, shooting 11 Black people and two white people in what authorities believe was a racially-motivated attack that was live-streamed on Twitch (the streaming platform took the video down within minutes, according to CNN). When the dust had settled, 10 people had died, while the other three were injured. Meanwhile, the shooter, identified as allegedly being Payton S. Gendron of Conklin, New York, is believed to have penned a manifesto in which he identifies as a white supremacist who supports the "Great Replacement Theory," a white-supremacist belief, as NPR News reports.

Juxtaposed with this horrific, racially-motivated crime is Buffalo's nickname: "The City of Good Neighbors." The city of a quarter of a million people joins cities larger (Chicago will forever be known as "the Windy City") and smaller (Springfield, Missouri is "the Queen City of the Ozarks") that bear nicknames that aren't exactly obvious at first.

Official reasons and unofficial reasons

There are three main ways for a city to get a nickname. One way is for the nickname to develop organically, such as Chicago's "Windy City" nickname, whose origins are murky, but which the city has come to embrace. Another way is for the city to get that name by government decree, usually in an effort to lure tourists and businesses. The third way is for an organic nickname to be codified into law by government decree. That's what happened in Buffalo.

As the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning explains, the city has historically welcomed immigrants, including Europeans in the 1800s, Blacks moving out of the South in the 1900s, and people from Latin America and the Caribbean migrating there in recent decades. As radio station WYRK explains it, "we're just really nice people, and we always come to each others [sic] side in a time of support and need or to celebrate and rejoice."

Things were made official on Jan. 23, 1940, according to Buffalo News, when Mayor Thomas L. Holling introduced a resolution making "The City of Good Neighbors" the city's official nickname.

Other Buffalo Nicknames

"The City of Good Neighbors" isn't the only nickname for Buffalo, and in fact, according to Buffalo News, the city actually has quite a few of them.

One of the more obvious ones is the "Nickel City," referring to the Buffalo nickel (pictured above). The connection between the two is at once obvious and extremely tenuous. It's obvious because there's a buffalo on the coin, but it's tenuous because the animal referred to as a "buffalo" is actually a "bison," and buffalo and bison are two separate species. Further still, there isn't a bison within 500 miles of the city, except in maybe a zoo or a farm.

A rather colorful nickname for the town is "the City with no Illusions," which is actually kind of snarky, and was presumably, always intended as such. It came about when a graphic designer and his team brainstormed ideas for a logo for the University of Buffalo's Department of American Studies.

The city is also alternately known as "the City of Light," "the Flour City," and "the Queen City of the Lakes," among multiple others.