The Urbanist’s Guide to Picking a Football Team

How does an urbanist decide which football team to root for in Superbowl 2013? Instinctively, I want to cheer for the 49ers who hail from San Francisco, a city renowned for it’s wonderful, walkable, mixed use neighborhoods. Then again, I’m also inclined to cheer for the team whose name – the Ravens – is derived from a poem written by one-time Baltimore resident, Edgar Allen Poe. What am I to do?

Typically, we don’t compare the central city in a large metropolitan region like San Francisco or Baltimore to a small, rural city like Geneva. In this case, however, I think it’s reasonable to make an exception. I’ve pulled together a handful of indicators from the American Community Survey to see how Geneva stacks up to these two football rivals.

If Geneva had an NFL team, it would be supported by a community that looks a lot more like Baltimore than San Francisco. For this reason, I’m going to have to go with the Ravens.

San Francisco Baltimore Geneva
Population 797,983 620,210 13,314
Median age (years) 38 34 30
Percent bachelor’s degree or higher 51% 26% 25%
Percent population over 16 employed 64% 54% 52%
Median household income $72,947 $40,100 $39,269
Median home value $767,300 $163,700 $87,000
Percent of vacant housing units 10% 19% 10%
Language spoken at home – English only 55% 91% 88%
Language spoken at home – Spanish 12% 4% 8%

Source: 2007-2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates


Podunk, NY

Podunk, NY, is a hamlet in the town of Ulysses (which is about 45 minutes from Geneva).  Podunk and Ulysses are just two examples of the many, many interesting place names around here.  Ever heard of Canandaigua?  As a Canadian, I always hesitate when I pronounce this one.  Cana-what?  Geneva isn’t the only city to be named after a European or Mediterranean counterpart either.  Not far down the road you’ll find Rome and Jerusalem.  Seriously.

Some people have suggested that we should buy a GPS device for our car.  If we bought a GPS, then we would miss all the fun of looking at the map and discovering these little place names along the way!

Hug your city

Rust Belt recently posted an article about this fun initiative called Group Hug, which is taking place in Cleveland.  Sponsored by Saving Cities, Group Hug asks residents to hug what they love about their city and then submit a photo, which will later be displayed at a Group Hug party.  What a great idea, eh?  I’ll have to think about my Geneva Hug picture and get back to you on this one.

It reminds me of this thing that happened in Toronto a few years ago — someone spray painted “I love you” all over town (check it out here).  Regardless of where you fall on the graffiti/art debate, you can’t help but smile when you see “I love you” – especially out of context like that.  Or maybe it’s the prefect context. I dunno.

Coolest small town in America

The Finger Lakes Blog noted that Hammondsport, NY, was recently named the coolest small town in America according to Budget Travel.  Hammondsport is about 50 minutes southwest of Geneva.  To get there, you drive along the scenic Keuka Lake.  Not a bad a journey.  While there is only about 700 people who actually live in Hammondsport, it’s got a vibrant and quaint little downtown.  There are a handful of restaurants, a hippie bakery, an art gallery/store and the requisite upstate NY antique store.

What do you call a group of doves?

I don’t know either.  The internet had a whole of bunch of answers to this question including “dule” and “dole”, both of which sound fishy.  I’m asking because there seems to be a lot of doves in Geneva.  There is everyone’s favourite restaurant, the Red Dove.  There is a building downtown that says “Dove Block”.  And there is a local brewery called Naked Dove (which is located halfway between here and Canandaigua.  If you’re Canadian and you’ve never seen the word Canandaigua before, trust me, I’m not making it up!).


Once upon a time, there was an artist named Arthur Garfield Dove (1880 – 1946), whose father was a building contractor and brick manufacturer in Geneva.  Dove grew up in Geneva and attended HWS before moving on to NYC.  He eventually moved back to Geneva with his wife, whose nickname was “Reds”.  Dove wasn’t a big fan of Geneva so they only stayed in town for a couple of years.  I learned all of this on the website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art  (phew – good thing it wasn’t censored today!  This joke has to do with an American bill proposal that would censor the internet.  This joke actually isn’t very funny and hardly worth the long explanation.  Anyway.).

Learning about MLK Day










Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  According to Wikipedia, MLK Day falls on the 3rd Monday of January, which is around the time of King’s birthday.

I listened to part of an interview on NPR with civil rights lawyer and professor, Michelle Alexander.  When asked how she marks MLK Day, Alexander said that she goes back and reads King’s writing.  This sounds like a good idea to me, especially given that I haven’t read much of his work.

Alexander also talked about her what led her to write her book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of ColorblindnessAccording to Alexander, once you become a felon, it’s much more difficult to fully participate in society — you don’t qualify for various programs, you face employment discrimination and on and on.  Given that more than half of all working age African American males in some cities are in some way connected to the prison system, we’ve got a serious problem.

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add here.  I’m just glad that to have marked my first MLK Day here in the US.

Cuomo’s 2012 State of the State Address

On Wednesday January 4, Governor Cuomo set out his plan for 2012 in the State of the State Address.  Here are a couple of highlights:

  • There is a $2 billion budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year (which begins April 1).  The good news is that this number is down from an earlier estimate of about $3.5 billion.
  • NYC must end fingerprinting for food stamp applications.  Huh?  Is this for real?
  • Buffalo was promised $1 billion in economic development incentives (details to be determined).  Holy crap.  Lucky Buffalo. 
  • Fracking was not mentioned.  How should this omission be interpreted?
  • The state constitution should be amended to allow for casino developments off Indian land.  I imagine that this will give local governments some control over where casino development occurs, but it may cause conflict as communities jump on this bandwagon. 
  • Funding for public transit was not mentioned, although there will be money for roads and bridges.
  • Cuomo wants to initiate public financing for election campaigns as well as lower campaign contribution limits.  Federally, things are moving in the opposite direction, so this is an interesting development.