HWS Sustainable Community Development Lecture Series

The HWS Finger Lakes Institute is presenting another greater lecture series about sustainable development. The first lecture is tonight and covers two very important issues in upstate NY – the reuse of vacant land and active transportation. This is going to be an excellent event if you can make it.

February 18: Our Built Environment
Susan Cosentini, New Earth Living and Michael Governale, Rochester Subway
7pm at Warren Hunting Smith Library, HWS Colleges

March 11: Energy and Waste
Khristopher Dodson, Environmental Finance Center at Syracuse University

April 8: Science and Technology’s Role in Sustainability
Rob Englert, Ram Industrial Design, D-Build, and Adirondack Firestone Company

April 22: Sustainable Community Development In Action


Downtown Keeps Getting Better

More exciting news about downtown Geneva! The Local Development Corporation has narrowed down the selection for the Race for the Space competition to two finalists: LIME, a casually eclectic boutique, submitted by Michelle Carter Eades and The Dancing Bear, a retail beer store and coffee to go, submitted by Victor Pultinas and Jenna La Vita (see the press release for more info).  Both of these businesses sound great and would make lovely additions to our increasingly fabulous downtown.


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

Seneca Falls Still Matters

I’ve been living in Geneva for a year and a half and I keep meaning to write a post about Seneca Falls, NY.  I was reminded of this intention when Obama referenced it in his Inauguration Address this past week.  Here’s what President Obama had to say:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. 

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began.  For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well….

I was very touched by these words and I was reminded that we still have a ways yet to go.

So what’s the deal with Seneca Falls?  Not 15 minutes from Geneva, the first women’s rights convention was held 165 years ago in 1848. Organized by five women, all of whom were familiar with the antislavery movement and four of whom were Quakers, the convention attracted 300 participants and resulted in the Declaration of Sentiments.  Signed by 100 men and women from the convention, the Declaration states unequivocally that all men and women are created equal.

photoToday, there is a Women’s Rights  National Historic Park commemorating the events that took place in Seneca Falls and celebrating the ongoing movement toward greater equality.

In 1847, just prior to the Seneca Falls Convention, Elizabeth Blackwell was accepted as a medical student at Geneva Medical College (now Hobart and William Smith Colleges).  She became the first woman to practice medicine in the United States.  Another pretty amazing achievement that took place right here in the Finger Lakes.

Until I moved to this area, I was not familiar with these details of history.  I am thankful for the memorials and public art that have at prompted me to learn about the past in this region.  And, of course, I am thankful for those who fought for justice and for those who continue to do so today.

Race for the Space

I was downtown yesterday afternoon and learned that Zotos is going out of business.  It’s always sad when a business closes, especially one that you really enjoyed (where else can you buy lovely and sophisticated candles that are made in Geneva?!).  While I was in the store stocking up on half-priced goods, the store manager was telling me about a competition to encourage new businesses downtown called “Race for the Space“.  Maybe when one door closes, another one opens.  The competition is run by the Geneva Local Development Corporation and is designed to award free rent for a year as well as help with marketing, architectural services, etc. to a new business willing to set-up shop downtown.  Pretty interesting, eh?!  Sounds like an innovative idea to me.

Can we ever really bury the past?

Last week we went to Boston for a few days and drove into downtown via an underground highway. Our hotel was right on the water and across the street there was a long and skinny park. The park contained windy pathways, places to sit and a few light installations. Needless to say, there weren’t a lot of people using the park in early January. Regardless of the weather, I had a hard time imagining people using this funny park, surrounded as it is by roads and hotels.

Why does it matter how well-loved this park is? Well, it’s the outcome from the Big Dig, a multi-year, multi-billion dollar project to bury a highway and build a park in its place. Many American cities have highways that cut through the downtown, Rochester and Syracuse included. If you’ve ever had to cross underneath or overtop of one of these highways, you understand what kind of a physical and psychological barrier it can be. Recently, there have been proposals to bury or lower parts of the Rochester and Syracuse highways (see here for Rochester and here for Syracuse).

20130112-170116.jpgMy gut reaction is to support initiatives like the Big Dig that aim to tear down these old highways and build more walkable and connected downtowns. I’m not sure what the future will hold for the highways in upstate NY, but the outcome in Boston definitely gave me pause. Over time and as the surrounding streetscape evolves, I’m sure the park will come to seem like a more integral part of the neighborhood. For now, however, I’m not sure that we can effectively bury the past.
20130112-175449.jpgThis picture was taken in Albany, NY.

KidVenture Dome and the GPL Create Busy Parents Book Club

KidVenture Dome is moving into the old movie theater in downtown Geneva.  It looks like it’s going to be a great place for kids to play and for parents to hang-out. The Geneva Public Library has formed a new partnership with the KVD to create a Busy Parents Book Club. Here’s the idea — your kids get to play and you get to chat about books with other parents. Sounds great, eh? See here for more info.

photo 4