Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gateway to What?

In the wake of urban decay, loss of jobs and the finishing touches of the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee on September 7 and 8 of last year, Binghamton and the other parts of the Triple Cities face what some call a "defining moment".

In front of the ruined former BAE Industries building on Main Street in Westover, blocks from where I live, beautiful Bradford Pears bloom.

But no one is there to admire the trees because the 1300 employees are working, at least for the next 5 years, a few miles down the road in Endicott, one of our "Triple Cities". BAE vacated this building due to the flood, and the building was too damaged to repair. The taxpaper is picking up the millions of dollars spent to try to salvage the building before the effort was abandoned in November.

Almost daily, more and more garbage accumulates on the lawn in front of the vacant building.  People are deciding to use this lawn in my neighborhood as a garbage dump.

Meanwhile, after the 5 years are up, BAE gives no guarantee they will stay in this area, period.

In downtown Binghamton, about 4 miles from Westover, streets, sidewalks and planters are being torn up to start what is called the Gateway Project.    It's nice to fix a tricky intersection by building a roundabout.  But, as empty factory buildings (not just BAE, but all over the Triple Cities) literally rot, officials say of Gateway "The project aims to make the city more aesthetically pleasing for its residents and easier to navigate through."  Are you kidding me?

(Rubble from the start of the roundabout construction).

I wish our problems could be solved by a roundabout.  But the building below, where the approach to the roundabout will be located,was seriously damaged by fire in 2010, and has been vacant since around 1974.  Many years ago, it was a Woolworths.  It was being renovated for student housing when the fire hit in 2010.  Now, despite claims that renovation continues, who knows.  It's not the only vacant building downtown, either.  Far from it.

It doesn't have to be this way.  Rochester, about 2 1/2 hours away by car, proves otherwise.  And they didn't do it by building a pretty roundabout.

Binghamton can not ignore the fact that another flood will kill this area.  We have to think big, and creatively.  We have to get people to want to stay.  Because, as also reported in today's paper, people continue to leave this area.  Our county is leading this exodus from upstate New York.

If we don't stop living in the past, and fast, the roundabout will be a Gateway out of Broome County.  If job losses or another flood don't get us first.

In the near future, I hope to share some ideas about our future. 

Do you live in a city that has come back from the brink?  I'd love to hear from you and find out what your city did to recover, and to find itself once again.

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