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Saturday, 26 May 2007
Civilized destruction
Topic: urban issues

Lately it seems I can’t make a Saturday morning Public Market run (bike, actually) without encountering some fresh disaster of neo-Urban Removal.

This week’s dark chapter unfolded on Union Street, just south of the viaduct that separates the Market from the neighborhood around the old Eastman Dental Center. Specifically, at Union and Augusta Street, I discovered that a potentially significant 19th-century brick house, one of a pair, had been torn down. Barely a shard remained on the leveled corner lot. (You can see what the building looked like at, in the image captioned “Emergence of Forgotten Neighborhoods.” It’s the building on the right. And while you’re visiting the website, check out all the good offerings from the Design Center.)

Many times I’d thought of how the two houses, both long vacant, could have become a commercial adjunct to the Market, which really is only steps away. Now at least half of the possibilities have been lost.

So what the hell is happening in this town? Whether the demolitions are part of City Hall's plan to "downsize" neighborhoods in the Crescent (i.e. remove inconvenient structures and impose lesser population densities on what become faux-suburban streetscapes) or disconnected, lightly regulated private plans (like the reconstruction of the Genesee Hospital site, which began by obliterating a 19th century building at Monroe and Alexander), the onus is on the Duffy Administration.

I think highly of Bob Duffy as a person, but honestly, his crew is responsible, directly or indirectly, for a lot of bad stuff. Today City Hall is failing to nurture the creative brainstorming that must precede law- and policy-making. Rochester never was very sharp in this regard - the city depended too much on the kindness of robber barons - but now it's got no edge at all. But I guess that’s what we should expect from an administration dominated by likes of Tom Richards and Carlos Carballada, business types who are temperamentally incapable of leading an urban renaissance worthy of the name.

I wouldn’t be so peeved if I hadn’t just confronted the Rite Aid plan for Monroe and Goodman (see below). If City Hall continues its policy of developer-appeasement, two things will come to pass: Our community will lose more and more of its heritage, and the neighborhood and architectural advocates who’ve achieved critical mass in just the last few years will get discouraged and drop away. Then the bulldozers will be working overtime.

This has got to stop.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 13:41 EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 May 2007 14:37 EDT
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