“You think there’s a halo over all of Rochester.”

A couple nights a week, my friends and I get into an animated discussion of politics, sports or whatever happens to come up. We know what pushes each other’s buttons. There are never any hard feelings, except for the night one of us stormed out after an argument over which song made the Beastie Boys famous (She’s On It on the Krush Groove soundtrack vs. the License to Ill album).

Last night’s debate started with my blog post about New Year’s Eve. I lamented the city’s tradition of having downtown child-centered activities that commence with fireworks at 10 p.m. Some party, right? I said people would come downtown for a full night of festivities if the city gave them a reason.

One of the guys launched into a rant so compelling (and long), I took out my iPad and started taking notes. He does not want me to use his name.

This was directed at me:

You think there’s a halo over all of Rochester. I miss the monorail and Cathay Pagoda, but the city has serious issues.

The suburbs are so great we don’t need to leave. We have everything, they’re the best suburbs in the country.

If you’re my dad, he has no reason to leave Webster. He has fine dining, shopping and Wegmans. You think people are always denigrating the city, but our suburbs are second to none.

You think life would stop in Brighton and Pittsford if downtown died? The city is not the hub for those people. I’m one of them.

I’m not smart enough to have a prescription to fix downtown. It’s sad and it’s a shame, but (the death of downtown) wouldn’t have the impact you think.

We need to focus on the entire area. We have great suburbs and crime is going down. You think I’m so anti-city and I’m not. I just don’t think downtown and the city are as important.

I (shockingly) disagree. Downtown is the center of our civic and cultural life. Fifty thousand people work downtown every day. There are many people who value a vibrant urban environment and lifestyle, even in a medium-sized city. Downtown is an important part of our identity.

The entire city is the core of our community. The concentration of poverty and blight in the city affects all of us in terms of crime, social services, education, economic development, quality of life and the perception of our metro area.

While I agree with my friend that we should think regionally, we should not think about only the good and dismiss the bad. None of us – not even city-centered me – should be isolated.


12 responses to ““You think there’s a halo over all of Rochester.”

  1. What I think is amazing are pictures of what the City of Rochester used to look like many…many years ago. People walking around like going into the entertainment area of Toronto. I think many dollars are wasted by NYS and Monroe County that should be put to better use to make our City Vibrant! I myself do not care to go to the City unless I have to because of news of all the killings and robbery’s. NYS is just concerned of sucking the money off of the Indians for selling Cigarettes when they should be worrying more about Taxing Alcohol which would take care of some of the drunken driving and DWI’s.
    Maybe some of our governors and Senators should look over some of the old pics and see the respect people had for Rochester back in the days when the Subway was operating.

  2. Increasingly, I agree with your friend. Downtown is no longer the cultural hub. Sad but true. Can it flip back? Other cities have pulled that off on a temporary basis, but long term, we are a suburban society.

    Also, whoever said “She’s On It” was so right.

  3. It’s an interesting conundrum that has applicability in Buffalo, as well. Simply put, there are loads of people throughout WNY who have no use for the city proper unless they have court, Sabres tickets, or the theater. All other services are not only available, but more convenient, closer to home; home predominately being some suburb.

    The national trend of hip young people moving into downtowns has touched Buffalo only tangentially; most newer housing is comprised of rentals, with built-in transience. Condos in the downtown core are almost exclusively high-end, going for more than 300k.

    I think downtown Buffalo has a lot of problems that are largely self-inflicted through poor planning, little foresight, and weak zoning. A land value tax would go a long way towards rendering land speculation of vacant lots less economically viable, and perhaps grow downtown again. When I visit Rochester, it seems to me as if its downtown is more robust and better maintained than Buffalo’s. But that could be a grass-is-greener thing.

    In order to render old, decaying downtowns vital and vibrant again, people need an incentive to go there. I’m an advocate for a sales-tax-free zone for Buffalo’s downtown core. By giving people $.0875 cents off every dollar they spend, you could easily and quickly spur interest in downtown retail and revitalize an area that people have no reason to visit. With the pending development of Buffalo’s Canal Side (waterfront project through the ESD), this sales-tax-free zone becomes even more acute of an issue. We’re spending millions to create a tourist/shopping/cultural destination, we should ensure that it’s used and that it helps revitalize its surroundings.

    Through a sales-tax-free downtown, people from throughout the region, and from Canada, will have a huge incentive to demand goods and services within that zone, and private enterprise will swoop in to supply it.

  4. Theres fine dining in Webster? Really? Proietti’s, prime, red robin, moe’s?????? End this friendship immediately, you are dealing w a delusional person. Also, “she’s on it” got the beasties noticed, licensed to ill got them famous, Paul’s Boutique made them legends.

  5. Your friend seems angry about a lot more than land-use and the mythical “city versus suburbs” thing. We have made terrible mistakes in how we use and develop our land resources over the past 60 years and are just starting to understand the basic differences as to how urban and suburban areas function and what there specific needs are. Rochester is starting to learn and respond to “post Urban Renewal (really, urban removal)” thinking, but we have a daunting task ahead. Many of think that the suburbs face ever more challenges as fuel prices make it impossible for middle and working class people to pay for living where they have to drive many miles each week.

  6. While “She’s On It” is superior to most of the material on “License to Ill”, it was “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” that place the Beastie Boys on the map. However, it wasn’t until “Paul’s Boutique” that the B-Boys were actually regarded as credible artists. As a snob, that was when they landed on my map. 🙂

  7. Definitely Licensed to Ill. Fight for your Right to Party was a huge single, and more importantly at the time a very popular video.

    Oh yeah…Downtown needs serious help.

  8. The Buffalo comment is very interesting. When my friends and I go to Buffalo a couple of times a year, we always lament that Rochester isn’t more like Buffalo. It is grass is greener.
    As for your friend, what an attitude of privilege he has to simply dismiss the lives of so many people and their needs and struggles simply because he has whatever he needs in his suburb.
    We must increase the tax base in the city by having folks move in who do not require extra services and increasing our business base. We moved to the city from Brighton eleven years ago and we love it. We are proudly “Urban by Choice.”

  9. I agree with your friends take on the suburbs having it all. I just find it funny that this individual spends much of his spare time in a certain sports bar located where? THE CITY!!!!

  10. Readyyyyyy GO—–> True “fine dining.” 2Vine, Max, Rocco’s, Rooneys, Not sure that fella has ever eaten anywhere nicer than Outback. The Strong Museum of Play. (Nationally recognized) The Planetarium/Science Center. The Memorial Art Gallery. The Eastman Theater/RPO (also nationally if not worldly renowned) The Eastman House/Dryden theater which may be the coolest place to catch a movie these days next to the Little Theater (which is also downtown) Geva Theater, Blackfriars, Auditorium, Armory. All places to catch amazing acts wether theater or concerts. The Amerks, The Red Wings, The Rhinos. All play in the city. Little neighborhoods like Park Ave, Corn Hill and the Southwedge, full of shops, bars, and restaurants. Genesee Brewery which has been there since the late 1800’s. I know the stigmas, but they actually brew great beer. Did you know that Labatts and Sam Adams are brewed there? Anyhow this is just off the top of my head. I could probably double the list but i’m sure everyone has stopped reading by now. So anyhow to all the people like the mad suburbanite, get out and go downtown!!!! You are truly missing out. Oh and by the way I live in Brighton.

  11. OK, I have to play social scientist/philosopher regarding your friend’s comments. Aside from the already well commented on issue of quality of entertainment (b/c, really, all the suburbanites I know still go into the city when they are looking to have fun) there is the issue of isolation. Your suggests (despite his behavior betraying that suggestion) that it is better for suburbanites to stay in their enclaves. A vibrant city center reminds the entire region that we are one large community made of other communities. It allows people with differing beliefs, tastes, wants and needs to come together for entertainment and socializing. My Hilton friends don’t have the same tastes as my Brockport friends don’t have the same tastes as my Irondequoit friends and so on, but we all congregate to the city for common ground. Staying in the suburbs because “they are so great” cuts you off from a broad experience but more to the point promotes the notion that people outside that limited community are “other.” The entire region, and society as a whole, benefit from vibrant city centers.

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