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Archive for the ‘New York State’ Category

One of the most popular stories today in the New York Times is about the “Brooklynization” of Hudson River towns. Even with the weak national economy, or perhaps because of it, New Yorkers are seeking the comfort of small town life and bringing their creative enterprises and locovore habits with them. While this has been true for the closest towns for a long time, the wave of newcomers is reaching farther into the hinterlands today. Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, calls this a “green economic revitalization,” suggesting that environmental groups are not opposing this population influx as they might have in the past. Many of the towns in this region have been down and out since their industries left long ago, so the transformation is nothing less than astonishing for the chosen ones.

…for all the images of upstate decay, the population of the Hudson Valley is growing more than twice as fast as that of the rest of the state — 5.8 percent over the past decade, compared with 2.1 percent for New York State and New York City. (While there are no universally accepted boundaries to the Hudson Valley, this reference includes the counties north of suburban Rockland and Westchester and south of the capital region: Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Ulster, Columbia and Greene.)   … and snip…

But optimism is one thing you find in the Hudson Valley, to an extent not seen elsewhere. It is true that, even here, it takes more than art, farm stands and caffeine to make an economy work — especially for those who don’t make a living with a laptop or a paintbrush. But in a culture sometimes whipsawed between a desire to be in the middle of the storm and to be a million miles away, the Hudson Valley offers the promise of both, the upstate hills and quirky towns just 90 minutes from Manhattan, said Bradley Thomason, who moved his small technology and organizational development consultancy, Miraclelabb, from Manhattan to the mighty metropolis of Accord last year.

“This isn’t like the tech revolution,” he said. “I’d be worried if there were some big kaboom Hudson Valley moment. But I think what you’re seeing is a slow progression toward something that can sustain itself.”

 

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Syracuse is hoping the nickname “Emerald City” sticks, and that “green” is an identity that will distinguish it from its urban competitors. In April, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency helped add substance to the claim by naming Syracuse one of 10 EPA Green Infrastructure (GI) partnership communities. The designation came in response to an ambitious effort by the City of Syracuse and Onondaga County to use stormwater-focused GI techniques (green roofs, rain gardens, rain barrels, and so forth) on an unusually extensive scale – throughout the urban watershed of the City’s main tributary, Onondaga Creek. The Save the Rain program aims to improve water quality in Onondaga Creek and Onondaga Lake by reducing stormwater runoff that is currently causing combined sewer overflows, a situation common in many U.S. cities. Commitment to the effort, driven by a 2009 amended consent order between NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Onondaga County, the urban context, and scale of the intervention make this an example worth watching.

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Naturally Chilled Water Project

The City of Syracuse is considering a proposal to pipe cool lake water from Lake Ontario or a smaller Finger Lake, Skaneateles Lake, to Downtown Syracuse and the eds and meds district, University Hill, to provide summer cooling to the buildings there. Toronto, our impressive big city neighbor to the northwest, already has such a system in place. The dramatically lower costs of summer cooling would be attractive to businesses considering relocation and be great for the businesses already located in these areas. Dr. James Hassett, professor emeritus of SUNY-ESF, conducted the feasibility study. According to the Syracuse Post Standard, Syracuse would be the first city in the U.S. to stop using electricity to cool its downtown and major institutional buildings if the proposal is adopted.

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Just finished my “State of Upstate” land use, environment, and natural resources presentation. I am such an optimist! And what’s more, I think I really believe it! I did stop short of suggesting that Upstate NY is going to be the locus of the next great wave of U.S. population migration (i.e., on the receiving end) when the American Southeast and Midwest become as hot and dry as the Southwest. Some people are starting to say that though…

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Should state & local government be committed to protecting long-term environmental values? Even in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, NY State residents respond like this. I’m impressed. The survey was sponsored by CaRDI – Cornell’s Community and Regional Development Institute and conducted in Jan 2011.

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Wikimedia Commons image by Matt H.WadeI was asked to speak at a conference on the topic of “Land Use, Environment, and Natural Resources,” a very broad subject even if it is focused on Upstate New York. That would be “upstate” defined as everything north of the NYC metro area. In other words, what is the current status of land use, environment, and natural resources for almost the entire State of New York? In 20 minutes. I have taken on that challenge (?)  and will be making my presentation next Wednesday in Syracuse.

To prepare for this talk, I spoke with land use and environmental planners from various parts of the state over the last few weeks. What’s going on in your area? I thought I’d hear some frustration in the voices of those I called, given the state and local government budget challenges – but I did not. There is really a lot going on, and grant money is keeping the planning engine running for now at least. The only downside I detected is that there is too much work for too few people at many agencies and organizations. I have decided that the thrust of my talk will be “Innovation and Resourcefulness in a Time of Austerity.” I will post a few of the interesting examples of innovative land planning that I have found.

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