Since bringing up the topic of neighbors last week, there has been much discussion in the local blogosphere (can't they come up with a better word than that?). If you are just coming in to the discussion, you can:
[sound of can of worms opening]
Then go HERE
[Racing in the street blog]
Sean Kirst from the Post weighs in HERE
And finally HERE
[Round 2 at NYCO's blog]
First of all a touch of background: (the short version) I grew up in the burbs, went to school, moved to NYC (upper manhattan ethnic neighborhood) and then moved back into the town of Geddes.
I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the discussion that my initial comments brought on. I still stand by the thought that there is more than ample room for improvement in being neighborly to those in our community.
Yes in 2005, we're more bitter and crabby when we get home from the daily sludge, and yes, we seem to have "run out of time" to do anything worth while lately, without it feeling like another chore. We deal with all of those "other" bad drivers on the street and highway - too fast, too slow, too clueless... We deal with an entire generation or two of Americans that feel that they are entitled to whatever they want at that very moment - like a perverse version of Veruca Salt
from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I want the works
I want the whole works
Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises
Of all shapes and sizes
Don't care how
I want it now
Don't care how
I want it now
But I digress.
NYCO discussed why people left the cities in droves in the 50's and 60's, and it is for the same reason that we left NYC in the 2000's. The schools are better, you want your own yard (even though the parks are beautiful), you want a little vegetable garden, and a space to call your own without annoying neighbors above and below you.
I still want those things, and I don't fault anyone else for wanting them as well.
I also agree that people didn't move to the burbs because they were excited to drive more. What disgusts me is not the suburbs of the 50's and 60's, but the single story, flat-roofed, strip mall laden outgrowths of the 80's and 90's. Our "old-growth" suburbs are in a much better position to weather higher energy costs, and maintain sustainability going forward into the future. Mixed-use redevelopment of the Geddes area and increased walkability is what I am working towards.
I don't want to even try to tackle the issue of the exurbs. In a way, I feel like saying - go ahead and take your gamble on a place 20-30 miles away from where you work, in a 3500 sq. ft. home, with a $300,000 interest only mortgage. I am comfortable in my decision to live where I live, and don't feel I need to tell others how to live their lives, to make me feel like I have made the right decision. There are a huge list of benefits to living in each type of area (city, suburb and exurb), and an equivalent number of negatives as well. No situation is ideal.
I lean towards but would not consider myself a "new urbanist". I don't want to live in downtown Syracuse. If I did, we'd have a incredible loft that we were fixing up in an old factory, and this blog would be all about how Syracuse needs to attract a grocery store and develop businesses that operate outside 9-5 hours, and how the city and county should combine into a more efficient local government and school system. People need to keep fighting for those things, and I'll leave it up to Sean Kirst, and Phil (Racing in the Street) to do that.
My focus is going to be on how we can improve our local situation in Geddes and the surrounding areas.
My point is (and this is not directed at Balogh or Phil), there is often a dangerous amount of idealization of human desires going on when it comes to the suburbia debate. I think there is an honest desire to re-think and adjust the way we are living, and I feel pretty much on board with that.
I agree. I don't want to live on a commune either, with everyone "loving each other in perfect harmony". I don't want to force you to live there either.
I don't want you to give up your car, because I think that it is bad- I want to give you more public transportation options in case you do want to leave the car home on a Friday night and go out. Or the ability to take a bus to work in the morning, and have a bus to take you home at night after 6 p.m.
I don't want you to give up going to the monstrosity of a mall to shop - I just want you to have to option to shop locally for goods and services and support your hard working neighbors.
I don't want you to live in my back yard (and "up my nose") - Because I want to grow a garden and share a few veggies with you (and your tent gets in the way of the good sun.)
I don't want kids to stop eternally playing videogames and going on playdates in Manlius and organized homogenized soccer tournaments in Rochester. (OK maybe I do)But I am not going to tell you how to raise your kids. I just want to have safe streets and schools, and the opportunity for kids to ride their bike on the street without fear of death. And a few woods to explore and hike through.
I also think that urban planners would have a much easier time if they concentrated on old growth burbs than on only tackling head-on the huge problems in the cities. The old-growth burbs are the "middle" of the ring system - they border the cities, the population is neither affluent nor destitute, and there are lots of opportunities to make things easier for older residents when you actually HAVE older residents to serve. (I see older people using the new sidewalks on Onondaga Rd. all the time.) So much about urban renewal seems based upon luring young people in, rather than taking care of the people who already live there.
AMEN! Geddes has many opportunities to better itself, not only for the sake of the "young" people we want to attract, but for the convenience of the elderly as well. A percentage of the population that is expected to grow intensely as baby-boomers come of age. Again with no common link in the community, school districts become what the world revolves around, neglecting a large portion of our local population.
Above I mentioned what I don't want people to have to do. Here is what I'd like them to do.
Become more involved in local governmentApprox 10 people and myself attended the last town council meeting in Geddes. This is where decisions are made that affect your daily life. Everyone is so concerned about "neo-cons" and "liberals", and will spend hours and days engrossed in that, but will not take the 1 hour a month to attend the local town hall meetings and discuss issues that directly affect the community.
Wonder where your food comes from, and your merchandise that you are buying.If you think about it, does it really make sense to buy an apple from Washington State, in the fall, when it is apple season in NY? Or milk shipped in from other states, despite the abudance of local dairy farms? All I ask is that you wonder where that new lamp comes from that your buying for Aunt Mabel, or the pocket knife for Uncle John.
And finally [/soapbox] have PATIENCE.Bite your tongue when grampa cuts you off, or the new teller is ringing up items at a snails pace, or you've waited through 2 changes of the light. They're people just like you and me. They're our neighbors.