A Ray of Hope for the East End

Posted: October 15, 2011 in Vision
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I was encouraged by the Recorder’s account of the Brownfield Opportunity Area meeting for the East End.  The most compelling idea that has come out of the meeting is the vision summary, which reads:

 

 

“The East End will be a city within the larger city with its own definite and coherent sense of place, containing all the amenities and features that attract and support new urban living, within a green setting that embraces a human scale.”

“It will be a new kind of downtown that connects easily with other city neighborhoods and amenities but does not rely on these to attract and support its own residents and businesses.”

This is quite a bold vision. The idea of having distinct neighborhoods with their own identities, with essentially their own economies, is a distinctly urban oriented idea, one that may not sit well with those who have suburban ideals for the city in mind. In fact, I wonder if proponents of the consolidation concept might fear the idea of a stronger local identity as a roadblock to regional consolidation.

I believe that developing neighborhood identities is essential to the revitalization of Amsterdam, and the East End is a great place to start and it is in line with the guidelines presented by the Amsterdam Comprehensive Plan. The plan suggests:

“Amsterdam’s greatest asset is its neighborhoods. The goal is to protect, and enhance as needed, this asset.”

Making our neighborhoods attractive and interesting places to live will bring more people to Amsterdam. Businesses and stores will follow the people, and that brings tax revenue.  Landlord Eddie Valentin raises the issue of low rent rates as an underlying problem in the area. The law of supply and demand should fix this because if you increase desirability of a certain area, the demand will increase, thus raising prices.

The involvement of not only the East End residents but all the residents of Amsterdam is essential. An effort has been made to invite members of the community the two past meetings and that is to be applauded. However I believe the Mayor’s office needs to heed Robert von Hasseln’s admonishment to do a better job at communicating the meeting times. There’s no excuse for not having the meeting announcements in the paper, on the radio and on the internet at least 2 weeks in advance. I would also suggest handing out flyers door to door, or even recruiting volunteers to knock on doors and talk to people in order to make sure the importance of the meetings is communicated.  I believe the effectiveness of any revitalization program is going to be dependent on how much “equity” the community has in the project.

We have to take into consideration that this is an area that has been neglected for many years. It’s going to take a certain amount of time for people’s gears to shift into the mode of thinking about the future and imagining what types of transformations they would like to see in their neighborhood. I am glad that von Hasseln predicts there will be “many, many” more meetings of this kind so that there is plenty of time and opportunity for people to get involved with the planning process.

A couple concerns I have after reading the article are 1) given the large Hispanic population in the East End, will creating a “city within a city” help relations between the Hispanic community and the rest of the city or will it create deeper divisions? As we make plans for the future of our city, I think it’s time to take a hard look at some of the underlying racial issues that exist within our city. 2) Just because complaints of crime were not reported at these meetings, doesn’t mean that it’s not a problem.

Overall, I believe the ideas for infrastructure improvement, marketing and cultural development in the East End are on the right track. There is still much work to do and many specifics to be nailed down, but it’s exciting to see the process begin to work and a plan taking shape!

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Comments
  1. ” An effort has been made to invite members of the community the two past meetings and that is to be applauded.”

    Exactly what effort are you referring to Tim? As I described in my blog, there was no public notice of the first meeting and I was surprised to hear about a second meeting that was held to discuss the future of the East End.

    I am glad an effort is being made in my neighborhood but unless it involves all of the residents, it becomes what the committee feels is best for us. That same scenario brought us “urban renewal” aiding in the decline of our downtown.

    Who are the committee members? How do we contact them? How do we find out about future meetings if they are not published on the City calendar?

    You can come up with mission statements until the cows come home. Show me the money! Is this just a dream, a trip to Disneyland or has grant money actually been secured?

    There have been too many committees and ideas brokered with very little follow through. I sat on a committee for over a year that rewrote the zoning code. It was finished months ago but has yet to be adopted by the Common Council.

    • Tim Becker says:

      Jerry, there must have been some effort made to contact residents, because some showed up. As you can read, however, I agree completely that communication needs to be improved. I think your questions as to the make up of the committee are good ones as well. I’m trying to be encouraging of an idea that I believe is a good one along with offering constructive criticism, rather than completely trashing it just because of who is leading it or because of a few flaws.

      • Tim I agree with what you have posted, the communication issue was targeted by many and was a topic of an editorial in the Recorder.

        The East End was not selected for improvement because of its population statistics, it was selected because of brownfield contamination from years of industrialization. The factories established along the Chuctanunda Creek and Mohawk River for the convenience of hydropower and transportation, but also used it as a toilet to dump contaminated bi-products that included heavy metals and in some cases PCBs that never dissipate.

        Followthrough is the other point that needs emphasis. We are still waiting for the reallocation of the Ward populations that was to be completed within 4 months of the issuance of the 2010 census results. It was started with the aid of Montgomery County Planning, but never implemented. The new Ward boundaries decrease the population of the 4th Ward. The new zoning changes increase the areas that comprise the downtown core as well as the types of development allowed in that zone. Both of these issues could have a potential affect on the Brownfield Opportunity Proposal and should have been enacted months ago.

        My grumbling serves a purpose that I often fail to communicate.

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