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15 Responses to “Neglected Landmarks Need Protection”

  1. Christopher Brandt says:

    I will be there! Hopefully there will be dozens like me.

  2. Tim says:

    “Perhaps it is time that someone develop an app …” to do what? Just having an app isn’t some silver bullet. What would this app do, how would it help, what would it do that existing systems (web sites, books/magazines, preservation codes, etc.) don’t do?

    As a preservationist (restoring my 1890s home) and an app developer, I’m certainly not against the idea. But developing an app takes a significant amount of work (translation: costs a lot). Without clear purpose and careful planning, app projects fail all too easily.

  3. Tom says:

    Your proofreading skills are abysmal sir. What exactly makes the old church on W. Main historic and worth preserving short of its age and pleasant architecture?

  4. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Tim: Perhaps I am being way too naive, but my thinking is to connect residents to City Hall so that property owners will be fined for not maintaining their properties. Since Rochester is the most lackadaisical city in which I have ever lived in terms of code enforcement, such an app might provide the real evidence of what happens to historic buildings (any building, actually) when owners do not maintain them, then make claims that the buildings are falling apart or are too far gone. Genesee Brewery’s own engineering studies showed that the Cataract buildings were structurally sound. In the case of Iola, Costello claimed that the buildings and grounds were not maintained under the ownership of the County, despite my showing through photographs that such pronouncements were false. (And in neither case were these owners forced to pay fines, clean up and secure the properties in their care; in fact, they were ultimately rewarded by the City and County, which not only enabled them to demolish the historic properties but also provided some funding and tax breaks/credits.) The examples that I provided are just a small number of the countless examples in this city alone, which has demolished more historic structures in the last three years than I remember in the last ~25. Again, perhaps I was a bit too naive. I guess I will leave it to the app developers to figure out the rest…. Perhaps an app that will enable you to stand at any location in the City and see what buildings/structures/landscapes looked like at some earlier point?

  5. AmyRyb says:

    I thought I recognized that first picture. I drove by the Bethlehem Steel building countless times traveling to my in-laws, and I always thought it was the most amazing building. I always wished that someone would rehab it, but as they years went on I had a feeling it wouldn’t last. The last couple times I’ve driven by I look at the empty lot and wonder why it had to go when there’s nothing else there. So sad.

  6. Matthew Denker says:

    Joel, I like the idea of an app. I think something that would promote the crowdsourcing/funding of renewal would be a game changer. One of this issues right now is that it is all to easy to claim a community should “put its money where its mouth is” with no actual mechanism for doing just this sort of thing. Giving that collective voice a collective pocketbook would definitely allow for major improvements not currently available to a neighborhood.

  7. Carl says:

    Generally, the elements don’t “reek” havoc, they wreak havoc.

  8. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Carl: Those are definitely smelly problems — mold, mildew, rot, etc. Ha! How embarrassing.

  9. Urban Explorer says:

    An app may not be a bad place to start. But given Rochester’s (and other cities’) lack of political will to do effective code enforcement, it will realistically take something much stronger than an app. These include:

    – continuous complaints about a building’s condition and documentation of the submission of such complaints. This may have helped in the Cataract Building situation. Unfortunately, many well-meaning folks believe the city will just do it’s code enforcement job un-prodded, but that is naive given the amount of resources devoted to code enforcement. In reality, most enforcement is complaint-driven.

    – eventually, if the situation is not remedied, a lawsuit against the city asking it to enforce it’s own code. Again, I wish this was not the world we lived in, but we do.

    A deluge of complaints is relatively cheap. Lawsuits are more expensive. But faced with multiple lawsuits, eventually a city may find the resources and/or political will to do effective code enforcement.

  10. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Urban Explorer: Agreed.

  11. Matt says:

    One thing about living in a free country, is that we have the freedom to tear down buildings that we own. If a property owner wants to do something with their property, it’s their choice, not yours. You want a building restored? Buy it and restore it yourself. You busybodies and bullies that use government to strong-arm private citizens make me sick.

  12. One thing about living in a town — where you receive the benefits associated with roads, water, electric/utilities, roads, police and fire protection, and other services paid for by everyone who lives around you — is that your neighbors get a chance to review and weigh in on your plans before you do something that could impact them. Perfect example right here, you have at least two homeowners who live adjacent to this church property. They claim their home values (and their lives) will be negatively impacted with a commercial development on this site. If I were in their shoes I’d be quite thankful for this process that you call “strong-arming.”

    But another thing about living in a free country, is that you have the power to try and change the laws if you’d like.

    There’s no such thing as a free country. You have to work for your quality of life.

  13. Matthew Denker says:

    @Matt – Free property rights are not at all at the foundation of our great nation. For good reasons we don’t allow factories to be constructed next to people’s homes. We don’t allow bars to open within 200 feet of schools. We don’t let any number of other “incompatible” uses to happen near one another. I don’t generally see this sort of outpouring of support for land owners who decide they’d like to build an apartment building. It’s property rights when someone wants to tear down a historic church and build an auto-oriented shopping center, but neighbors rights when someone wants to build a skyscraper? What happens when the city wants to build low income housing on the east end? That just happens because the city owns the land? What about the people of Charlotte? The city doesn’t have the right to sell its land to a developer to build a hotel and luxury housing, but the guy who owns this church does have the right to tear it down?

    How about me? Can I build anything I want on my land in the city? Is that ok? What if I wanted to tear down the townhouse in the middle of the row of them and build a 7 story tall apartment building there? Can I do that? Should I be able to? How free should we be allowed to be? Is it freedom from, or freedom to?

  14. Joel Helfrich says:

    @Matt: A key point that I attempted to make is that all of the preservation efforts I mention lost to “private owners” — and long after those “private owners” had neglected their properties. “Private owner” Maye is no different than the “private owners” of Iola, et al., except he appears to have no plan and no funding and no clout and is just doing a Dollar General redux.


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