Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Utica-The Right Direction

What direction should Utica be headed in? The answer depends on who you are and how the current conditions that exist affect your daily life. Direction is subjective-we need to all agree on where to steer ourselves before we can arrive at where we want to be!

In a recent magazine article, San Francisco based designer Ken Faulk talked about his home in that magnificent west coast city and compared it to his second home in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. "I don't know that I can define it exactly," he began, referring to P-Town. " I love it's history and it's rich heritage as one of America's oldest arts colonies."

He went on. "in a weird way, it's like San Francisco. Both are slightly ramshackle places surrounded by breathtaking scenery. Both are rogue-like places where an odd assortment of people manage to live together harmoniously. It could all go terribly wrong, but it doesn't."

Wow. Could that description not apply to Utica?  For years, I have marveled at  the breathtaking scenery of the Mohawk Valley that envelops Utica in a lush tapestry of green. The rolling hills, meandering Mohawk River, the historic Erie Canal, all contribute to the natural beauty that we sometimes don't take the time to notice and appreciate.

And, who can deny the ramshackle quality of Utica? In a way, it's what gives us the charm and uniqueness that communities like San Fran and P-town celebrate and use to their advantage. Nobody remembers Stuccoed strip malls and one Applebee's from another. Everyone remembers what we have-charming, slightly run down but none the less wonderful architecture and places in Utica.

And, dare I say, a place that celebrates and bestows celebrity status on "Rainbow," the corner guitar playing street performer, is a place that can boast an odd assortment of people! In a way, it's our best quality. It's what enables us to accept different people, cultures and lifestyles, and not only embrace them, but make them feel at home. Everyone who comes here almost immediately feels invested in the place. It quickly becomes their home, too.

As Mr. Faulk so eloquently stated, it could all go terribly wrong here in Utica, too. But, for some reason, it doesn't.

So, how does a city like Utica use it's strengths to turn itself around? Building on it's history, heritage, natural resources and great citizenry is a start. I will examine in future articles my vision for what Utica needs to do to become successful. Using the example of communities that get it, I will be able to eventually arrive at a plan of how to jumpstart future success.

It won't be easy. Nothing worth fighting for ever is. And, it won't come politically. It has to be grass roots. Elected officials have proven time and time again in our town that they just don't get it.

Well, there a lot of folks who do get it. Hopefully, some of them will make suggestions that can be included in my examination of the journey that we need to take-together-to save our hometown.

At the Tram, the wonderful coffee house on Lincoln Ave, owners Robin and Garret have an old book on the shelf. It's called, "What Utica Needs." Written in the 1960's, it examines the city in the context of what the conditions were then and what needed to be done to correct the mistakes that had been made.

It's a great read. Unfortunately, very few, if any, of the authors suggestions were listened to or acted on. The "power elite" at the time were as disconnected from reality as today's crop of politicos are.

It's time to turn it around. And, unlike the '60's, we have the power of the internet and social media to get our message out! What Utica needs is......a new direction!


  1. Bemnn dying to read "What Utica Needs!"