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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

November 1, 2007

treats or tricks for Schenectady?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 7:56 pm

GE finally has good news for Old Dorp*: For several decades now, a GE press conference was a scary prospect for the people and economy of Schenectady, New York — with its workforce plummeting from over 40,000 to about 3000. Yesterday, GE Energy had a very big treat for the city that was General Electric’s birthplace and the company’s former corporate headquarters. As reported in “GE to add jobs in NY as energy product sales grow” (October 31, 2007):

“Changing course after years of eliminating jobs in New York, General Electric Co. announced Wednesday that the company is adding 500 new positions and investing more than $39 million in Schenectady.

“GE pledged to complete the new hiring by 2011. The new jobs will be in engineering support and will pay an average of $75,000 a year.”

“Helping GE to grow here, [are] $7.5 million in state and local incentives,” according to the AP report. (See also, CapitalNews9, GE to add 500 jobs in Schenectady,” Oct. 31, 2007) Therefore, every local and state politician who could conceivably claim credit was on stage with GE Energy Power Generation President Steve Bolze early on Halloween 2007. Schenectady Mayor Brian U. Stratton, who is facing re-election in less than a week, said:

“The most important thing is symbolically. You’re seeing a major investment and a strategic decision by GE to put this operation, which could have gone anywhere – to Atlanta, Florida, the south — and it’s coming right here.”

Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage (who has seen her popularity drop considerably, due to her highly-partisan, high-handed, noncollaborative form of leadership — and her relentless pursuit of sex offenders) touted: “That’s 500 houses that will be sold, that will add to our intellectual base in the Capital Region as well, to restaurants, to businesses, to Proctor’s, to all those different components in our community, this is a big win.” In a small City where the loss of tens of thousands of solidly-middle-class blue color jobs and upper-middle-class research, professional and management jobs, dimmed the lights in every social and economic corner, gaining 500 high-end jobs is a big morale booster — a good start toward turning on the lights again in The City that Lights the World. The fact that the jobs are in the “green” renewable energy sector is also a big plus.

st. patrick’s day
the foreman hands out
pink slips

no more a buddha
no less a buddha…

laid off
she asks the mall santa to
bring dad a job

………………………………. by ed markowski

In commentary on our local NPR station this afternoon, “Globalization and Schenectady” (Nov. 1, 2007), Robert Ward points out that “Those new jobs at GE are the type that represent American workers’ comparative advantage over workers elsewhere. But as Tom Friedman of the New York Times and other observers have pointed out, our advantage in educating engineers and other high-tech workers won’t last if we don’t work harder to keep it.” (They also help prove Friedman’s point that going green is good business.) Ward concludes with words worth repeating here:

“In the coming presidential campaign, we’ll hear more about globalization and very likely we’ll hear more about the potential risks than we hear about the likely rewards. During that debate, it’s worth keeping in mind the reality that globalization can be good for Schenectady, and for other cities like it around the country. But we can’t take that as a given. Globalization won’t necessarily be good for us, unless we keep our competitive edge in the type of high-skilled jobs they’re celebrating in Schenectady today.”

This is not a big enough treat to give us a tummy ache or threaten tooth decay. But it surely whets our appetite for more.

* “OLD DORP”? We explained the Schenectady sobriquet “Old Dorp” in a prior post: Probably because the name Schenectady is tough on headline writers, our City is often called “Dorp” or “Old Dorp,” from the Dutch word for village or hamlet. I just learned from Encarta, that “dorp” is especially used in South Africa to refer to a village “perceived as backward or unappealing.”

Upstate Dim Sum (2007/II) – A Biannual Anthology of Haiku and Senryu by the Route 9 Haiku Group

first light
dewdrops at each point
of the grape leaf

golden threads
on the kitchen floor
our neighbor’s gift of corn

early winter –
forgetting my gloves
at the pump

theatre entrance –
a broken branch
reattached with string

………………………………………… by Hilary Tann – from Update Dim Sum (2007/II)

TannTreeG You just got a sample (directly above) of another Schenectady treat that arrived at my home on Halloween — the newest edition of the Upstate Dim Sum (2007/II) haiku anthology. Not only is its editor Schenectady resident (and f/k/a Honored Guest and goombah friend) Yu Chang, but many of the poems inside are penned by his fellow Professor Hilary Tann of Union College, which is right down the road from my place, in the heart of Schenectady. Find out more about the Wales native and music composer in our “introducing Hilary Tann” (Dec. 5, 2005)

missing …
bright faces
on the supermarket door

summer drought
the shape of the rapids
in the river

………………………………….. by Hilary Tann – from Update Dim Sum (2007/II)


Little Italy, Schenectady, NY [original image here]

Schenectady’s Little Italy is Still a Trick, Not a Treat: I sure hope nobody headed over to Schenectady’s La Piccola Italia for Halloween 2007, dressed in Old-World costumes and hoping to meld into the ambiance of our “Italian Heritage District.” Schenectady’s Little Italy has been promoted by the county’s Metroplex development agency and local pols aplenty (plus one or two enterprising “businessmen”) for more than seven years. (Click for Metroplex’s Little Italy General Project Plan.) In May 2005, I attended the official dedication of the Little Italy “Gateway” on N. Jay Street in Schenectady (see “all punditry is local (today anyway)” and scroll down to “Chutzpah in Little Italy”), and wrote:

My skepticism over local efforts to create a Little Italy where none was apparent was covered here at f/k/a in March – “Schmittle Italy“. Nonetheless, I wanted to see if there’s been any progress — beyond the new $900,000 “streetscape” [sidwalks, bricks] and gateway monument. The politicians at the dedication thanked a lot of people and talked about our “tourist attraction,” but I saw nothing to brag about, even after walking both sides of the entire one-block Italian heritage district. It still has lots of boarded up windows [with unpainted plywood] and not one building that anyone I can think of would call charming. After five years of planning and effort, Schenectady’s Little Italy continues to consist of one restaurant (Cornell’s, lured there with a large development finance package), one bakery [Perreca’s], and one tiny spumoni/sandwich shop [Civitello’s].

  • Also, there’s the problem that the City of Troy has a real Little Italy (see Little Italy, comprising an entire intact, organically-grown, neighborhood, with restaurants, specialty shops, Italian markets, bocce courts, and great architecture within and nearby. It is only 14 miles away from Schenectady’s so-called Little Italy.

More than two years later, there are still no signs of progress — no reasons to believe that Schenectady’s Little Italy is worth a trip (not even from my home, half a mile away — except for Perreca’s toralle pepper sticks). Since the f/k/a Gang hates being alone in its pessimism (no matter how warranted), we were cheered recently to see the front-page article “Little Italy Area looks bigger on paper: Ambitious plan had lured only 3 Italian businesses,” in the Schenectady Daily Gazette (Oct. 21, 2007). We did, however, want to correct the headline — only one business has been lured to Little Italy, the other two have been there for over a century.

Indeed, despite being constantly filled with happily-stuffed customers, the Gazette reports that Cornell’s Restaurant — which was sweet-talked away from its successful location across town, by a finance package it could not refuse — is in great financial distress, due to an unmanageable debt load. Even worse, the restaurant owes the state over $150,000 in sales taxes arrears. (see “Cornell’s Restaurant works out plan to pay back taxes to state” (The Business Review [Albany, NY], Oct. 12, 2007)

So, no, it’s not an overdose of Halloween candy that has given me an advanced case of agita this evening, as I think about Metroplex and Little Italy. It’s the word’s of Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen, who told the Gazette that Little Italy is not a failed project.

They have branded the area and marketed the area,” he said.

Ray, Ray, Ray. Imagine that your branding and marketing has worked. Imagine that the brandee consumer or tourist goes out of his or her way and arrives at Schenectady’s Little Italy — perhaps bringing along an ancient Nana and Papa for a special outing. Now, imagine the inevitable disappointment and aggravation of discovering a Little Italy where there is No There There [An Italian translation of that phrase would be much appreciated.] Will they ever return to Schenectady’s Little Italy? Will they ever again believe any hype coming from Metroplex, or the City or County Tourist Offices, and our Chamber of Commerce? Or, will they curse (and maybe spit upon) the day they heard of La Piccola Italia and walked its million-dollar bricks — and then drive 14 miles to a real Little Italy in Troy? Trick me once. . . . .

And, Ray, don’t even get me started on how insulting it is that you and the other drum-beaters (who either get paid to tout Metroplex projects, or hope to get votes or riches from them), want people to believe that the dreary little block-long “district” you’ve created by fiat and with labels embodies the cultural heritage of my Italian ancestors.

Even old curmudgeons who never studied Urban Development 101, know that you need to listen to the common-sense wisdom of people like City Council member Barbara Blanchard, former president of the Schenectady Heritage Foundation, who diplomatically told the Gazette that the Little Italy idea faced challenges from the start.

“The most successful places exist organically, and they become popular because they are loaded with services and products that come from that culture already. It is hard to impose that on a place,” she said. “In Schenectady, Italian is not unique — there is so much of it. There are lots of good Italian restaurants and Cornell’s is one of them, but it is one of many.”

A Little Italy concept requires more than restaurants to succeed, Blanchard said: “It is a plus, but it does not make Little Italy the one special place to go for Italian.”

Our so-called Little Italy didn’t even have a restaurant when the idea was embraced by Metroplex. Now, it has a restaurant that just might fold, absent the “investment” of some serious cash by Metroplex to bale it out. Please, Mr. Gillen, cut your/our losses. And, cut the b.s. about the rosy future of Schenectady’s La Piccola Italia once surrounding project come to full fruition. It’s okay to say you made a big mistake. If you can find a translator in Little Italy, try saying in it Italian, too.

p.s. Maybe I’m being too negative about the progress and prospects of our La Piccola Italia. A new business did recently open just a few feet up South Street from the Little Italy strip. It advertises itself as being “in Schenectady’s Little Italy,” and it was touted in the literature for The Little Italy 2nd Annual Street Fest (held September 8, 2007):

“Kids and adults alike will enjoy the tiny hotdogs from Little Italy’s newest restaurant, ‘Dinky Dogs’.”

The establishment’s star attraction, The Dinky Dog, comes with “the works”, which “means meat sauce, mustard & onions.” The menu at this table-less “restaurant” also includes Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, Sausage Burgers (Sindoni Sausage), Chicken Wings, Boneless Wings, French Fries, and Onion Rings. That creaking sound I hear must be my little old Southern Italian grandparents rising from their graves and rushing over for some Dinky Dog delights. ‘”ay, itsa justa like da olda country!”

under nana’s afghan –
dreaming homemade
bread and meatballs

…………………………………. by dagosan [Nov 30, 2004]

1 Comment

  1. David, Great review of Schenectady’s Little Italy section. I went there once and drove the area several times looking for it. I apparently found it and did not realize it.
    Sorry, but my feeble mind does not allow me to understand Haiku. That’s another conversation we will have at some point in the future!!!

    Comment by Rene — November 2, 2007 @ 9:30 am

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