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Create a new public square
With the city administration's selection of the performing arts center for Parcel 5, attention must be paid to creation of a public square for downtown. The Gallina proposal retained a substantial open space on the interior of the Midtown redevelopment block, but if the theater proposal goes ahead, that won't happen.
A very vocal and substantial number of city residents believe a public square should be a high priority. Here are two alternative options:
1) The existing linear park from the rear of Parcel 5 to South Clinton Avenue.
This is an incredibly boring and empty, wind-swept space as built. If the new streets flanking Parcel 5 and the existing and proposed buildings facing this linear park to South Clinton had coffee shops and specialty retail adjoining, it could become an exciting public square, and one of appropriate size for Rochester. (Just big enough to appear crowded.)
Not being on Main Street could be an advantage: An approach along narrow streets with sidewalk-fronting retail and coffee shops could be more inviting than Main Street.
2) Martin Luther King Park (née Manhattan Square Park).
Saturday, April 22, saw nearly a thousand Rochesterians assemble for a rally to celebrate the importance of science. This space is a stone's throw from the heart of downtown. It needs refreshing to relieve the cold feel of the new brutalist design.
The recently redone green parts of the park and playground and skating rink work wonderfully. The original design created excitement with water features and light. These need to be reintroduced. The restaurant space has been vacant for years. Surely, with the current attention to developing culinary entrepreneurs, this space could again enhance the experience of hanging out at this public square.
Rosen is a Rochester architect.
James Norman's perspectives
On our "Perspectives" interview with Action for a Better Community CEO James Norman: Somber, indeed; a reasonable response to such intractable problems as poverty and racism and the ambivalence of those with the power to affect change.
Why, despite reams of virtue-signaling rhetoric, is there little progress on these issues? I believe the answer lies within the two obvious factors not mentioned in this, and most, discussions: class divisions and wealth concentration.
There can be no great wealth without dire poverty. The one begets the other, and inflicts violence, suffering, and early death on some, depression and struggle on others. A society that allows billionaires to exist is a system that will sustain that violence, whatever remediation we might attempt.
And a key to upholding that system is to replace class – the awareness of shared circumstances that leads to unity and common efforts for change – with racism, which keeps wealth safely insulated while the oppressed battle each other. No amount of charity will make up for this institutionalized brutality – nor is it meant to.
Consider this: Would the broad social and economic advances of the 1960's have happened, particularly in that much less socially enlightened time, if it hadn't been for the prosperity that so much of the middle- and working-classes were then enjoying?
The wealthy then were still God-awful rich, but the concentration of wealth was nothing like it is today, when the asset-stripping of most of our population and communities is official policy, enforced by both parties.
The remarkable thing is that, in the face of this cruelty, many people still wish for a more equitable America. But those wishes are idle until we confront the structural realities that impose poverty and make most of us – former middle-class as well as traditional under-class – redundant and unnecessary.
We so admire this man and his work to combat poverty but feel he's just paddling upstream. To us, his quote early in the article, "In poor households the majority are headed by single adults – woman-headed households," says it all. And this fact is not new.
And then there's your article on ACT's latest report card. "Seventy-three percent of families in the City of Rochester are headed by single parents." Again, this fact is not new. As ACT's Tom Argust says: "We're treading water."
Family-planning education to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies and single-parent homes is one of the obvious answers, but nobody wants to talk about it.
We believe that every child has a right to be wanted and to expect to have parents who are emotionally and financially prepared to nurture and educate that child through adulthood. Many of the problems related to poverty that Mr. Norman and ACT are confronted with are the result of failure before child-bearing even occurs. The resulting consequences are what ABC, ACT, and we as a society are left to deal with.
Let's go back and start at the beginning: family planning and education of teens and young adults should be a primary focus.
PETER AND BETSY WEBSTER