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City's plan for aqueduct is flawed

As part of ROC the Riverway, the City of Rochester is about to embark on a design for the Broad Street aqueduct bridge, undoubtedly the most important historic structure remaining in our Central Business District. Broad Street Underground (BSU), a non-profit citizen advocacy group formed to preserve the aqueduct, is 100 percent behind this transforming project. However, we have a concern about its implementation.

Based on statements by the city administration, we believe the city is about to undertake a flawed design. It will be based on old land-use data, and all design alternatives assume that the upper deck of the aqueduct will be removed. Such an assumption can only lead to unnecessary community controversy, whereas a thorough appraisal of all alternatives both with and without the deck can truly help the community make an informed decision. The community deserves to know the pros and cons of many designs, not just those of a narrow pre-selected set of alternatives.

With only deck-removal design alternatives, the aqueduct design will be based on the old 2012 Broad Street Corridor Master Plan. Many major development projects have occurred since then: the Midtown developments, ESL headquarters, the transit center, the River Edge housing, the Terminal Building, the Inner Loop development, and others. The aqueduct alternative analysis needs to consider these new land-use patterns.

The new analysis should also include evaluation criteria not previously considered. Private-sector involvement and investment; preservation of the space for future generations; use of historic tax credits; public maintenance costs; transit and auto traffic flow; preservation of all three of our transportation heritages — canal, subway, and auto and bus; availability of an enclosed connection across the river, and other such criteria should be included.

Who knows? Maybe the community will still select an alternative design with the bridge deck removed. But why bias the proposed design alternatives and cast doubt on the design recommendations?

BSU strongly encourages the mayor, if not the governor, to require city staff to conduct an appraisal of all alternatives for the aqueduct with new design evaluation criteria, new land-use data, and new citizen input. The entire Rochester community deserves this responsive approach.

Like the old Doublemint gum commercial, BSU believes keeping the Broad Street deck will double the pleasure and double the fun of the aqueduct project by developing both inside and on top of the aqueduct. Help Save Broad Street and the historic space below for future generations by contacting BSU at Childsarchitectandbsu@gmail.com.


Thomas is a member of BSU Aqueduct Transformation, Inc.

We should heed Yang's warning

Folks in the Rochester area should already know what it's like to see technology displace thousands of workers. Prime examples are Kodak and Xerox. Taxes didn't kill these industries, technology did. As a result, small business all over the city have closed over the years or require less workforce.

Democratic candidate Andrew Yang is warning us about the fourth industrial revolution, and we should take heed. We already see stores closing in our malls and plazas. We all know why: Amazon. Automation is sucking up thousands of jobs and millions of dollars right here in Rochester. Amazon's warehouses are wall to wall robots and one "clerk," the internet, that has replaced thousands of workers. The company is developing autonomous delivery systems, spending hundreds of millions on the technology. We already see one clerk for 12 self-checkouts at Walmart, and that is beginning integrated into our restaurants.

Looming on the near horizon, automation and AI will displace millions of workers in our most common jobs. The call-center workers, temp workers, fast food workers, truck-bus-pizza-Uber-Lyft-taxi drivers; even the radiologist, paralegal, surgeon, and law enforcement officer: all are threatened, literally. Google any position followed by "automation" or "AI."

Yes, new jobs and fields will be created, and certain fields, such as those requiring mechanical skills, are not as threatened. However, people with high student loan debts and many displaced workers will be unable to recover. And in any disaster, the poor and minority communities are often hurt the worst and never recover.

We have a chance to get ahead of it. If a candidate can get Whoopi Goldberg and conservative talking head Ben Sharpio to agree, image what he can do about the tribalism and divide that we currently have in this country.

So what are we going to do? Do we stop the innovation or embrace it? Yang is making the case that we need to redefine what we see as "work," because frankly there will be less available. Isn't the parent raising a child at home "work"? Or the Little League coach? Or the musician or artist? Isn't adding cultural value "work"?

The last industrial revolution led to mass despair, deaths, violent protest, and eventually labor unions and a national holiday, Labor Day. Technology needs to work for the benefit of our society, not harm it. In a $20 trillion economy, we can afford universal basic income. (Yang's plan for a VAT doesn't even touch that.)

We have the opportunity to overcome partisanship before we have mass chaos. Let's put humanity first instead of profits. Some say anyone working 40 hours a week shouldn't live in poverty. Yang is saying in a country as rich as ours, no one should live in poverty.