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Feedback 6/18 

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Development foes are obstructionists

Regarding potential investment and development at the Port of Rochester area ("The Urban Balancing Act," Urban Journal): Could it be that the "residents" identified in the article would wait another 50 years for actual redevelopment of this long-neglected section of the City of Rochester? This lakefront neighborhood should be a crown jewel of the entire city and county, rather than the private reserve of a few obstructionists.

Has anyone noticed that the expansive parking lots are largely empty for eight months of the year? Or that the so-called "character" of the area, especially along Lake Avenue, is rather dilapidated and devoid of people with a few notable exceptions like Mr. Dominic's?

And as for Towler's "worry" about the feasibility about condos in the proposed development, I would point out that the homes along Beach Avenue are not exactly subsidized housing. The expressed worry by Towler and some Charlotte residents, to me, is more of the inferiority complex shared by too many Rochester residents. And where was the outcry about the two high-rise, Soviet-style apartment buildings that already dominate the Charlotte skyline?

And I take exception with the concept of "residents vs. developer" that sets the tone of the article. Certainly, developers must be held to high standards. So must city government, which has often made serious blunders regarding redevelopment, such as the present construction of a marina, which is unneeded, and the realization of the Lake Ontario Resource Center, which is needed but has been neglected. And what about a serious effort to bring Great Lakes cruise ships into the port?

Enough is enough. Let's finally move forward to a year-round, vibrant, and attractive Port of Rochester. Sea gulls should not be the only predictable activity in the area!


Doing the math on the B + L building

"Never work for a company that's building a multi-story headquarter tower – a sign of outdated management" (paraphrase: Tom Peters, international business guru).

A tiny band of us argued this point and others as the City of Rochester gave away the money vault to "keep Bausch & Lomb" downtown and prevent them from (horror!) building their new headquarters building in the suburbs. Not a move to Georgia but a move to – gasp! – Perinton. Maybe.

And so the City:

• Condemned a perfectly good apartment building with 137 tenants;

• Bought and cleared the property and "helped transfer" (read: paid moving expenses) all tenants to new space, i.e. other apartments that the city heavily subsidized in part to make this deal happen;

• Bought and leveled a dry cleaners site that proved contaminated and required bushels of money to remediate, then helped "transfer" (as above) said dry cleaners to another site in the city;

• Agreed to build a new parking garage connected to B&L headquarters totally at taxpayer expense.

What else? A little digging will reveal a bunch more "incentives" – all on the taxpayers' checkbook. B&L used that building for maybe 18 years? I'm guessing (conservatively) that the city taxpayer subsidy amounted to more than $1 million per year.

So the building has just been sold for $15 million. Who gets to keep the money? And who gets to hold the empty bag? I'm sick of hearing the City and RDDC proclaim that "it's all good" when these deals usually stink to high heaven.

In what universe do such incentives work?


Dawson is former president of the now-defunct Coalition for Downtown.

A good idea for East High

Douglas Llewellyn's "A Model for a New East High" (Feedback) has merit. A K-12 community-school-based model is a chance to forge a new partnership that will benefit students and parents. If implemented properly, it could become a model for urban school reorganization throughout the district.

Hopefully, the leaders at the University of Rochester Warner School and the Rochester City School District will not waste this opportunity, simply changing schedules, modifying curriculum, and adjusting the length of the school day. The students, faculty, and parents at East High School deserve something more creative for the future. A K-12 community school is definitely a step in the right direction.

One area that Llewellyn did not touch upon was student diversity. As with many urban schools, East High School has become segregated by race and poverty. Did we not learn from Brown v. Board of Education, passed 60 years ago, that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal"? What we have at East High School is de facto segregation. Implementing a K-12 community school may be a way to restore racial balance.

So let me raise my voice for real change. Consider establishing a K-12 community school at East that reflects the multi-racial make-up of the City of Rochester: 42 percent white, 40 percent African American, 14 percent Hispanic, and 4 percent Asian, Native American, and other. A school where parents, students, teachers, and administrators would elect to become part of a community school for students in grades K-12.

The 500-500-500 plan that Llewellyn suggests for elementary, middle, and high school students has many benefits for all concerned. Much is said and written about the power of community; here is a chance to bring that power to life.


The advantages of banning the box

I agree with Jamie Dougherty's assessment of the limited impact banning the box might have on the "employment landscape" (Better Odds for Ex-offenders," News), but as someone who has worked in the employment and training field for 25 years, I say try it.

Such a ban should improve one's chances of obtaining the all-important interview, since no one gets hired without one – keeping in mind all the time that before you call sell yourself in person, you have to sell yourself on paper.

As someone who has been on both sides of the table – interviewer, interviewee – I'm sympathetic. HR staff and recruiters regularly confront the daunting task of reading and ranking numerous applications (and resumes and cover letters). Given the nature of this job, it's not surprising that they look for reasons to screen out, not in. A conviction, especially a recent one and especially a felony, is often one of those reasons.

Asking a stranger to provide such potentially damaging information raises the bigger question of how long any of us must be penalized for our mistakes. ("You can spend the entire second half of your life recovering from the mistakes of the first half," wrote Saul Bellow).

The older worker is at a disadvantage, too, by volunteering his or her age, which is also hard to avoid with the emergence of online applications. Once I show up live and in color for the interview, my age will be apparent, but at least now I have a chance to counteract bias, if there is one. My age, criminal history, or reason(s) why I left my last job will come out; I just want them to come out as late in the process as possible.

Inevitably, the hiring process is a mixture of the objective and the subjective. Most of us give a fuller, more nuanced picture of who we are, as a person and prospective employee, in person rather than on a "just the facts" application.

The interview provides context and gives the applicant a better opportunity to make his or case, which sometimes includes mitigating or putting in the best possible light poor decisions and bad luck.




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