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Poor transit stifles Rochester

Recent articles highlighted Rochester's dependency on parking and illustrated how our overreliance on parking limits downtown development. This in turn limits how many jobs can be located in the city, and many people are beginning to make the connections between the location of jobs, access to jobs, and our debilitating poverty problem.

Downtown Rochester had more offices and employment when a good transit system allowed people to access downtown without land-devouring parking. Over the last few decades, we have focused almost entirely on parking instead of public transit. The result is that downtown can no longer support the density that it once had. And to make matters worse, parking lots and parking garages have thinned downtown's vitality further by creating dead zones between buildings.

Where jobs are located matters enormously, and our discussion about poverty is not giving nearly enough attention to the issues of proximity to jobs and access to jobs. We have lost thousands of jobs in the city, not just at Kodak, but at many other office and industrial locations, too. While some of this job loss has been partially replaced by jobs in dispersed outer suburban locations, transit cannot economically serve those locations.

Our first new major manufacturer in the region (1366 Technologies, which will be located on the western edge of Genesee County) will be located well outside of the reach of transit, while ample industrial space in our region's core lies vacant. The result of these vacancies is that far fewer jobs are now accessible to those who need them the most. A recent study by the Brookings Institution shows that only 10.4 percent of Rochester's jobs are reachable via transit within 45 minutes.

We need to locate more jobs in the center city if we are to make real progress on poverty and grow the city's tax base. We need major improvements in transit in order to enable city job growth and to provide access to those jobs. Cities such as Tucson (which is smaller and less dense than Rochester) are successfully doing exactly that, and it is imperative that we learn from their examples.


Lawmakers ignore dangers of lawn chemicals

While lawmakers pay attention to products like triclosan (News blog, April 27), they have largely overlooked the threat to human health and the environment posed by lawn care chemicals.

The chemical lawn care industry is contaminating our drinking water, destroying the environment, and killing our pets, our children, and us.

Numerous studies link lawn care chemicals to breast, lung, prostate, brain and pancreatic cancer, as well as Parkinson's disease, Hodgkin's disease, stillbirth, and birth defects.

A study in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine found that children whose lawns are chemically treated have 6.5 times greater risk of leukemia than children living in untreated homes. Another study found that dogs have a higher risk of canine malignant lymphoma after a lawn has been chemically treated.

Exploiting a lack of regulation, companies have aggressively cultivated a consumer friendly image, while at the same time continuing to use chemicals that are illegal in other countries.

These chemicals contaminate groundwater and can drift up to a mile, becoming absorbed through skin, mouth, nose, and eyes, and are easily tracked into the home, providing countless opportunities for recontamination.

A study of 120 homes where elevated incidences of breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers were reported found high indoor concentrations of popular lawn chemicals, long after lawns had been treated.

Although New York legislators finally acknowledged the threat to children in 2011 by banning the use of lawn chemicals in and around schools and daycare centers, lawmakers have spent the past five years in a silent denial while the chemical lawn care industry continues to wreak havoc on our households, our bodies, and our environment.

Today, it's a rare sight to see a lawn that isn't chemically "treated" by a lawn care company. From strip malls to home properties, those little yellow flags are conspicuous reminders.


The challenge of public art

Lost in the discussion about the removal of art from Greater Rochester International Airport ("Bland Landing," May 25) is the tricky question about public art. While I certainly have problems with Tom Cook's dismissive tone in 1991, it is nonetheless true that much of the general public is either indifferent or outright hostile to some of the art in public spaces, and that these attitudes are not necessarily notorious "anti-art stances," as Legislator Irene Gossin was then so quick to brand Cook's.

When the Vietnam memorial by artist Maya Lin was planned, negative reaction was swift. Some saw it as a "black gash of shame" or as a nihilistic slab. The planners quickly added a representational sculpture of three servicemen by Frederick Hart, yet the public got Maya Lin's elegant wall, responded to the roll call of chiseled names upon it, and largely ignored the traditional figural piece.

Getting it right is a challenge, and viewing art can be as well. But there needs to be some way for the public to reasonably access the piece. I really believe that we are all wired on some level to respond to form, symmetry, color, mass, weight, and whimsy. And, I might add, I never like art that is political and polarizing and little else.

That said, I love the Midtown Clock of Nations, preposterous and pastel and maybe not politically correct. I am cheered to see it in its second life and would argue that it holds a place as a legitimate work of art, albeit of its time. I felt the same way about the Brian Shapiro mural "Views from the Sister Cities Bridge."

But notions that we need art at the airport to serve as an advertisement of the region's rich culture of working artists strike me as wrongheaded, too. Why not let good art speak for itself? And please leave the Midtown clock (at least until baby boomers no longer travel).


Bring back airport art

I am a frequent traveler and was overjoyed when our airport featured spectacular sculpture and other art from our area. I loved seeing it as I was departing and coming home.

I was, on the other hand, greatly distressed when so many pieces were removed over time, to be replaced by business messages and almost useless work spaces. Our airport is indeed way behind; cold and bland walls and spaces have been given over to crass competition for attention by local institutions that pay for the privilege of being in your face. The Frontier business space is almost always empty when I go to my gate.

The airports that display fabulous art stand out in my travel memory. The art tells me something about what those places value and what travelers should remember about those places, even if people are just passing through. Examples include the changing art exhibits at the Philadelphia airport, the fine sweet grass craft displays in Charleston, and so many more. Even when I arrived at the small airport at Roanoke, I felt immediately welcomed by the Paley sculpture sitting outside the front entrance.

Where is the fabulous art of our area: the displays of the deep and important history of women's and African-Americans' rights that mark us as unique in American history? And what about the nearby Finger Lakes, which provide us with so much regional beauty?

We are so much more than our business enterprises. Get over the politics and put us back on the map of memory for those who live or travel here.


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