As I mentioned previously on my old site, I spent my college years in Troy, NY. Troy is across the river and just to the north of the state capital of Albany. The Albany area...how do I put this nicely...like much of the Northeast, has had ... challenges? ... with urban blight over the past 30, 40 ... 50 years. I've always felt it's a region with so much history, character and potential, but for some reason, nothing seems to be going their way out there. But, like here in the Merrimack Valley, there is a can-do spirit out there. Their paper, The Times Union, appears to have a blog writer who covers urban issues as part of his real estate task.
So, I was Googling around today and by chance stumbled across an interesting blog post associated with the Times Union. The article was Poll result: Interstate 787 was a big mistake. The brief article, and many of the comments (this paper, unlike ours, seems to be written for and by a left-leaning populace*), discuss how the riverside interstate highway, much like Boston's old Central Artery, cut the city off from its waterfront. As someone who lived in the area for years and drove 787 plenty, it's worse than that even because it's underused. Worst traffic jam in Troy? Trying to head east out of the city on Route 7, where it went from four lanes to two, on its way to Troy's suburban grocery store and Wal-Mart (the closest grocery store to downtown Troy closed about 2002). Being ex-rural soon-to-be perfect suburbia out there, there were no real alternate routes. Back to Albany: Albany's population has fallen from 130,000 in 1950 to about 95,000 today. While I won't claim that 787 destroyed Albany (I don't think that's fair), it also didn't help it thrive at all.
In Lowell, we might lament the JFK Civic Center. Well, look what Albany did to itself in the 1960s (allegedly in response to redeveloping a blighted neighborhood): Empire State Plaza. That's right: tore down an entire neighborhood (about half the size of the North End) for an underground mall, a dead plaza, and some international-style concrete high-rises.
Take a look at an areal view of downtown Albany: note all the pavement, the expressways, how they cut the downtown in half and away from the river. Look at the Empire State Plaza mega-block, then notice all the vacant lots around downtown (this article on a site by a retired San Francisco urban planner, compares what's wrong with Albany with what's right with Portland, OR).
But, like I said, people out there, like people here, are getting it. Notice this anti-freeway letter to the editor: Don't Widen the Northway.
It is nice to see that, at least in some (sizable) circles, interest in re-urbanizing America. It's nice to see things like Speck's report here in Lowell, and the sentiments of preservation and human-scale living in places in much worse shape, like the Capital District around Albany. It's also always heartening to see how well Lowell does at this stuff in relation to other struggling cities in the United States.
* A left-leaning media source is going to favor "socialist" topics like urban planning, so why The Sun supports taxpayer-funded, subsidized things like the Hamilton Canal District and Speck's plan is beyond me to be quite honest.