DiNiro, Jolie and Damon in the Adirondacks

Two summers ago, when I was working at Great Camp Sagamore as a tour guide, we were privileged to be the site of the filming of a major motion picture, The Good Shepherd. The Camp, in fact the entire Central Adirondacks, were abuzz for some time before hand with discussion—despite attempts at secrecy. I thought that now the film has come out, it would be a perfect time to relate reminiscences of my glimpse behind the scenes.

About a week before the filming began, a number of what appeared to be semi trucks arrived. The teamsters began to set up equipment, especially their trucks, which turned out to be massive portable generators and a set of huge cranes. They also constructed large floating platforms that the cameras would eventually be placed on.

The night before the filming, a massive caravan arrived around 3am: tech squads, sets, equipment, actors, costumes, makeup, directors, food (called ‘craft services’) and who knows what else. Dozens upon dozens of all types of vehicles.

Having acted a bit on the stage, I think for me the most distinctive features of film acting is the fact that it is incredibly boring. The same scene is repeated 10, 20, 40, 50 times, each time with cameras at a slightly different angle, or with tiny modifications to the lens or acting style. Just outside of the camera lens are dozens of people, holding equipment, clipboards, food, or simply watching. Anyone can watch, sometimes from only a few feet away, so long as they don’t get in the shot or make a noise. The entire camp remained absolutely silent during filming—numerous directoral assistants with headphones were positioned around the set to maintain the absolute quiet. It was a world away from the week before, when we housed a children’s camp.

Filming went on throughout the day and night—not continuously but staggered throughout, with preparations for a shot going on when filming wasn’t. Lights on the cranes could transform night into day; large (10-15 m) screens carried by crews of men could transform midday into twilight.

Now, the food at Sagamore is generally delicious, however, any chef becomes a bit tiresome after four or five months. I think that, after the initial excitement wore off, perhaps the best part of the experience was the food. Simply put, movie stars eat well. Not just the stars, but everyone. Three meals a day were served under a huge tent, with perhaps the longest buffet line I’ve ever seen. All gourmet. Not only that but a snack-shack, similar to ones that serve fried dough at the state fair, was open 24 hours a day.

Of course, I’ve drawn you in with stars in the title of this post, but I haven’t mentioned them yet. The film is directed by DiNiro and he was a regular presence about the set, biking from one end of the camp to the other at all hours. The other big names that were around—note I haven’t spoken to any of them—were Angelina Jolie, Matt Damon and William Hurt. Of Angelina and Matt, we saw little: when not actually in filming, they were found up in their trailers. When a shot began, a black Lincoln Navigator would drive up and pick up the star in the shot, it would drive them the approximately 400 meters to the shot and idle the entire time they were filmed. If Angelina and Matt were in a shot together, there would be two Navigators waiting side-by-side to take them to side-by-side trailers. William Hurt, on the other hand, walked back and forth, socialized with us common folk and ate under the big tent with all of us.

It was in all a strange week, a mixture of tedium and silence with the strange and wonderful. You can see Sagamore, and a few famous names, starring in the Good Shepherd today. You’ll recognize the Main Lodge in the background of a large party shot, I’m told the one where Angelina and Matt meet each other for the first time (I haven’t seen it yet myself, though I will soon).



Dealing with the dark

I've been thinking lately about the release of Dave Gilmartin's book "The Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America," with proclaims Syracuse to be "the crown jewel of that impressive collection of horrible midsize cities known as Western New York." The indignant response not only from Syracusians (check out Sean Kirst's column) but, as I can see it pretty much every city in the book. The situation reminds me of one of the more tragic scenes from Michael Moore's first (and perhaps finest) film: Roger and Me.

In that film, the local elite of Flint, Michigan- a city spiraling into a hellish implosion after GM pulls out all its factories- spend the afternoon burning piles of magazines (I think it's time) after it names Flint as the worst city in America. Throughout the film, these local boosters repeatedly put on a sunny face and proclaim that all the problems will soon be solved.

Now I'm not saying that Syracuse is akin to Flint in those dark days. In fact, I largely agree with Kirst that I find Syracuse and, in fact many of those "horrible midsized cities known as Western New York" to be fine places to make a life. Gilmartin goes to a bit of the extreme when he declares it to be one of the "dirtiest, smelliest, most miserable cesspools and armpits of this great land of ours" (that's a quote from his website). I'm surprised that he was shocked to have offended anyone. That said, he did apologize for the offense.

At the same time, Gilmartin does have a point. What is a community, like Syracuse or Buffalo or Elmira or Binghamton do when so much is lined up against it? What with snow/grey weather, unemployment, pollution, etc? I will say this much--denying that we have a problem and attacking the messenger won't solve the problem.

So let me bring up an example of ingenuity making a difference. Many people cite weather as an insurmountable problem, "there's simply nothing we can do about it" they announce. It's certainly true that we get more of our fair share of bad weather but I think we cannot hold a candle to Anchorage, Alaska. Average winter temperature are from 5-30 degrees and they have rainy, cool, short summers plagued with horrific mosquitoes. Granted, Syracusians will say "ok, that's not too bad," but the real problem is the fact that in the winter, they only 27% of the sunlight that us in southerly climes enjoy. People who work indoors go weeks in the winter without seeing daylight. This leads to seasonal depression, suicide and other social problems. Let's not forget that Anchorage is a city cursed with ugly '70s architecture, which probably doesn't help matters.

So what is a city to do? Anchorage shows us that its all about attitude. Dubbing itself the "City of Lights," they have come up with a unique response:
'City of Lights' is a community-wide program Started by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce in approximately 1983. Mayor Rick Mystrom helped get the program going with his enthusiasm. This is completely a volunteer effort to help brighten the long, dark days of the city, giving the city almost a magical look. Some say that Anchorage is one of the most beautiful winter cities in the world. Thousands of citizens and businesses alike join in the “City of Lights” programs by placing miniature white lights as a decoration around home, trees and many other objects throughout the city.

According to the Official Homepage, the city has a big festival to start up the lights on October 27th and that individuals donate money in order to buy lights for public places and those who can't afford them. There are competitions for the best lit businesses, neighborhoods and homes.

Do I think attitude changes everything? No, that's a bit too optimistic... you also need a whole bunch of lights. But I also think that rejecting the messenger of coming doom and gloom does nothing to change the accuracy of his prophecy. We need to take what's good about our communities (not just Syracuse but all of them), mix in healthy doses of creativity and energy and see what comes out. Even winter doesn't have to hold us back

-By Jesse


Under Construction

Hello, fellow York Staters! We're switching over to the new Blogger (formerly Blogger beta) so you may notice some changes in the next several days. -N


Adirondack Great Camp: The Santanoni Preserve

Editor's Note: This is the second of two posts submitted by Stef, the erstwhile author of the now-defunct Excelsior! Ever Upstate blog. Thanks go to her for donating her informative posts on the Third Onondaga County Courthouse and this one on Adirondack great camp Santanoni.

During the summer between your first and second years as a historic preservation grad student at Cornell, it is highly suggested that you take on an internship with a preservation-related organization. I landed a dream-come-true sort of position with Adirondack Architectural Heritage last summer (2005), living in the Gate House of and working at the Santanoni Preserve in Newcomb, NY.

Here is a bit of a blurb about Newcomb from my final report to AARCH:
If you aren't familiar with the Adirondacks, the town of Newcomb may come as a bit of a shock to you. As a native Upstater, I was well aware of the sort of hidden nature of Newcomb. There is no gas station, no supermarket, no discotheque, no hipster coffee shop, no sushi. What you will find in Newcomb is a town with no real business center, instead, it is stretched for a few miles down 28N. You can get ice cream and snacky-type food at Scoops and pick up yours and Santanoni's mail right next door. You will thrill at Bissell's store, but do not plan on doing all of your shopping there. Most of your grocery shopping will probably be done at the North Creek Tops (and you will find a shopper's club key tag in the desk drawer), with an occasional run to the Long Lake Stewart's or their small grocery. There is also a diner/general store just a short ways down the road from the Camp entrance as well as the Newcomb House across the street from the entrance if you are in need of libations.

So, I think I am making the point that there is very little in Newcomb. That, of course, is why spending the summer in Newcomb is so special. You will have managed to hide yourself away in a tucked-away little town and then go even further back into the woods, to a place that, while it has the story of a blockbuster movie, is still a secret to many.

Usually, AARCH has at least two interns working at the Preserve every summer, providing interpretation to visitors and working with the master timber framer and his crew on rehabilitation and conservation projects. However, due to a number of circumstances, I was the lone soul in 2005. In some ways, I wish there had been at least one other intern with me so that I could have learned from them and we could have certainly gotten more things done. However, I feel that I had a unique experience that I wouldn't trade away.

As I mentioned, the Preserve has an amazing history. It was built for Robert Pruyn, a prominent Albany banker, and his wife, Anna, to provide their family with one of the rustic getaways that were eventually dubbed the "Great Camps" of the Adirondacks. Santanoni was one of the first, with its construction taking place around the same time as the creation of the Adirondack Park in the early 1890s. The history of the Pruyn family's time at the camp is fascinating enough, as you trace their story from the era of Victorian elegance through to the extended family continuing to visit the camp in the more utilitarian post-war 1950s. The Japanese influence of the camp's design as well as the innovations in wilderness farming are enough to satisfy a historian's appetite.

Santanoni also has another more tragic chapter, though. The Pruyn descendants eventually sold the camp in the early 1950s to the Melvin family of Syracuse, also prominent business leaders. The Melvins enjoyed the camp until 1971, when one of the grandchildren, a boy named Douglas Legg, went missing and was never found. There are many rumors and speculation surrounding his disappearance, some completely ridiculous (stolen by band of roaming hippies), some cruel ones involving the boy's mental state and his uncle, and some plausible. I was lucky enough to speak with one of the New York State Troopers who handled the case and he related a story which I believe is the most likely of all the scenarios, involving the boy making his way over to the other side of Newcomb Lake and, due to heavy brush, disappearing from the sight of searchers. The state police were contacted by a former soldier in the 1990s who told them of a hunting trip he had been on in the late 1970s. He and a friend thought they may have come upon the boy's body, but were not aware of the story at the time and it was only when the camp came back into the news due to AARCH's efforts that they learned about Douglas Legg. Another search took place, but no evidence was found. The thing I find frustrating about the more salacious stories is that I don't think many people realize just how disorienting and difficult the terrain can be in the area. Just north of Newcomb is the High Peaks area and we've all heard about adults getting lost in there.

Truly, though, it is a tragic story and also led to the deterioration of the site as the Melvins sold the camp and it eventually ended up in the hands of the state. And so began the delicate balancing of caring for a historic site and managing a wilderness landscape.

I could go on for many more pixels about my time at Santanoni (and maybe I will in future posts), but for the moment, I strongly urge anyone with an interest in the Adirondacks, wilderness, architecture and/or preservation to visit the Santanoni Preserve. It is a truly unique site, a National Historic Landmark, and a place that needs much support right now as it finds its new identity (which is, indeed, a topic I should come back to). I am more than willing to answer any questions you might have about visiting, or you can contact AARCH for more information. Another great resource is the book Santanoni: From Japanese Temple to Life at an Adirondack Great Camp by Robert Engel (the first Santanoni intern), Howard Kirshenbaum, and Paul Malo.

(FYI - If you've read the York Staters at all, you probably know that Natalie and Jesse both worked at Sagamore, another Great Camp located in Raquette Lake [two Sagamore-ites did come visit Santanoni while I was there, I don't recall their names though]. I recommend taking a trip next summer to both camps to compare and contrast their stories.)

By Stef


Hemlock & Canadice: The Last Two Undeveloped Finger Lakes Face Possible Development

Reporting directly from Hemlock, New York - The Finger Lakes Region
By Phaedo from the Land of Whiskey and Pumpkin Pie
December 17, 2006

“Recent developments make an all-encompassing crisis plain to see. Society could scarcely be more bizarrely unhealthy, but is getting even more so all the time.” -John Zerzan, How Ruinous Does It Have To Get?

This mourning I woke up and I happily sleepy eyed looked out the window upon Conesus Lake. It was lovely with some whips of fog rising slowly over the waters. Later I traversed back to Hemlock and was a bit surprised to find an article about Hemlock and Canadice Lake on the front page of the Democrat and Chronicle - a popular Rochester newspaper. I was a bit shocked by what I found in the article and after thinking about it for a while, I’ve decided to write this article.

For the past 23 years I have lived in Hemlock - perhaps I will still live here in the future. The surrounding environment is absolutely stunning and it makes for an experience to not soon be forgotten. Within an average 10 minute drive (or better yet timeless bike ride!) from my residence I can access four different Finger Lakes - Hemlock, Canadice, Conesus, and Honeoye. Honeoye and Conesus Lake have private property landowners along there shores, but Canadice and Hemlock Lake are both undeveloped and instead owned by the city of Rochester. For the most part these two lakes are open to the public. Venturing down to Hemlock or Canadice makes for some pretty rugged wild adventures into the woods where the bears hibernate and the bald eagles soar. Sometimes late at night I can hear the coyotes howling at the moon. The two lakes are magical spots that have magnificent ancient histories surrounding them, including but not limited to being one of the largest tracts of old growth forest in North Eastern America, located along the shores of Hemlock Lake. Some of the trees along Hemlock Lake date back 400 to 500 years (and possibly more, thus making it one of the largest and most unique old growth forests in all of North Eastern America. Trees that existed long before the foundation of the United States of America and what came to be known as Hemlock.

Among the magik; 15 years ago the only place to find a nesting pair of bald eagles in New York State was in these old growth forests at Hemlock Lake. With this protection the birds were able to survive and now one is able to find many more nesting bald eagles in the area. I’ve been lucky enough to witness these giant birds of prey swoop down over my head as I watched in awe. This is only one of the great things that has happened and is currently happening in and around the Hemlock and Canadice region.

The two lakes have some strict regulations surrounding them legally. For instance, certain areas of the two lakes have restricted access, permitting no one except the city of Rochester. You are also not allowed to take a boat over 16' feet in length; canoes 17' feet in length or boat motors that exceed 10 horsepower. Some more laws include not being able to swim in the lakes, even though it is extremely tempting on those lovely summer days. A little tip, if you want to go swimming on those hot summer days or just do some polar bear club during the middle of winter, it would be best to go to where the swimming is allowed - such as Reynolds Gull. Lower Reynolds Gull is also owned by the city of Rochester and is public property, where swimming is allowed in the cool waters that rush down the three enormous waterfalls. Unfortunately, the three waterfalls are all on private land and access is only allowed by permission from theowner, but you can still take a dip in the refreshing waters that help fill Hemlock Lake by visiting the smaller pools and falls of lower Reynolds Gull.

Hopefully, I’m drawing a clear enough picture for you to realize how important these two places are to our civilization. Hemlock and Canadice are two Upstate, New York towns that hold part of the key to our collective future. Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake should remain forever wild and the surrounding community should be able to directly participate in the decisions that most effect their lives, such as the preservation of this eco-system in their backyard. The old growth forest should remain and no one should be allowed to profit from these natural resources that we are so welcome to have in our back yard. We need to support our local communities and realize how important the wilderness is, along with rural towns and the part they play. The Finger Lakes region of Upstate, NY along with the Great Lakes make for one of the highest, if not the highest concentrations of fresh water in the entire world and we need to protect these natural resources from further development along with promoting a more sustainable lifestyle. Otherwise, I hate to say it, but we are really in trouble as a civilization; for I believe that we need to make drastic changes in order to have a sustainable future on this planet.

In The Forest Beyond the Field: The Consequences of Domestication
by Kevin Tucker it states that:
Its gets harder and harder to imagine a world different from the one we are born an raised into. It gets harder to imagine that the way people interact now is not how humans have always been. So we give in. We accept this reality as our only reality. We accept that humans have a natural inclination to take action at the expense of each other and at the expense of the world at large. We try to make the best of our time and that is that. Some of us turn to god, some turn to politics, some turn to sedatives (electronic or chemical); we turn anywhere that we can find some break from the dry, inhuman condition that drowns us.
Let us get back to our roots. Let us get back to our roots. As I mentioned at the beginning, the Democrat and Chronicle published an article today about Hemlock and Canadice Lake on the front page of the Sunday edition. I’m pleased to see the attention given to this dire issue and I also thought that it was a very informative, well written article. Although, one critique I have of the article is that the authors either forgot or didn’t bother to mention anything about the old growth forest on Hemlock Lake in their notes about the area. To have not mentioned this large tract of land that could be worth millions and millions of dollars to loggers and instead resort to solely mentioning that private interests are indeed interested in the area seemed a bit light. I’m no insider, but I think that one of the main interest groups in the development of Hemlock, may actually be the logging companies that could stand to profit millions of dollars. Unfortunately, the history of Hemlock, a name that was given to the town due to the large amount of logging that took place there, may repeat itself, in a vicious cycle. From the very foundation of the United States of America, a war has been waged upon Hemlock. This can be seen from the fact that George Washington, the beloved first President of the United States ordered the attack of the native population of the area by giving permission to General Sullivan to go on the offensive.

The 1779 Sullivan Campaign emerged as one of the larger of the Continental Army's offensives during the American Revolution, yet remains relatively unknown. It was an act of reprisal to break the Iroquois Confederation, a Native American political and military alliance that included the Seneca, Cayuga, Mohawk, Onondaga, 0neida, and Tuscarora tribes. The Iroquois, with the exception of the Oneida and Tuscarora, openly sided with Great Britain to protect their homelands.

Sullivan’s Campaign marched right through what is now known as Hemlock, with some solider’s supposedly burying great treasure amongst the hills of Hemlock. Skipping over the last 300 years or so, we go into a fast forward motion to the present, where we hear from the Democrat and Chronicle that “the Monroe County Water Authority and the city of Rochester, are about to begin discussions that could lead to a radical restructuring” which could lead to a possible ownership change for Hemlock and Canadice Lake. Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy wants to permanently preserve the land which encompasses the two lakes, but has also not ruled out the possibility of development. Rumors are also around that some folks would like to develop the land and although the specific groups are not mentioned in the article it seems that one of the prime prospects for making a profit off of Hemlock Lake could come from logging companies. Logging of the trees surrounding Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake should stop immediately and measures should be taken at all costs, in order to preserve the two areas from further encroachment and destruction.

It has been stated that years ago, the city of Rochester made $5 to $7 million dollars a year in profits from the water system. This money was later stated to be pumped back into the city of Rochester and its surrounding projects. I’m unaware of the exact details, but it seems like Hemlock and Canadice have been excluded from a share of the profits, even though they are the main sources of the resource, these towns have not seen their fair share of mutual aid. This is not to say that Hemlock and Canadice should be developed industrially, but that there are more positive community projects to put the money towards that could change the situation, by even the smallest donation. Coming from someone outside the government, it seems like this is just another example of our overly bureaucratic government at work. Supposedly, in 1996 and 2002 the Water Authority offered $88 million plus debt payments towards the water system that encompasses Hemlock and Canadice Lake. How much would you pay to have these two lakes forever preserved? I know, that if I had that much money (which I don’t), I would surely put it on the table in order to protect the area from development, so please cough it up - money bags. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot more money will be needed in order to buy this piece of property - even though it was stolen from the original inhabitants, being exactly those who lived here before what is now known as America existed.

We can only hope in our hearts that the decision process, which seems to be taking place behind closed doors (sound familiar? It’s democracy at work) realizes the importance of protecting and preserving Hemlock Lake and Canadice Lake. It is extremely saddening to see profits drive a majority of folks to the ends, in sole attempt to survive - we need to change the way we live in order to circumvent this possibility.

Let us meet our neighbors and talk about our lives. We don’t need bulldozers and trucks in order to create something new, all we need is ourselves and the idea that we can raise this barn together, as a community.


You also might want to read these related articles:

Hemlock Lake: An Unequivocal Exclamation By Phaedo of the Land of Whiskey and
Pumpkin Pie

Pitting lakes vs. water needs By the Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester


Pit of Equality: Syracuse Hardcore

Those of you who read York Staters regularly know that a few months ago, I published a post entitled "315 Hardcore-- Westcott Style," which detailed the prevalence of an underground music scene called 'hardcore' that thrives in Syracuse and across Upstate. What most readers did not know was that it was a compilation of my thoughts on my ongoing ethnographic research on the Syracuse Hardcore Scene (I'm a graduate student in anthropology at SU). Well, the first phases of the research are done and have been submitted to the proper authorities. In the meantime, however, I believe firmly in the sharing of academic research, both with the 'studied' people and with the public in general. Thus, as part of that duty to give back, I have placed my entire paper up for perusal and discussion by the general public.

Even if you're not an academic anthropologist (which I assume most of you aren't), it might be interesting to explore some of the underground music that boils all about you. I've tried to keep the theory and methodology to a minimum to keep it interesting and readable. Hopefully I've been able to do so without losing any of the research's explanatory ability. Please note that while this is a final copy of my research to date, it is only a primary look into this phenomenon that desrves far more time and attention. Well without further ado, here is

-by Jesse


The Third Onondaga County Courthouse

Editor's Note: Excelsior! Ever Upstate, a blog authored by Stef, has ceased to be. (You may have noticed that it has disappeared from our blog links, along with a few other defunct/dormant ones.) For the purposes of education and archiving, we're taking on the two Excelsior! posts, so if you didn't get a chance to read them the first time, here you are! Many thanks to Stef. - N

The Third Onondaga County Courthouse

Over at York Staters, Natalie has been posting a series of profiles about county courthouses. I've decided to piggyback the topic by posting a short research paper I did a few years ago on the history of the Third Onondaga County Courthouse, a building, which, unfortunately no longer stands.

Third Onondaga County Courthouse - Postcard

The life cycle of the Third Onondaga County Courthouse in Syracuse, NY is notable in its illustration of changing tastes and needs over time. The building is an example of studied design and construction, of adaptive re-use, of victimization in the time of urban renewal, and as a touch point for public outcry, sentiment, and reflection.

Clinton Square has been the historic center of Syracuse since it was colloquially known as Bogardus' Corners. Joshua Forman, who is often credited with being the father of Syracuse, lived in a frame house on the south side of Clinton Square and named the area after Governor DeWitt Clinton. The tavern built by Revolutionary War solidier Henry Bogardus could be found on the northwest corner of what is now Genesee and Salina Streets in 1806 [1]. The historic square would eventually assure Syracuse of its place as the seat of Onondaga County.

The first courthouse was on Onondaga Hill and was held in the corn house of Comfort Tyler in 1794 [2]. An intense fight took place over the proper location of the county seat, though, as the area's villages continued to grow. The second was built in 1830 and stood in the center of the block between Ash and Division Streets on North Salina Street, halfway between Syracuse and Salina. The location pleased no one, but the matter of the building's location was quickly settled in 1856 when it was destroyed in a fire [3]. After a long quarrel, the land on the corner of West Genesee and Clinton Streets was purchased for the building of what would become the Third Onondaga County Courthouse.

The architect Horatio Nelson White was commissioned to design the plans for the new courthouse. Originally from New Hampshire, White quickly established himself as the Venerable Architect upon his arrival in Syracuse in the early 1850s [4]. The cost of the building was estimated at $38,000 and the contract for the building was awarded to Timothy C. Cheney and Daniel Wilcox for $37,750 in 1856 [5]. The building was completed in 1857. Built from Onondaga gray limestone, the building was designed in what was called the Anglo-Norman style. The building was approximately sixty feet wide and one hundred feet deep with a cathedral ceiling and a tower at the front corner which rose eighty feet above street level [6]. The Court of Appeals library was constructed from 1883 to 1884. In 1889, a new roof was installed and a number of other minor improvements were made [7].

The building's life as a courthouse was relatively short-lived, though. By 1890, the County Board of Supervisors had voted to build a new court house. The new court house, to be designed by Archimedes Russell and Melvin King, was originally planned to occupy the entire block north of the Third Courthouse, but after the property owners refused to sell the land, the plans were relocated to Montgomery Street [8]. Operations permanently moved to the new Fourth Onondaga County Courthouse in 1907, fifteen years after the death of Horatio Nelson White.

The future for the Third was unclear. In a Syracuse newspaper during January of 1907, Representative Michael E. Driscoll expressed a wish for the building to be preserved as a memorial building:
What will become of it? Who will own it? Will it be permitted to stand or will it be torn down? It should be preserved and converted into a museum, an art gallery, the home of an historical association, a veterans' headquarters, or devoted to some other useful and patriotic purposeÉ
Personally, I never complained of the cramped conditions in the old building or the stifling atmosphere. The verdicts of juries, when wrong, were much more depressing. It has been the scene of the forensic efforts of two generations of lawyers. Law has been made there and history, too. Around it are clustered so many pleasant memories and delightful associations that abandoning it is like leaving home [9].

Driscoll, while comparing the Third Courthouse to the preserved structures of Europe, believed that the old stone Court House will be of more interest to future generations than the new one with its grand tower and marble halls.

For the time being, the courthouse was safe from being torn down as it was announced later that year that the Department of Public Education would be housed within its walls. Archimedes Russell prepared the plans to remodel the interior to suit their needs. The aspect of the preservation of the building's architectural beauty and historic associations came up again, though, as then-Mayor Alan Cutler Fobes expressed sympathy with the sentiment in favor of the preservation of the building, and its general appearance will not be disturbed in providing the quarters for the Department of Public Education [10]. During this remodeling, the second floor courtroom was subdivided into a corridor, while offices and a third floor was added in the original two-story room. The exterior of the building remained structurally sound, although it received little maintenance [11].

By the mid-1950s, though, the building was in danger again. In the August 5th edition of the 1956 Syracuse Post-Standard, a letter was written by E.M. Bogardus proposing that the old court house be turned into a historical group home:
It has been the hope of the writer that some day the Historical Association would feel that it rightfully belonged to them and that it would be sought to house their splendid historical exhibitÉ The citizens of Syracuse could stop this destruction if they would bestir themselves. Who will take the lead to give impetus to the movement to preserve the old Court House?

Again, the building was pulled back from the brink as the Traffic Court and some police functions were moved in. However the era of urban renewal was approaching and the construction of the new Public Safety Building raised more questions about the long-term future of the Third Courthouse. Crandell Melvin, the president of the Merchants Bank and a widely known civic leader, voiced the following opinion in the Syracuse Herald-American on April 1st, 1962:
The building is of native stone and was designed by a local architect of national fame. The building itself creates an atmosphere of character, solidarity, culture and beauty that has never been equaled. Preserving it would pass on to unborn generations a symbol and monument of the thinking and doing of the great men and women of former generations. Individuals die, but history lives forever. It would be a calamity to demolish the building.

By 1964, it seemed as though the fate of the landmark would rest with the consultants that were preparing the city's General Neighborhood Renewal Plan for 265 acres of downtown Syracuse. The private feeling among planners at the time was that the block was a downtown opportunity area and that the building would be razed to make room for a modern structure, parking, or some other similar use [12]. However, there were many parties that seemed to be showing interest in the space. As the State Bar Association's Committee for the Preservation of Historic Court Houses published their advocacy booklet, How to Save a Court House [13], two organizations showed interest in utilizing the building. The County Bar Association, led by president G. Everett DeMore, began an exploratory study to determine the feasibility of taking over the entire building for offices, meeting rooms, and a model law office, while Prof. Conrad Schuerch Jr. and Technology Club of Syracuse considered a portion of the courthouse as a possible temporary home for a museum of science and industry [14]. Both organizations hoped to rent the courthouse from the city or possibly the county for a dollar per year. Prof. Schuerch noted that there was sympathy within the club to preserve the building, but that it was beyond the scope of the organization to consider restoration [15].

It had been estimated that a modest renovation of a new boiler, plumbing, electrical installations and a new roof would cost approximately $37,000 (which was, interestingly, close to the original cost of the building's construction), but a complete renovation would end up totaling at least $100,000 [16]. The high cost of reconstruction had killed most hope of maintaining the courthouse as a public building and it seemed that a private developer would be the only savior who could afford to gut the structure to its limestone walls [17]. Still, some in the city remained optimistic and hoped to eventually house the Office of Urban Improvement within the old courthouse. A last chance was given to the building in June of 1965 as the city's Crusade for Opportunity, the central office for the citys youth and War on Poverty programs, moved 45 members of its staff into the building as a temporary measure [18]. Sadly, it was only a temporary solution. Despite the continual calls to save the Third Onondaga County Courthouse, it was, in the end, a doomed landmark in the face of urban improvement.

Ironically, the courthouse faced destruction just as a survey was being published by The State Council on the Arts, which placed the Third Courthouse on a list of sixty-three Onondaga County buildings of architectural importance. The study, Architecture Worth Saving in Onondaga County, was prepared by the Syracuse University School of Architecture under the guidance of Prof. Harley J. McKee, a renowned preservation scholar. McKee recommended the adaptive re-use of the courthouse as a small museum and auditorium and provided speculative plans for such a rebuilding [19]. He offered a harsh indictment of the city and county's planning practices: We have consistently chosen from among the best when tearing down or mutilating the buildings which our generation inherited" [20]. McKee also used the courthouse to question the current urban renewal projects in the city, recommending a study of the entire Clinton Square, quoting Peter Andrews, the then-professor of regional planning at Syracuse University:
While the city is to be commended for pushing ahead with the development of the Community Plaza, it seems too bad to let the planning of that one area overbalance the planning of other parts of downtown. If the city were to turn its attention to Clinton Square, it might, with far less cost than required for clearance and building of new public spaces, produce a distinctive and well-located public pedestrian area21]. [

McKee sums up the importance of the old courthouse with the following statement:
It hardly seems justifiable that an existing building of functional use as well as recognized cultural value should be allowed to disappear in the interest of developing yet unseen buildings. While the appeal of fresh new facilities is understandable, we must realize that a building such as the Third Onondaga County Courthouse is irreplaceable, not only because of its historic associations, its special period character and distinctive architecture, but even in more calculable terms, because it is unlikely that masonry construction of this sort, with its labor-consuming cut stone detailing, will ever be economically possible to build again [22].

McKee's recommendations were for naught, though, as the courthouse finally gave way to the city's urban renewal push in the early months of 1968. However, as wrecking booms moved into place, the courthouse and the people of Syracuse received a small gift from the demolition contractor. The firm charged with demolishing the structure would donate their time and labor to chart the 37-foot tower portion and take it down, stone by stone, to be numbered and saved, in hopes of someday being reconstructed [23]. A group known as S.A.V.E (Society for the Advancement of Visual Environment) championed the cause and offered possibilities for five possible sites for the reconstructed tower. They suggested placing the tower on the eastern side of Route 81 as a southern gateway to Syracuse, on the then-projected site of Onondaga Community College at Onondaga Hill as a campus landmark, back in Clinton Square as a monument to the past, on the South Plaza next to the Everson Museum as an artistic addition, or in front of the then-New York Telephone Company Building on E. Fayette St. as a center of interest [24]. As of the writing of this paper in 2004, the stones remain in storage, shrink-wrapped in heavy plastic to protect against deterioration. They are currently stored on city-owned property near Hancock Airport [25].

The entire block of Clinton Square once occupied by the Third Onondaga County Courthouse and other buildings now contains the Syracuse Newspapers Building. Built in 1971, the modern structure was designed by the Ginsberg Associates architectural firm of New York. The 230,000 sq. ft. building housed the presses for the Post-Standard and Herald-Journal newspaper plant along with offices [26]. Reminders of the old courthouse exist in Elmira and Watertown, as Horatio Nelson White used almost identical plans to the Syracuse building to design the courthouses for each county. The Elmira courthouse was built with brick and limestone trim. The Watertown courthouse has a reversed faade [27].

The Third Onondaga County Courthouse serves as a reminder of both the triumphs and mistakes of a community. Through its life cycle, it was utilized as a place of work and justice, lauded as an architectural gem, ignored as an out-dated relic, revered as a link to a grand past, and lost to tides of change. It is the hope of the author that some of the community pride that may have been lost to the leveling and reshaping of urban renewal could be restored and focused by the reconstruction of the Courthouse's tower in a public space. It illustrates the link of architectural heritage to a community, both in the community's effect on the face it presents to the world and in how our past is inextricably sewn into the fabric of such buildings.


1. Evamaria Hardin, Jon Crispin, and Onondaga Historical Association., Syracuse Landmarks: An AIA Guide to Downtown and Historic Neighborhoods, 1st ed. (New York Onondaga Historical Association: Syracuse University Press, 1993) pgs. 1, 8, 33.
2. "What Happens to our 'Old Courthouse'?," (Syracuse, NY), February 8, 1963
3. "County Seat Fight Lasted Many Years," in Onondaga County Court Houses: Newspaper Clippings ca 1900-1973 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Public Library Local History Department, 1973)
4. Other notable buildings designed by White in the Syracuse area are The Church of the Messiah, the Plymouth Congregational Church, the Grace Episcopal Church, the Gridley Building (formerly Onondaga County Savings Bank) in Clinton Square, The Wietung Building, and the Hall of Languages at Syracuse University
5. "'The Old Court House on Clinton Square should be preserved.'" Sunday Herald (Syracuse, NY), February 24, 1907
6. Preservation Association of Central New York, Syracuse Then and Now: The Third Onondaga County Courthouse,
7. "The Court House - Comfort Tyler's Corn House Served as the First One - The Village and Hill Rivalry"," in Onondaga County Court Houses: Newspaper Clippings ca 1900-1973 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Public Library Local History Department, 1973)
8. Preservation Association of Central New York, Syracuse Then and Now: The Third Onondaga County Courthouse
9. "To Make Landmark of Old Court House," unknown (Syracuse, NY), January 3, 1907
10. "School Board Goes to Old Court House (1907)," in Onondaga County Court Houses: Newspaper Clippings ca 1900-1973 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Public Library Local History Department, 1973)
11. Preservation Association of Central New York, Syracuse Then and Now: The Third Onondaga County Courthouse
12. Richard G. Case, "Progress May Claim Old Court House," Herald-American (Syracuse, NY), February 9, 1964
13. Ibid.
14. Richard G. Case, "Old Courthouse Wins Lease on Life," Herald-American (Syracuse, NY), July 5, 1964
15. Ibid.
16. Richard G. Case, "Crusaders to occupy courthouse," Herald-American (Syracuse, NY), June 13, 1965
17. Case, "Progress May Claim Old Court House,"
18. Case, "Crusaders to occupy courthouse,"
19. Richard G. Case, "Old Courthouse Could Become Museum-Auditorium," Herald-American
(Syracuse, NY), March 22, 1964
20. Ibid.
21. Ibid.
22. New York State Council on the Arts, Architecture Worth Saving in Onondaga County
(Syracuse, NY: 1964) p. 196
23. "Tower stone to be saved," Herald-Journal (Syracuse, NY), Jan. 30, 1968
24. "Readers Asked to Choose Court House Tower Site," in Onondaga County Court Houses: Newspaper Clippings ca 1900-1973 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Public Library Local History Department, 1973)
25. Preservation Association of Central New York, Remains of the Third Onondaga County Courthouse,
26. Hardin, Crispin, and Onondaga Historical Association., Syracuse Landmarks: An AIA Guide to Downtown and Historic Neighborhoods p.42

27. Elinore Taylor Horning, The Man Who Changed the Face of Syracuse: Horatio Nelson White (Mexico, NY: Elinore T. Horning, 1988) p.28


From the Depths of Lake Ontario

A 161-year old shipwreck has been discovered in the depths of Lake Ontario, 5 miles off the shore of Breeze Point in Orleans County. The Milan still has two masts standing in the deep dark waters, where lack of oxygen has helped preserve it. (The photograph to the right is from The Buffalo News article.) The ship was sailing from Cleveland to Oswego in October 1849 when the vessel sprung a leak. The crew (and the dog) survived the sinking.

The ship was discoved in 2005 after explorers Dan Scoville and Jim Kennard read a reference to the ship's sinking in an old newspaper article. They located the vessel using sonar equipment and are studying the wreck with the help of students at RIT. Why exactly this story is being picked up by the Associated Press now isn't clear.

We've written about well-preserved upstate shipwrecks before on York Staters, and I thought this was a great news item that may have slipped past the senors of many readers.

Check out other shipwrecks in Lake Ontario, and other Great Lakes at ShipwreckWorld. See other York Staters posts about military history in our archives.



The Farm Supply Store

Where are the farmers to walk through the farm supply store and look at the miniature farm machinery for sale. Christmas gifts. "Oh, my boy would like that." And stare at a tractor a kid could drive around the pasture, legs peddling fervishly and think "too much money." "Oh, my girl would love that big stuffed lamb" or is it a sheep, a Dorset, white with horns made out of plush, soft and cozy to lie over, watching T.V., evenings. And the hobby horse, a first horse for my little girl. Where are the farmers whose children know what a farm means and whose wives know what a farm means, and who want something more than a mixer for Christmas? Or, who really do want a mixer for Christmas.

I saw a man walk through the Christmas gift department in the farm supply store. Hands half in his pockets. Thumbs out. He wore a cap and jeans and farm boots. He walked up and down each aisle, slowly, his head turned sideways, looking at the selection of gifts displayed on the shelves. Some nice canisters for the kitchen. Maybe. Are there still little boys who collect matchbox size tractors and seeders and spreaders, just like Dad’s, and know what they are? "I have a whole set!" Are there still little girls who collect miniature cows and calves and know the difference between the black and white ones and the red ones? And who care, because they show their own calves at the County Fair, 4-H, in the summer. Where are they? The echo of their voices and their smiles and their shining faces filled the aisles of the Christmas gift department in the farm supply store. Where are their fathers, brown leather wallets bulging with receipts, and a few bucks, cash money?

I bought a Christmas ornament. A chicken standing on top of a sheep standing on a cow, the star behind them. And a pair of work gloves, soft leather, the only ones in women’s sizes. There was a pretty tin of cookies. I passed it by twice. I liked the tin. There was no price on it. I bought it anyway. I looked at the receipt on my way out of the store. Cheap enough. A pretty tin in which to store beans in the larder. Winter. Maybe I’ll get another.

There were no people in the store. Oh yes, the man who works for me was buying a big bag of cat food. And a couple bought a giant bag of dog food. The man in the Christmas gift aisle, the one with the sunshine lines on his face was nowhere to be seen. Where are the farmers? Where are the farmers in the farm supply store? Christmas. Sylvia Jorrín For the ongoing story of the farm with pictures visit www.sylviasfarm.com ",1]

There were no people in the store. Oh yes, the man who works for me was buying a big bag of cat food. And a couple bought a giant bag of dog food. The man in the Christmas gift aisle, the one with the sunshine lines on his face was nowhere to be seen. Where are the farmers? Where are the farmers in the farm supply store? Christmas.

by Sylvia Jorrin
For the ongoing story of the farm
with pictures visit

Editor's Note: This is the first submission by Sylvia Jorrin, a farmer and author from the Catskills. In 2004, She published the tale of her life and her farm entitled: Sylvia’s Farm: The Journal of an Improbable Shepherd; she also writes for numerous magazines and news outlets on issues regarding farming and sustainability. She will soon be featured in Martha Stewart Living Magazine (April, 2007). We were thrilled when Sylvia contacted us and asked to join in the York Staters project. We hope to be featuring more of her work in the future. Welcome Sylvia!

If you desire to submit your works to York Staters, please email us at york.staters@gmail.com, we're very laid back and friendly, so don't be afraid to drop us a line over any old thing.



Gossip of Upstate New York

York Staters is a place for serious investigation of all topics relating to Upstate New York. Tackling the larger historical, social, and economic questions is no easy task (for the writers or the readers) so I am now offering us a diversion in the form of: Upstate gossip!

I know you love to glance at the cover of Star or People in the check-out line (even if you would never, ever buy one) and there's no shame in it! Entertainment news/silly news that doesn't really effect our lives in any way is a diversion as old as language itself. And if you're going to divert your mind with a little gossipy news, it may as well be of the Upstate variety!

Item: The former home of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Rochester, NY is up for sale. It seems that the home's celebrity provenance hasn't inflated the price much - it's listed for $139,900. One of Hoffman's upcoming projects is the film Synechdoche, New York. The title is a play on the city of Schenectady and the literary device/figure of speach synecdoche. The film is written and will be directed by Charlie Kaufman (of Being John Malcovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame.)

Item: In further real estate news, governer elect Eliot Spitzer has purchased 160 acres in Gallatin, Columbia County for $4 million for a weekend getaway.

Item: Actor Rip Torn is arrested for drunk driving in North Salem. (Yea yea, Westchester doesn't really count as Upstate, but I couldn't resist, because who doesn't love Rip Torn? I mean, look at this guy. I can, however, resist making a "Torn was Ripped!" or "Rip got Torn Up!" pun.)

Item: Everyone loves a good catfight, and the one between Glenn Heller (who vehmently hates WAMC's chief executive Alan Chartock) and just about anyone who will listen rages on. Heller has accused Chartock and WAMC of tax fraud. First it was a war of words on Chartock's wikipedia entry, and now it's come to slightly more subdued emails between Heller and Mark McGuire (not THAT Mark McGuire.) Upstream follows the developments here.

And finally, many of you may know that Sagamore was used as a setting for scenes in the upcoming film The Good Shepherd, which I've already started seeing television commericals for. You can view the trailer here (which sadly doesn't show Sagamore - I guess we're just going to have to go see the movie when it comes out on December 22nd.)

If anyone else wants to contribute and item, post in the comments!



What's in a Name #9: Skaneateles

Editor's Note: Curt and Toni over at Blog Skaneateles have sent in this submission to provoke our thoughts on perhaps U-NY's hardest-to-pronounce named town: Skaneateles. You should also check out their relatively new blog: Blog Skaneateles. For your convenience, their link has been added to our blogroll. If place names spark your curiosity, check out our other editions of What's in a Name?

Skaneateles; Skan E or Skinny? The debate rages.

One thing all York Staters have in common is Indian. American Indianthat is. And specifically The Iroquois Confederacy. [Remember the SixNations from High School history?]

For most of you, this is not a Big Deal. Happily, you live in a Genesee,or Cayuga, or Onondaga. Not so for us; we have an identity crisis in the StoryBook Village.

What we know for sure is that after the American Revolution we were broke, so we gave away land grants in Upstate New York to everybody we owed money to. As an aside we also know the beaurocratic clerk who drew up the maps was an aficionado of Roman History. [Thus all the Brutus's and Cato's and Marcellus's.] We also know that the owners of the Land Grants didn't want them, so they sold them. Cheap.

In the Finger Lakes area virtually everything is Indian or Roman. For sure Skaneateles is Indian. Conventional wisdom is that it means "long,beautiful lake" but there is another argument it means " squaw who likesto make of babies". Ha! I lake the latter.

However, the Debate about Skaneateles.

Is it Skan-E-At-Las or Skinny-Atlas? I have lived here for 56 years andI say SKAN. Any linguists out there?

-Curt and Toni

You can make check availability and make reservations on line at ourwebpage www.skaneatelessuites.com. It is safe and easy!


Two Faces of the Adirondacks: The Almanack and the Boys

In general, among us Upstate bloggers there tends to be a climate of amicable tolerance and friendly exchange. Certainly, we come from all points of the political prism—from Anarchist (that’s me!) to conservative (such as my old arch-nemesis the “Let Upstate Be Upstate” blog[1])—but overall we’re all just pretty much thrilled that other people are also interested in our region.

That’s why I was pretty shocked to read the Adirondack Almanack’s latest post:
An Angry Adirondack Almanack Note to Neighbors, which tears into the (relatively) new and highly prolific blog Adirondack Boys (“Everything Fabulous About New York’s Adirondack Park”).

I must mention here that I’ve always had a deep respect for the Almanack’s thoughtful commentary on life “Behind the Blue Line,” the Almanack seems to never post unless its something that it deems useful and important (which is a bit different from the Boys… but different styles are ok). The Almanack writes about the new blog:

The posts started nicely enough, mostly the history of Penwood (Old Forge), where the Adirondack Boys have recently had a home built for them. All was well for a while, until, perhaps inevitably given the pace of posting, the posts started turning to other subjects and, well, frankly, began pissing us off.

For several weeks the Almanack held a regular internal debate about the new blog. The Almanack doesn't always agree with even our
favorite bloggers, and we don't always have to comment on a bad post or two. The Almanack encourages conflicting viewpoints, alternative ideas, even the downright outlandish. The Almanack doesn't want to be mean. The Almanack wants friends in the blog world and wants to encourage Adirondack blogs. Today however, the insults aimed at locals reached a crescendo and if there is one thing we can't stand it's hypocrisy: don't believe one thing and support the exact opposite just because it fits your social milieu more appropriately. If you worship the devil at night in the woods, don't send money to evangelical TV preachers and sell bibles on the side.

Yes, that’s us that they’re referring to as a “favorite” blog that they don’t always agree with[2]. Fair enough. But this post, which I’m not going to quote much further (you should read it yourself) goes on to condemn the boys for hypocrisy (for instance they’re gay men who love President Bush enough to copy his entire lunch menu as a post) and outright classism.

Without a doubt, the Boys seem completely clueless about the world of the working folk around them. Their celebration of what is ‘fabulous’ about the Adirondacks refers primarily to the Great Camps of the wealthy elite of the Gilded Age. As someone who worked at
one of these Camps as a tour guide for three years, I can tell you that perhaps the lives of the wealthy there were ‘fabulous,’ but to not mention the lives of those who worked in and built those camps and lived in them year round is to ignore history just as vital as that of the “Summer People” (their words) that arrived for a few weeks. The descendents of those same workers are the ones that the Boys blissfully ignore or denigrate all around them.

It is within the Adirondacks that the Upstate-Rural-Poor versus Downstate-Urban-Rich dichotomy is the most acute. It is there that jaded, tired Downstaters build their sprawling ‘camps’ and host their elaborate parties. Of course nthing wrong with a little bit of R&R, I can’t think of an Adirondacker that doesn’t appreciate that land for its calming, healing properties. But in the view of the Boys, the Adirondack Park is simply that: A Park. A place for their own amusement. While I admit and enjoy the unique nature of the Adirondacks, I try never to forget that it is also a human place where people make their lives—they and their communities are never simple backdrops for my Adirondack adventures or props for the fulfillment of my dreams. It is that simple truth that the Boys have missed as they have treated decorative
lamps and terra cotta urns as more important subjects than the lives that surround them.


[1] I’m pretty sure that Let Upstate Be Upstate, the blog of the Business Council of NY, doesn’t share in my analysis of our relationship. However, this letter I wrote to them explains my feelings.
[2] Which of course, gets me curious as to which posts they’re referring to.


Restorative and Transformative Justice: Looking for a new model

The justice system here in New York is in shambles. A 2002 study found that 67.5% of prisoners released from 15 state prisons (including New York) were re-arrested within three years. Those are, of course, only the ones that were caught. This blog has detailed the abuses of many of New York’s small courts, the poisonous effect of large prisons upon the social and economic fabric of small communities and the ineffectiveness of domestic abuse mediation in some Upstate areas (“Several months ago, another woman was hunted down and killed with a deer rifle at the Cumby's a few blocks from where I live in Glens Falls NY (Warren Co.) by her soon to be ex husband”). How about those Rockefeller Drug Laws which make possessing a bit of marijuana equal to second degree murder?[1]

It is my belief that the core problem in our justice system lies not in the specifics of certain laws or judge-training situations, but in our basic philosophy of
Retributive Justice. The heart of retributive justice is that a crime is an offense against the social order—which is embodied in the State—and that the method for correcting this imbalance is enforced punishment against the offender. The crudest version of this theory is the ‘eye for an eye’ philosophy.

What has happened lately is that, even though both
violent and property crime rates have been dropping, the states are imposing stricter (“three strikes”) laws that impose long imprisonment on relatively minor crimes in order to keep criminals off the street (and thus decrease crime). This, of course, treats a criminal as being essentially so; by this term I mean that it has the basic assumption that ‘criminal’ is an innate state which cannot be changed, a criminal once identified can only be hindered from being able to commit crime. When you combine this with the incredibly distorted race and class statistics in our prisons, we begin to see the wisps of eugenics.

As I wrote
back in January: “not every criminal is a cut and dry case and not every criminal is the worst case. When we create mandatory sentences for anything, we treat every case as if it were the worst and we remove the humanity from the system.”

So, if, as I believe, one of the core problems in our American justice system is its overwhelming reliance upon Retributive Justice, what is the alternative? There are two related theories of justice which both have equally ancient roots as retributive justice that can begin to provide an alternative:
Restorative Justice and Transformative Justice.

At the core of these theories is the idea that for many crimes, the offense is not between the offender and the State, but the offender and the victim or the local community. Restorative justice in particular attempts to mediate disputes by bringing both the victim and the offender together. The victim is given a chance to explain how the crime affected him or her and to receive answers to any lingering questions about the event. The offender is given a chance to face the effects of his or her actions and to see the implications. In cases of crimes against the community, those affected are brought in to share their feelings; a vandal meets the man who has to clean the vandalism, the individuals who couldn’t use the destroyed facilities. Compensation is directed towards the victim—whether an individual or a community—with the goal of restoring balance. The victims are not allowed to profit off of the event. So the offender may serve community service, pay for damaged goods or provide services to the victim. There is also an emphasis on self-education to prevent recidivism.

One example of restorative justice in action are the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA), which are small groups of trained volunteers who welcome high risk sex offenders back into the community after serving their time. The mission of the CoSA is:
"To substantially reduce the risk of future sexual victimization of community members by assisting and supporting released individuals in their task of integrating with the community and leading responsible, productive, and accountable lives. (CoSA Chaplaincy Guide)

According to Wikipedia, CoSA has “reduced re-offence by 70% and de-escalated the seriousness of those crimes that did occur.” It’s certainly a long ways from Governor Pataki’s plan to lock up sex offenders in mental institutions after they finished their prison time.

Transformative justice attempts to take the ideals of restorative justice to conflict outside of the criminal justice system. It attempts to view conflicts as inbalances in the parts of larger social systems. If focuses upon mediation in the relationships between people and people and institutions. The goal is not simply to return to the status quo, but to reform the basic imbalances within social relations that lead to conflict. In a sense, every conflict mediation serves to ‘transform’ society into a more just and equitable form.

At the heart of these theories is the idea that the offense is the dual responsibility of the offender who broke the norm and the community who permitted such events to occur. It brings together those affected and attempts to correct imbalances and crimes via restitution, not retribution. Hopefully, the community itself is strengthened through this form of justice since once the all-powerful State has been removed, people can begin to see one another. The victim receives restitution, both physical and psychological, for the crime; all parties realize the influence that our actions have upon one another and come to recognize the interconnectedness of our communities. Furthermore, instead of locking up a generation of young people for possessing a bit of marijuana, we can have their direct participation in our shared communities.

There is a powerful opportunity today in New York, with the incoming of new blood into state government and recent attention to problems in the justice system, to begin to dismantle the retributive, angry-god-like State and allow New Yorkers to begin to see one another once again. Perhaps restorative and transformative justice can give us those tools.

-by Jesse

[1] I would like to mention that I have known judges, lawyers, police officers and convicted criminals who were all decent people attempting to do their best with a flawed system. This essay is meant not to be an attack on well-minded individuals, but upon the system in which we are all entrapped.


Defining Upstate

York Staters recently received an email that raises some important, fundamental questions about our mission here and the definition of Upstate New York itself. I spoke to the emailer, Em, and she[1] agreed to allow her questions and my response to be posted here for public discussion. So, here is Em’s email and my response:

Hi All,
I grew up in Buffalo and went to school in Ithaca and Syracuse. I had never heard the term Upstater until I moved to New York City (at the age of 39). To me, Upstate is anything up the Hudson. Then it's the Finger Lakes region (and then a bit of Leatherstocking) and Western New
York. Where is this York thing coming from? That's totally Redcoat. And have you read this amazing book : "Voyageurs" by Margaret Elphanstone that tells the story about, basically, the War of 1812, as they also do at Old Fort Niagara and Fort York at Niagara on the Lake CN. We folks from Buffalo are not Upstaters, we are Western New Yorkers, the beginning of the Midwest.

The question of the definition of a York Stater is a touchy one that has always remained in the back of my mind while writing in this blog. Buffalonians have told me that they’re Western New Yorkers, some Syracusians say they’re Central New Yorkers and many folk from the North Country adamantly believe that they’re the only Upstaters.

To call for an Upstate awareness is not to ask for an invalidation of other regional identities (Western New York, Central New York, Adirondack, etc), but to recognize the fact that we all have incredible commonalities. Unlike their neighbors in Canada or Erie PA, Buffalonians are tied to a state government that is increasingly dominated by the City of New York and has created a distinct political culture that we share across the board. New York politics effect Buffalo in distinct ways that her non-NY neighbors do not experience but have parallels in her fellow Upstate cities.

Current politics aside, Buffalo’s history has always been within the same orbit as the Finger Lakes and Central NY in particular. Historical accounts of the region open with all of Upstate New York (minus the Adirondacks) as the heartland of the mighty Iroquois Empire. White settlement throughout the region was predicated on the same treaties and wars that broke that early empire. Furthermore, Buffalo was shaped by the Erie Canal experience, one of the distinguishing historical events that binds much of Upstate together, from Albany westwards. Buffalo was likewise a part of the Burnt-Over District
and the profound social experimentation that swept through the region between the 1820s and 1860s (those interested in this fascinating period of UNY history might start out with this “Timeline of Innovation” that I drew up).

We are also climactically and economically similar to one another: relatively small cities with distinct local cultures (often flavored by waves of European immigrants whose descendents maintain ties to their heritage---unlike much of the Midwest) surrounded by farm and forest-land. This cultural pattern is continued somewhat to the south (Erie and Scranton-Wilkes Barre are similar) but is distinct from New England Uplands, Ontario and the Boshwash
Atlantic Seaboard, which we border in the other directions.

As I wrote in my early essay, A York State of Mind
, I am hesitant to define ‘Upstater’ in the purely negative terms of “someone who lives in New York but not in New York City,” but instead to celebrate the distinct historical legacy, governmental burdens, climate, ecology, economic and settlement patterns that define our region. Thus, while we recognize, and celebrate, the regional differences throughout the state, we also call for a celebration of our cultural unity—and for the further development of that unity in order to protect our way of life.

As for the term "York Staters" in our mission statement
we explain that it is an old (early 19th century) term for inhabitants of NYS outside of the City (who were called New Yorkers or just Yorkers). We have rehabilitated the term for several reasons: it is catchy and easy to remember, it has historical significance and, perhaps most importantly, it allows us to express the fact that we have our own identities and lives independent of NYC without necessarily surrendering the name "New York" (which we also have right to) to our neighbors to the southwest.


[1] I’m running with a gender assumption here, please accept my apology Em if you’re actually male. I get this problem all the time with my gender-neutral name.


Sustainable Housing in Upstate New York

I believe that the issue of how we build our houses is one of the most pressing to face us today. Urban sprawl, energy inefficiency, and rows of soulless suburban ‘McMansions’ all plague our communities. I’ve been interested in how we can adapt our housing traditions to both reflect the local vernacular architecture and values of environmental and social sustainability. The latest product of this exploration has been a house entitled “Excelsior” (after New York’s state motto, ‘ever upward’), which attempts to show that ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ housing is not the province of neo-hippies building Navajo Hogan-inspired houses out of straw bales and earth bags, but can be interwoven into local architectural traditions to create attractive, livable homes.

This home fuses the traditional Federalist farmhouse that we see all throughout rural Upstate with ecologically conscious ideas like passive solar heating, home-grown vegetables (it has an attached greenhouse) and renewable energy use (solar power and wood heat). Throughout it, I've also added little touches that I'd like to see in a house, such as floor-to-ceiling windows and bookshelves, comfortable window seats for reading and an open, airy design.

Since the floorplans and descriptions are rather long, I
have created a subpage to lay out all of the details: Excelsior, Sustainable Upstate Housing. I hope only to inspire discussion and thought on the best way to build our homes, as I am not an architect or a professional in any construction fields (I do wield a fine paint brush though, if the need arises); however, those planning their own homes are welcome to adopt any ideas they desire from Excelsior.

I do hope that you enjoy my home. I look forward to your comments.



Why You Should Move To Central New York

Editor's Note: Jon submitted this essay about reasons why you should move to Central New York, and while he may be preaching to the choir for many of us, the holidays are a time that Upstate expatriots return to see family, and perhaps reconsidered the reasons they left or consider returning. Full disclosure: Jon is a real estate agent, so if you're thinking of returning and need a lead on a place to live, I'm sure he can help out. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! - N

Why You Should Move To Central New York
By Jon Alvarez

Move to Central New York? Why on earth would someone want to do that, you ask? Because this transplanted Texan feel’s it’s the best place to live in America, period. So, if you don’t already live here, what are you waiting for? Ok, I know, you probably don’t know anything about this part of the country and probably think it’s a suburb of New York City. Well, I’m here to dispel that misconception and to tell you that we’ve got it all here in what many refer to as Upstate New York, away from the hustle and bustle and congestion that characterizes The Big Apple. In fact, when my family chose to relocate from Austin, Texas, most of our friends mistakenly thought that was our destination, as they had no other concept of what represented New York. Simply put, Syracuse, Central New York, or CNY, is a completely different creature from NYC and we couldn’t be happier with our decision to relocate here. And if you happen to find yourself in the same situation I was in, tired of the overcrowding of urban sprawl, traffic congestion, extended periods of extreme heat and drought, exorbitant housing and living costs, then CNY should be a prime target on your relocation radar.

The quality of life we’ve discovered here in the Syracuse area is the primary reason why you should move to this part of the country. Please, don’t get me wrong, I loved Texas and its Lone Star attitude, and Austin was a very happening place, but guess what? Syracuse is, too! Like Austin, there is a plethora of activities for the young and hip, what with Syracuse University and several other colleges existing within CNY, not to mention the many museums, art houses, and the ever rocking Armory Square in the heart of downtown Syracuse, so there’s always something to do. One thing is certain; as a family man, I‘ve come to appreciate and love the quality of life afforded to my family here. We chose to sell our house in Austin and make a quality of life move as we’d grown weary from years of dealing with the traffic congestion and overcrowding that came to characterize the metropolis that was becoming Austin. We’d had enough of the blistering summer heat and crunchy June grass that became all too familiar as drought conditions would set in by early summer. You won’t find any of that here in CNY! We enjoy a nice variety of temperate conditions within the four seasons that can be found in Central New York.

Another bonus of living here is that there’s water here and plenty of it! While we do get quite a bit of snow here, it typically lasts three months and it certainly creates an enjoyable atmosphere while sitting by the fireplace. With that, there’s plenty to do for the outdoor enthusiast, as our weather and close proximity to numerous ski slopes make for some great skiing. The Central New York region also has plenty of lakes and canals for fishing and boating enthusiasts and because of the amount of water we receive either via snow or rain, we never encounter drought-like conditions. Since this region is so used to the amount of snow we receive, it rarely hinders driving as the area town and village highway departments are prepared to deal with it and thus, keep the roads plowed and salted to avoid delays for commuters. Some of the other activities one can enjoy as a result of the winter season aside from downhill or cross-country skiing are snowshoeing, sledding, ice skating, snowmobiling, and ice fishing. Of course, I must mention that my wife’s favorite winter activity is the aforementioned sitting by the fireplace, warm and cozy with a good book and enjoying the landscape as it becomes adorned with snow. Now, how many parts of the country can virtually guarantee a white Christmas? Bottom line, we have lots to do here and we get to enjoy the abundance of green grass, huge trees and large sections of wooded areas as a result of the amount of moisture we receive in this part of the country.

The four seasons is another reason you should move to CNY. Another reason we chose to move to this part of the country was that we wanted variety. Fall is easily our favorite time of the year and Central New York is one of the greatest locations for those wishing to enjoy the wonderful, vibrant fall colors of autumn in New York. The abundance of trees in this part of the country makes for a great October! One can make a day trip of driving throughout the area to enjoy not only the great views, but also the various apple and pumpkin festivals that can be found throughout the area. Central New Yorkers sure know how to make use of their natural resources, too! Apple cider, apple donuts, fritters, home-made Maple syrup, pumpkin pie, apple pie, apple butter…wow, I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the great treats we’ve enjoyed this past fall at all the various fall festivals. Since we’re talking about food, I might as well mention the fact that CNY has awesome food, particularly Italian and greasy spoon diners. We’ve never enjoyed pizza and spaghetti on such a wide scale from so many fine Italian establishments, not to mention the great diversity in menu selections that can be found at the various restaurants in the area. As for the tiny Mom and Pop diners that seem to flourish in the area, it seems every town or village has one that serves a mean breakfast for under $5 and is usually hard pressed for open tables.

Another bonus we’ve discovered in our time here in Central New York is how friendly we’ve found the people here to be. While we found Austin to be very transient, the Central New York region has been home to generations of Upstate New Yorkers who were born and raised here and chose to remain in the region. This tends to foster a greater atmosphere of civic pride and neighborly attitude, which we have happily benefited from. Our favorite story to tell new friends and acquaintances centers on the night we were moving into our new home in the Radisson subdivision. Despite the fact that there was a raging snowstorm blowing about, my family was visited by an angel in the form of Carolyn Eaton, our new neighbor directly across the street, appearing on our doorstep bearing a piping hot apple pie! Never have I tasted such a delicious apple pie, particularly since it came special delivery from such a great neighbor whom we lovingly refer to as our adopted mother. Despite the fact that we chose to sell that house and move across town, we spend nearly every holiday with the Eatons and their loved ones as they’ve become like family to us. That same street also bore us one of our closest and dearest friends, the Rotchford family. Rarely do we find ourselves at the Eatons where we won’t pop into the Rotchfords to catch up and toss back a few, not to mention the daily and weekly phone calls just to say hi. Space and time prevent me from going into further detail on the amount of new friends we’ve made since relocating to CNY. Bottom line, we’ve found a place we love to call home in just a relatively short time because of the nature and warmth of the good people of Central New York.

On a final note, I’d be remiss if I did not mention a few more of the benefits of living in Central New York, particularly the absence of “traffic” and congestion, as well as the incredible housing prices and architectural treasures found here. Rarely, if ever, do I find myself in bumper-to-bumper traffic. In fact, it usually takes 30 minutes or less to cross from one section of the area to another. The region’s proximity to the east coast, the Adirondacks, NYC, and Lake Ontario lends itself to some great weekend getaways. And just to give you an idea of the housing values found in CNY, the median price of housing in Central New York is 49 percent cheaper than the national median and is currently lower than it was in 1990! The current median price for housing in Onondaga County is only $127,000! Compare that with $435,000 for Washington, D.C., $172,000 for Atlanta, $290,000 for Chicago, $416,000 for Boston, $538,000 for Los Angeles, $176,000 in Austin, $255,000 for Denver, well, you get the picture. Besides getting a lot of bang for your buck, the architectural styles of the area are incredible! You can’t find many turn of the century houses in other parts of the country at affordable prices, especially on large lots, country settings, or on the water. There’s gold to be found here, one simply has to come find it!

So, considering the fact that making a move to Central New York can greatly improve your family’s quality of life due to the region’s abundance of great people, abundant natural resources, temperate climate, low housing prices, unique and historic architecture, the area also plays host to the great New York State Fair. CNY also has plenty of entertainment, sports and outdoor venues and activities, plus we have virtually no traffic congestion and we’re conveniently situated along the east coast. So, what are you waiting for? Get your bags packed, sell that expensive home in that overcrowded part of the country you currently find yourself living in, and come to Syracuse!