The Going Rate

I found this shot the other day on Flickr and I found it to be quite striking. It was taken in downtown Syracuse and, as you can see, it is an advertisement for a free building. I contacted the photographer, Phil, and he said:
"It was taken of a building on the 1400 block of S. Salina St., across from our office. The place had in different incarnations been a car wash, a car repair place and a dry cleaners. During all these times it had dumped toxics into the land it occupied. It's final use was for a corner store--a store that was closed under the city's Nuisance Abatement law for persistent arrests for drug trafficking on its premises. The building owner had a huge back tax bill--approaching a half million--and couldn't sell because of the contamination."
We've all seen these types of places (though perhaps not openly advertised as free) throughout our Upstate cities and towns but usually choose to ignore them. I thought that with current blogging debates over pollution (in particular in Endicott and Onondaga Lake) it would be useful to bring up the smaller incidents of every day pollution and decay that litter our world. It's also fascinating to me that the photographing of ruins has become an art form in and of itself, especially in the "Rust Belt." My copies of The Living Forge (a Rust Belt arts journal out of Buffalo) are primarily filled with poems and shots of ruins. Have we internalized the post-industrial ruin so completely that it has become a form of self-identification? I know that I never saw the old factories working; they were always abandoned husks on the landscape, the dead heart of every town that I knew. I have heard there are places where the factories are still running and there are jobs, but I have never seen them.

As a side note, I highly reccommend visiting the Flickr (it's a website dedicated to sharing digital photos) pool of "Signs in Syracuse" and Phil's collection on life in "Syruckus."

-Posted by Jesse


NYCO said...

As someone who spent a whole summer photographing ruins (see here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/upstateny/sets/1430955/), I think people just completely accept them now. But I think this is indicative of a stage we are passing through that the rest of the country formerly known as "America" is going to have to pass through sooner or later, except in those segments that will continue to be economically occupied by China. This is what the cutting edge looks like, in my opinion.

I admit that I too don't really remember the working factories so when I look at the ruins and derelict buildings I don't feel great distress, except on an intellectual level. Older people would. That doesn't mean that I don't want to see these places come to life. Certainly I do not want to see them knocked down. But I just don't know if we're there yet. But perhaps at some point we need to put the cameras down and start salvaging the bricks.

Phil said...

Hey Jesse:

Thanks for talking about this issue--the diseased and degraded buildings we see in our neighborhoods everyday.

I forgot to tell you the end of the story--the city knocked this building down, but the toxics are still there so now we'll just have an ugly undeveloped vacant lot in between a church and an apartment building.

Progress, no stoppin' it.