Roundup #2 and Pics from Athens, NY

In addition to a couple of ongoing research projects, I’ve been spending a good chunk of my time working for TSTC writing posts for their blog, Mobilizing the Region. A couple of weeks ago I rounded up the pieces I had done over there so far, and I figure it’s time for another roundup. I’ve been told I’m potentially the most productive MTR writer ever, so here’s hoping other people appreciate my writing.

I took the opportunity in my last roundup to post a few pictures and observations from my latest trip to Schenectady, so I’ll add some more Upstate jaunt pictures to this post as well (little traditions are nice). Last Sunday, G and I took a quick trip to the Hudson River village of Athens, NY. Athens is very small but has a notable collection of 19th-century architecture, and isn’t quite as precious or yuppified as places like Hudson or Saugerties. A few pictures from the trip:

Looking across the Hudson from Athens to Hudson

Looking across the Hudson from Athens to Hudson

Former church, now not a church (perhaps used as a residence, hard to tell)

Former church, now not a church (perhaps used as a residence, hard to tell)

Large house with a very distinctive cuppola.

Large house with a very distinctive cupola.

Laneway buildings along an alley in Athens

Laneway buildings along 1st Alley in Athens. Looking north between Water and Washington Streets.

The last one of these, in particular, isn’t just a pretty picture; there’s a lesson to it. One of the very early posts on this blog was about how Hudson, NY’s exuberant mix of residential architecture can teach us about what we’ve lost by stifling creativity through zoning. The existence of extensive, large, and flexible-use buildings along alleys in a small, old town like Athens holds a similar lesson.

Contemporary planners and urbanists often hold up backyard and alleyway buildings–what are now called Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)–as an easy way to add density and low-cost housing options to residential neighborhoods composed mainly of single-family homes. ADUs tend to inspire fanatical opposition among NIMBYs, so it’s worth remembering that their existence isn’t any new plot; it’s an established American tradition dating back centuries. These buildings have likely been used as stables or garages for most of their history, but also show signs of having been lived-in (perhaps by servants) at some point. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Other Places I’ve Been and Will Be, and More Schenectady Pics

It’s been a busy few weeks. As part of my internship with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, I’ve had the opportunity for my writing to show up in a couple of other places.

With the push on to fund the MTA capital plan, I had a piece in the Gotham Gazette about the need for political leadership to make a new plan happen. “Lead, dammit” is of course a cliched, boring thing to ask of lawmakers, but I think there’s some decent blame to be spread around here. And I make the argument that while the MTA is not sliding backwards into the 1970s, it may very well be slipping into the same kind of death spiral as WMATA is currently experiencing.

I also had a two-part series on Tri-State’s own Mobilizing the Region blog about the Capital District Transportation Authority’s BusPlus “Bus Rapid Transit” system, existing and planned. Originally written as one long post, it (correctly) got split into two to keep lengths manageable. The first post is a primer on BusPlus, including the existing line from Albany to Schenectady and the planned routes to UAlbany and Troy. The second (and for me, more interesting) post is about what various stakeholders can do to make BusPlus a truer BRT system.

I also have several posts coming up on Mobilizing the Region, including one about the economic impact of the MTA capital plan on Upstate that should be going up in the next few days. I’ll also be taking a look at the Capital Region MPO‘s long-range visioning plan and their just-getting-off-the-ground study of the future of the I-787 corridor along the Hudson waterfront.

As a total aside, I spent five hours traipsing around in the oppressive humidity at Union College in Schenectady for a site visit for a Jewish retreat I’m involved with. A few pictures:

The original site of the famed American Locomotive Company  is now a carwash.

The original site of the famed American Locomotive Company is now a carwash.

The headquarters of the Golub Corporation, a major brownfields project, has won multiple environmental awards, including LEED certification, despite being fairly  anti-urban and surrounded by parking lots.

The headquarters of the Golub Corporation, a major brownfields project, has won multiple environmental awards, including LEED certification, despite being fairly anti-urban and surrounded by parking lots.

Like many colleges in urban areas, Union is busy buying up all the property adjacent to campus it can get its hands on. Our guide described this teardown and new-build dorm as a "revitalization project" for the neighborhood.  I have mixed opinions on this.

Like many colleges in urban areas, Union is busy buying up all the property adjacent to campus it can get its hands on. Our guide described this teardown and new-build dorm at the corner of Roger Hull and Park Places as a “revitalization project” for the neighborhood. I have mixed opinions on this.

The interior of the unique, sixteen-sided Nott Memorial, the centerpiece of the Union campus, is really something. My picture certainly does not do this gorgeous building justice.

The interior of the unique, sixteen-sided Nott Memorial, the centerpiece of the Union campus, is really something. My picture certainly does not do this gorgeous building justice.