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May 6, 2008 - 3:48pm

In search of decline — can't find it

posted by Philip Anselmo in city council, Neighborhoods.

After a chat with City Councilman Bob Bialkowski this morning, I went in search of the "pockets of decline" that he mentioned. Bob said to check out the southside of the city around Jackson, Maple and Thorpe streets, if I wanted to find the "problem" neighborhoods.

That was where I thought to find the trash and debris, the buckled-under homes and general malaise. Not so. At least not by this city boy's estimation. I've seen streets in Rochester, streets in Buffalo, New York, Chicago, even some in Canandaigua that would make those Batavia blocks look like paradise on high, like a stroll through Green Acres.

At the very worst, I spotted some peeling paint, a couple (maybe) ramshackle porches, a stray tricycle or two, a leaf-swollen gutter — maybe. But really, what I saw as I drove down Dawson Place, Ganson Avenue and Thorpe Street were people. What I saw were people outside, sitting on their stoops, walking their sidewalks, talking to each other, mowing their lawns. I saw a community. I saw regal, Victorian-looking homes, a little bruised, sure, but not broken, not even bent.

So, maybe I wasn't looking in the right place. Maybe I wasn't looking with enough intent — I should say I was driving my car. Maybe those homes are rotten and rotting from the inside, really putrid and crumbling, which could explain why everyone was outside, hanging out. Or maybe — and this may be closer to the truth — maybe some Batavians have unusually high standards, higher standards than I have ever cultivated myself.

What do you think of these (and other) neighborhoods in the city? Are they in decline? Are they run down? Do you live there? Is that how you see it? Is Councilman Bialkowski on the ball? Or is he over the top?

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