Removed temporarily from the city, the good Rochesterian will eulogize the town to all who will listen and to many who won’t.
– Henry Clune, “Main Street Beat,” 1947
When you grow up in Rochester, you learn all about our famous residents of years gone by. You learn about the mills, the nurseries, the garment factories and the lilacs. You learn about the founding of Xerox, Kodak and Bausch & Lomb. You learn about garbage plates, white hots and Abbott’s. You learn about Sam Patch and his bear. You learn about the A Team and the B Team. You learn there isn’t another place like Rochester.
Governor Andrew Cuomo got the full Rochester come-on today aboard an RTS bus. Mayor Tom Richards stood at the front with a microphone, his arm wrapped around a pole. Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy sat across the from the governor. University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and Wegmans CEO Danny Wegman sat on either side of Cuomo.
Richards was in his glory telling the governor all about the city. He explained why it wasn’t built on the lake. It was built at High Falls, because the falls powered the mills. “Genesee River is one of the few rivers in the country that flows north. It created this city.”
(On the tour, Richards revealed Duffy decided to ax the fast ferry before taking office in 2006. Duffy announced the decision in his second week on the job. Not surprising, but one has to wonder if Duffy knew he would can the operation before the primary. He demurred until the very end.)
Going up Lake Avenue, the mayor mentioned Duffy grew up in the 10th Ward. (So did a certain reporter sitting in back.) Cuomo frequently peered out of the windows as the bus passed the tougher parts of Lake Ave., south of Lexington.
When the bus went over the Smith St. bridge, Richards pointed out the old Bausch & Lomb factory site. “This is Old Rochester,” he said.
Passing Genesee Brewery, the mayor said, “We had to convince them this is a place to put their money…There are 500 good jobs there now.”
At Midtown Plaza, Richards gave Cuomo a mini-tour of downtown, pointing out the Sibley, Xerox, Chase, and Bausch & Lomb buildings. Cuomo asked about the occupancy of the Chase building. Richards said a couple floors are vacant. He said he’s frustrated the bank keeps moving people to Midwest.
The mayor pointed out Dinosaur Barbecue, Capron Lofts, and Washington Square Park. Richards said the park is famous for two things – the Occupiers and the crows. “It’s not that we don’t like birds. We don’t like what they leave.”
As the bus approached the Erie Harbor project, the mayor warned the governor, “You’re going to see right away the colors….It is growing on me, actually.” Richards said he stayed out of the paint job controversy, taking advice from Duffy, who told him in such situations to nod and say, “Gee, it’s lovely.”
Going up Mt. Hope Ave. the mayor talked about how the South Wedge emptied in the 1970s, as people fled to the suburbs. “Now, you can’t get a house.” Richards credited the U of R for the rebirth of the neighborhood.
After the tour, I asked the governor what stuck out to him. He said he’s been to Rochester many times and has been on similar tours. (Really?) He didn’t mention anything specific about the city, but said he was struck by the spirit of collaboration and energy among local leaders. He talked in generalities. I’ve criticized Cuomo before for not talking with any specificity about Rochester. But lack of knowledge clearly isn’t the issue, as he’d just gone on a tour. The folksy Schumer-esque style of “all politics is local” just isn’t Cuomo’s thing (at least not publicly).
I hope Cuomo appreciated the tour, which was way too short. Richards gave the tour we all give our visitors. He clearly enjoyed talking about our city – as all Rochesterians do.