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Prime Time Brass at Liberty Pole Lighting in 2009


On Saturday evening, the mayor will light the Liberty Pole:

Fun starts at 4:30 p.m. outdoors at the Liberty Pole, with music from the School #54 Chorus and Prime Time Brass! Mayor Richards and Santa will flip the switch to light up the Liberty Pole at 5 p.m. Then join the Mayor, Santa, holiday characters, an old time trolley, fire truck and sports mascots in a parade to Manhattan Square Park for fireworks, horse drawn wagon rides, free ice skating (limited $3 skate rental), dj music and more! The old time trolley will be available to bring you back to area parking garages and parking lots!

It’s a tradition started under Bob Duffy that ended up replacing the lighting of the Midtown Christmas tree.

It’s a very nice tradition, but who among the crowd won’t long for the old days? Admit it, you still get misty thinking about the Monorail, Magic Mountain, Clock of Nations and the reindeer at Sibley’s.

I like that the city is creating new downtown memories. But allow us a moment of nostalgia. We’ll feel the twinge every year at the holidays.

Midtown Plaza, 2007


Links of the Day:

– The Mt. Hope neighborhood has secured changes to the design of the Barnes & Noble going into College Town.

– A drive to unionize fast food workers has begun in New York City. One man has been working at McDonald’s for three years and still earns only $8 an hour.

– Imagine going to the bank and not having to wait in line. Want some coffee to go with your deposit? The future of “counterless” retail has arrived in the Albany area.

– An Albany airport invokes “safety concerns” in a bid to prevent people from handing out flyers. Didn’t you know? Leaflets are dangerous!

– We’ve heard of “Drug Free Zones.” In Syracuse, someone put a sign saying “Free Drug Zone.”

Communications Bureau, City of Rochester

Several times this week, large groups of teenagers have gathered on Main Street before school. Fights broke out, with kids running from corner to corner to witness the action.

It was chaos.

This is nothing new, as the city has struggled to keep order on Main Street before and after school. When Midtown Plaza closed, huge crowds of unsupervised youth turned Main St. into their playground as they waited for buses. Some went downtown just to hang out.

On Friday, 13WHAM News recorded what appeared to be the tail end of police regaining order. Police and students were running around. Police found a pellet gun on one student. They pepper sprayed a number of teens.

The video has concerned people, who say the police casually pepper sprayed teens. Some of the teens appeared to be doing absolutely nothing wrong.Pepper spray is a use of force and it’s appropriate to ask questions. It’s very important to note we did not see what happened before this video.

Here’s the perspective of the police: The officers’ primary goal was to get the kids on their way to school before another fight broke out. You can’t have hundreds of students running up and down Main Street when they should be in school. You also can’t have them standing around, away from their bus stops, after they were told to move along. Three kids turns into 10 turns into 50 and then the problem is back.

Officers’ use of pepper spray on students is fairly common in school settings when large groups of students gather to watch fights. It’s a means to disperse crowds. Certainly, some kids who were not part of the melee can get sprayed. But cops will tell you it’s way more dangerous to not break up the crowd than use the pepper spray.

Over the last few years, the school district and police department have downplayed what is happening on Main Street. Meanwhile, officers are placed in a tough position. Tourists, businesses and workers are disgusted. Students who get involved in these melees could be in danger.

I thought the bus company and school district mostly solved the problem of Main Street fights with restrictions on bus passes and more direct routes. It appears the only thing that will get this under control is the new bus terminal that’s coming in 2015. I don’t think an enclosed facility with security will be as problematic, because kids won’t be as free to run around causing problems. Midtown Plaza did not tolerate misbehavior and did not experience regular fights.

What did you think of the video and how police handled the situation?

Links of the Day:

– Hickey Freeman’s CEO says the bankruptcy plan will save jobs, as long as Authentic Brands is the winning bidder.

– North American Brewery’s CEO says the purchase of the company will be a good thing. NAB owns the Genesee brand.

– “A waterfront stadium is a bad idea on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin,” writes a Buffalo News columnist.

– The Saudis are building a huge mosque. Preservationists are worried historic sites could be destroyed in the process.

Liberty Pole, 1990


Rochester’s Liberty Pole is much more than a weird Christmas tree and bus stop. As we celebrate the nation’s independence, it’s worth looking back on this symbol of freedom.

Old Liberty Pole, 1880s

The first Liberty Pole was put up in 1846 to celebrate July Fourth. The pine pole was 118 feet high with a ball on top. It was taken down in 1859 after a windstorm, its wood chopped up and given to a local school.

In 1860, a new pole went up. This one was 102 feet high with a wooden ball and weather vane on top. It became the site of bustling farmers markets and buildings went up all around. It crashed in an 1889 windstorm.

1914, Liberty Pole Triangle, site of current Liberty Pole

It wasn’t until 1965 that the city built a new Liberty Pole. Blake McKelvey wrote in the Rochester History journal:

“Perhaps no structure on the Avenue, however, stirred more controversy than the new Liberty Pole. Erected on the old Liberty Pole Triangle as part of an urban renewal project, it was designed by James H. Johnson…The stainless steel pole, 198 feet high and supported by a graceful meshwork of wires, has attracted a flood of criticism as well as praise as befits a symbol that marks the close of one era and the opening of another.”

I have a feeling a new chapter in the Liberty Pole’s history will be written. I’ve always thought the Liberty Pole is a beautiful structure and a work of art. But I’ve been frustrated at the city’s treatment of the site, which includes putting up portable toilets and allowing teenagers to skateboard on the stone.

The square could be improved and reconfigured when Winn Development takes over the Sibley Building. I hope so. The Liberty Pole deserves better.

Liberty Pole, 1989


Links of the Day:

– They just graduated from Charlotte High School and enlisted. The 18-year-olds also got married.

– A Syracuse girl sings the national anthem at her graduation ceremony. She almost didn’t make it that far.

– When I ‘m not at work, the best way for friends to get in touch with me is text messaging. If they send me a Facebook message, I don’t read it. I hate checking voicemail. I may be a bit delayed reading email. The Wall Street Journal has a great story of how to get your personal communications on the same page.

Links of the Day:

Apparently, criminals and loiterers don’t care for classical music. Cities across the country are playing Beethoven, Bach and Handel in trouble spots. They’re finding the music works! Minneapolis is the latest to try it at a train station:

The “classical music strategy” began last summer after complaints that the station had become “a haven for rowdy teens and vagrants.” The idea is that potential criminals find classical music so detestable that they won’t hang around the station long enough to realize their criminal potential.


Still the theory behind the idea is a strong one. It reaches back to the famous “broken window” experiment in psychology — named for how quickly cars get stripped when a window is shattered — and the notion that a culture of order and maintenance dissuades reckless and criminal behavior.

I have long said this would be a great idea at the Liberty Pole. Every time I brought it up to various city officials, I got nothing but laughter. It’s worth a shot.

– Speaking of the Liberty Pole, check out this stunning picture from RochesterSubway.com of the Sibley Building from the 1930s.

– If you can’t beat ’em join ’em. Hilton High students are allowed to use cell phones in class – as part of lesson plans!

– It’s not a good idea to put video cameras in a locker room, even if you are Oak Hill Country Club.

– Too soon? Some are wondering if Billy Crystal will joke about Kodak Theatre’s woes at the Oscars.