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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.

We’re Smugtown USA.

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.

13 Responses to Cuomo on the Bus

  1. Just good to see this happening. When people learn, they appreciate.

  2. The UR helping with the rebirth of the Wedge? Not the case. The University is a corporation that works toward what will be advantageous to them, not necessarily the neighborhood. As a committed, involved resident of the Wedge for 20+ years, I can think of at least 5 properties/projects in the last 6-8 years that got the neighbors (and even City Hall) in action to try to shape, or in one case eliminate, the project so that our neighborhood was enhanced and not depleted. The South Wedge Planning Committee, BASWA, neighborhood groups, and committed individuals have been valuable participants for 30+ years in the rebirth of the Wedge, South, Mt. Hope and Clinton Avenues, and this great community. The University? They are a large-scale employer, not a community member. (BTW – I am a long-time employee of the University but lived in the Wedge before I became employed by them)

  3. November 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm RaChaCha responds:

    Looks like a thoroughly all-male club at the front of the bus, there. Speaking of which, did Joe Robach & Bob Duffy do their verbal rooster-jouster (for lack of a better term) banter–?

    Interesting, Cuomo’s remark about having “been on similar tours.” I wonder if he was referring specifically to Rochester, or the other tours he’s been taking of the regional councils.

    Hearing the Fast Ferry comment, my mind went all the way back to the 2005 effort by some of “the powerful” to draft Duffy for Mayor. At the time, it was generally understood that was largely about blocking David Gantt from controlling City Hall through having a protégé as mayor. But this comment suggests that some were perhaps looking to back a candidate who would pledge to end the Fast Ferry (and perhaps also make other personnel/policy changes at City Hall to their liking), and that perhaps Duffy was that candidate.

    Great story, Rachel — no one better than you to cover this!

  4. November 27, 2012 at 9:01 pm sean lahman responds:

    “Richards gave the tour we all give our visitors.” So they ended up at Wegmans?

  5. Anyone notice a thing or 2 out of place on that bus?Seligman and Wegman…… Pittsford Mafia.

    It’s going to become my catchphrase on here; ‘forest for the trees’.

  6. This was a Democrats’ tour. Maggie wouldn’t like it. I’m shocked at the lack of diversity, a couple of women, but the message is clear why the city isn’t thriving, a whole swath of people living in the city aren’t being paid attention to and these leaders were only concerned with businesses not citizens. Did businesses vote for them or did people?

  7. November 28, 2012 at 9:32 am RaChaCha responds:

    Did anyone comment on how no matter where the bus went in the city (unless it took a detour down East Ave) there were actually NO WEGMANS STORES ANYWHERE?

  8. November 28, 2012 at 9:38 am RaChaCha responds:

    Speaking of the issue of women at the front of the bus, it would have been hysterical if they had ended up with Krazy Karen as their driver. Don’t know about her–? Just ask any driver, long-time passenger, or administrator about Karen for some guaranteed fascinating stories.

  9. The University of Rochester did not revive the South Wedge. Its presence nearby helped, but the revival of the Wedge was almost 100% due to the efforts of its residents, particularly the South Wedge Planning Committee.

  10. I may have moved 60 miles west on the thruway, and may take a position in Oregon when my lease is done here, but Rochester, was, is and always will be my home. Glad to see the Gov pay a little attention to it.

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