Oh! The messes of the pre-caffeinated!

One morning as I stepped up to the counter at Cafe Kubal, barista Ozula rapidly cleaned it off, saying something lovingly about “the messes of the pre-caffeinated.” I stared dumbly at the menu board, waiting for the fog to clear enough to be able to make an intelligent choice. She was patient, as always. I eventually got it together and, trusting my caffeine intake to a trained expert, placed my order.

This morning, at home and in an equally pre-caffeinated fog, I did this:

What’s wrong with this picture? Hmmm…. seems I didn’t see that the lid was still on the coffee grinder. I thought I knew what I was doing. I expected one thing but got something quite different. It took me awhile to pick up the beans and put them where they really would be most effective.

This little adventure did wake me up. Got me to thinking about all the mistakes we make before fully awake. Within memory of our own grandparents, we used to think it perfectly fine to deny the vote to women and to lynch blacks. Then we woke up. During our own lifetimes we thought it fine to pollute Onondaga Lake and replace Syracuse’s historic buildings with parking lots. Then we woke up and gave some measure of power to the people who have devoted their lives to understanding the long-term effects of our deeds. We finally heeded the words of Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rachel Carson. After 30 years of ignoring the warnings of Al Gore and many others, we are finally waking up and paying attention to what the experts have been saying: global warming is a serious threat to the entire planet.

Isn’t it time Syracuse woke up and hired experts to make design and development decisions about our city? I don’t mean people who stand to make money or inflate egos off plunking down new construction that’s inappropriate to our city’s urban settings. I mean people who have graduate degrees in urban planning and design, people who understand the effects of our deeds within the complexities of physical and historical context. That means where our city, its buildings, its businesses and its inhabitants stand in relation to the past, the present and the future.

Please, let us not have “planning commissions” full of people who have no advanced education in planning. Please, let us not allow developers to be the sole “deciders” about what our children will be dealing with. Let us fix a system that allows the pre-caffeinated to build an interstate highway right through a cohesive neighborhood (thus dooming it for decades) or a small coterie of developers to bamboozle a city into thinking that we have to choose between sick kids and historic preservation (we don’t).

Keep your eye on what’s happening to the Kingsley-True house. If state or federal funding is sought by Ronald McDonald House, it must undergo a review process before any demolition takes place. See this letter from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and this letter from the Preservation Association of Central New York to Mayor Driscoll for further details.

Please, Syracuse, wake up and drink the coffee!

3 thoughts on “Oh! The messes of the pre-caffeinated!”

  1. Remind Mr. LEED (Mayor Driscoll) about “The Costs of Building Construction and Demolition” from the NTHP:
    The United States is responsible for 22% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, though we have only 5% of the world’s population. According to the Pew Center on Climate Change, the operation of buildings accounts for 43% of carbon emissions in the United States. The environmental impact of buildings is even more significant when we take into consideration the greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing building materials and products.
    It takes a lot of energy to construct a building – for example, building a 50,000 square foot commercial building requires the same amount of energy needed to drive a car 20,000 miles a year for 730 years.
    We are much too inclined to think of our buildings as disposable, rather than a renewable resource. A 2004 report from the Brookings Institution projects that by 2030 we will have demolished and replaced 82 billion square feet of our current building stock. Since it is estimated that there are about 300 billion square feet of space in the United States today, that means we anticipate demolishing nearly 1/3 of our building stock in the next 20-25 years.
    It will take as much energy to demolish and reconstruct 82 billion square feet of space (as predicted by the Brookings study) as it would to power the entire state of California – the 10th largest economy in the world with a population of about 36 million people – for 10 years.
    If we were to rehab even 10% of this 82 billion square feet, we would save enough energy to power the state of New York for well over a year.
    Construction debris accounts for 25% of the waste in the municipal waste stream each year. Demolishing 82 billion square feet of space will create enough debris to fill 2500 NFL stadiums.

    Demolishing perfectly good older buildings to replace them with new ones is simply not “sustainable.”

  2. Maureen’s comments are, as always, on the mark, but to avoid confusion it should be noted that Mayor Driscoll made an admirable effort to encourage the retention of the house with the addition proposed by those opposed to demolition. It’s my understanding that he offered to find funding to assist the compromise project. Furthermore, with the mayor’s support City personnel are actively pursuing National Register designations for large portions of the city to encourage their preservation and rehabilitation. His understanding of the importance of our historic resources and the positive part they can play in community renewal efforts have been reflected in a number of programs and projects.

  3. Yes…two outstanding efforts (environmental-energy and historic preservation)…the poles between the mayor and I are rarely far apart…yet if he could just take his noble efforts a step further and marry the two policies…Seattle, for example, now requires all development proposals to study their carbon emission impacts…!

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