Just when it seems Rochester has tapped out its energy for creative planning for the season --- what with Ren Square workshops, the Urban Land Institute recommendations, the Design Matters conference and all --- along comes word of a charrette to end all charrettes.
The target this time is the short strip of East Main Street that crosses the bridge over a major CSX rail corridor and intersects with Circle, Railroad, and North Goodman Streets in the space of a few hundred yards.
It's about as convoluted an intersection as you can imagine --- a mini Can of Worms built out of city streets instead of highways. A word like "daunting" hardly seems adequate. "Lost cause" sounds more like it.
Yet that hasn't stopped the folks at the RochesterRegionalCommunityDesignCenter from organizing with neighborhood groups to tackle the area with the latest of their informal brainstorming sessions. Improving access to the Public Market from Railroad Street is one motivation behind the event. Getting onto Railroad Street in a car can be dicey, and the prospect of doing it on foot, at least from points south, seems downright terrifying. Changing that will be on the minds of the charrette's organizers when they convene the event this weekend.
Things get started Friday, November 11, at 5 p.m. with an open house and walking tour of the area. The charrette itself --- cleverly titled "Bridging Neighborhoods" --- begins at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Laborers Hall, at Fourth and Railroad Streets. More information is at http://www.bridgingneighborhoods.com.
Last month, SEIU 1199 members were picketing in front of the University of Rochester Medical Center and other UR buildings. But last week, the union and the university reached a contract agreement, which will give patient-care technicians, secretaries, food servers, and janitors a 6 percent raise over the next nine months and will continue health benefits, a major issue for this group of low-paid workers.
One of the workers on the picket line was patient-care tech Devery Reid-Holmes, profiled in City's October 26 issue. "We were out there that whole weekend," Reid-Holmes said last week, "and it was a lot of work talking to people, passing out flyers, and working together as a group. I was just so glad that our health benefits were not touched. I mean, that was the main thing for me and my daughter. I feel really good about it, and I'm really glad I have this job."
In the 1980s, when a local environmental group first started poking into what chemicals schools use to keep pests in check, every single school district used some form of pesticide. Five years ago, that hadn't changed much, says the group Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides:
"In 2000 it was only one district that reported no use," said RAMPer Audrey Newcomb at last week's press conference announcing the latest findings. Today, just five years later, that number's grown to four school districts plus three individual schools out of 27 surveyed: The districts are Brighton, East Rochester, Penfield, and West Irondequoit; the schools are Allendale Columbia, BOCES 1, and Harley. (The Rochester school district uses Round-Up on the grounds outside of its schools.)
Despite the increase in pesticide-free schools, RAMP members say they're disappointed more isn't being done. "It's very slow," RAMP member Judy Braiman said. RAMPers applaud districts like Brighton, which they say was one of the first to can chemicals in favor of alternative treatments like diatomaceous earth, weeding by hand, and in some cases a little common sense and ingenuity. As an example, Braiman mentioned the district removing a bee's nest with nothing more than a vacuum cleaner.
Other districts ought to be following suit, the group said.
"It's not rocket science," said Braiman.
In addition, there've been advances in creating environmentally friendly products. That's reflected in a law that will require schools to use green cleaning products by the start of the next academic year. Some schools are already complying, but RAMP wants more to do it.
Along with a chart showing which schools use which chemicals, the group released a second, more ominous chart detailing the health effects associated with each chemical they found. Those include cancer, birth defects, and environmental degradation.
See the chart here.