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A Bad Idea Part II Metro Center Parking

February 17, 2015 by pegjohnston

A Bad Idea Part IIA Guest Viewpoint was recently published in this space regarding the questionable conversion of the MetroCenter Plaza in downtown Binghamton into a ten space parking lot, at what amounts to about $35,000 a space.  Much has happened since that initial piece.

Members of the Commission on Architecture and Urban Design (CAUD) were the first to raise concerns about this project.  Other concerned citizens also raised meaningful points and voiced these in person at City Council Meetings.  As a member of the City’s Planning Commission at the time, I also voiced my concerns. We were all told by the Administration that CAUD approval was not needed, that our claims were inaccurate and untrue.  Good citizens raising questions were told Traffic Board review and approval was not needed, that our concerns were inaccurate and untrue.  Taxpayers watching the city’s spending habits were told that the Mayor could use unspent Bond Funds from another Capital projects without any other approvals, that our objections were inaccurate and untrue.  We were told that the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) was not applicable, that our concerns were inaccurate and untrue.

How time changes circumstances.  Since these concerns were raised, the Administration has now engaged CAUD, sought approval from the City’s Traffic Board, acknowledged the need for new bonding authority to fund this project and committed to compliance with SEQRA.  All of this begs the question, what was the Administration trying to do before these issues were raised?

I think the answer is pretty clear.  The goal was to circumvent the existing process, those checks and balances that are in place to ensure good governance, and deliver a quality project that benefits the public’s interest.  This was an attempt by the Administration to force this project through the process hoping no one would notice.  The ultimate goal of the project the benefit of a select few at the expense of the many.

So what can we say to this?  At the February 18th City Council meeting, Council members will have to decide whether to borrow the funds and ultimately build the project.  Is spending $350,000 of our tax dollars a good investment for ten parking spaces?  If we are going to bond, and borrow from our future, shouldn’t it benefit more of our citizens?

A colleague pointed out to me in an e-mail that it took three years of strong advocacy to get $25,000 invested in the ball park and bathhouse at Columbus Park. West End Park will get tens of thousands of dollars in investments this coming year, but largely because of a state grant. It took eight years to reach agreement to borrow $100,000 to tear down the First Ward Pool. Through the Design Your Own Park, resident groups on the North Side and West Side worked tirelessly for a few years to get $20,000 in public investments in new park spaces.

Neighborhood parks are used by thousands of our city's families, kids, and individuals every year! Is Council really going to approve borrowing $350,000 to build a ten space parking lot in the heart of our downtown, two blocks from the City’s three parking ramps, all of which are in dire need of repair?

Obviously if the City is to borrow there are better uses that will have a broader impact on our citizens and help build community.  We all, as citizens need to be paying more attention to what goes on in City government.  Go to the City’s website, review City Council, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board agendas and minutes.  Even better, reach out to your Council representative before the February 18th meeting and tell them to think twice about spending so much money to convert the MetroCenter public courtyard into a ten-space parking lot. Tell them to say no to “David’s Dead End.”

Good government needs you!

Mark D. Bowers is a resident of Binghamton’s West Side

IBM and Endicott residents settle toxic plume lawsuit

February 17, 2015 by pegjohnston

WIVT reports:

IBM and a group of Endicott residents have agreed to settle a lawsuit over the toxic plume. In a joint statement issued by the company and attorneys for the plaintiffs, the two sides announced that an agreement in principal has been reached to settle claims over alleged injuries related to IBM's former manufacturing facility. IBM has acknowledged a spill of the volatile organic compound trichloroethylene, aka TCE, in 1979. READ more at:
IBM, Endicott residents to settle environmental lawsuit

WBNG reported on the story:

The statement said the settlements will avoid "expensive litigation." Despite the proposed agreement, an IBM spokesman said the company is still committed to the ongoing environmental cleanup at its former Endicott facility.

IBM is blamed in part for contaminating ground, water and air with trichloroethylene, or TCE. The chemical was used to clean, finish and degrease metal in the computer manufacturing process.  READ MORE at:
IBM, Endicott Residents End Years-Long Contamination Lawsuit


Reforming the Energy Vision

January 30, 2015 by pegjohnston

Last year, New York's policy-makers drafted a State Energy Plan that looked too much like the status quo. It was heavy on gas and light on concrete steps to get New York off dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and nuclear energy. In response, tens of thousands of us raised our voices at public hearings and in written testimony to demand a real plan for a renewable energy transition.

New York's energy planners are at it again, but this time, they have taken a 180. This time, they are challenging business as usual in New York's retail electricity markets, through a proceeding at the Public Service Commission called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). There are some great opportunities in this process to move the state toward a decentralized renewable energy system, but there are also some major causes for concern. We must participate in the process so that we can ensure New York gets moving on a just transition to renewable energy.

Please join us at the Binghamton REV hearing on Thursday, February 12 at the Binghamton City Council Chambers, City Hall, 38 Hawley Street, Binghamton NY 13901.

An information session will be held at 6pm, directly followed by an on-the-record public hearing at 7pm. BRSC will host our own REV workshop 2-5 days prior to the hearing. Look for an announcement of details soon.

Last year the Energy Democracy Working Group (EDWG) was formed by the Alliance for a Green Economy, the Binghamton Regional Sustainability Coalition, Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Center for Social Inclusion, PUSH Buffalo, and The Solutions Project. The EDWG is a broad alliance of sustainability, environmental justice, affordable housing and other diverse community organizations working to be sure that New York's transition to a clean energy economy benefits New York's communities in general, and those marginalized from these benefits in particular. EDWG works to put the people of New York, not a handful of corporations, in the driver seat.

Building on AGREE's leadership, the EDWG and dozens of allies have successfully pressed the Public Service Commission (PSC) to hold eight info sessions and hearings across the state. The first was in Syracuse last night, where nearly 100 Central New York Residents spoke up for an energy system run by and for the people of New York State. This small victory is only the beginning.

A complete schedule with great information on REV is on the AGREE website. The official hearing announcement from the PSC is attached and linked at the bottom of this message.

Upcoming public hearings offer us the chance to determine what New York's energy future will look like. Don't miss this chance.

What is REV?
REV is a major overhaul of the way New York policy makers intend to pursue clean energy, and so far, the process has been dominated by utility companies, Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and other for-profit actors. It's no surprise, then, that the proposals coming out the the proceeding would hand over much of the design and control over New York's clean energy programs to utility companies. The proposals would also phase out clean energy subsidies and the state's clean energy programs in favor of the market-oriented approach envisioned in REV.

The public's voice must be heard so that we can demand an energy future that is designed by and for New Yorkers.

Join the call for energy democracy, enforceable environmental goals, consumer protection and energy affordability.

Find out more about REV at the Alliance for a Green Economy website <>, where we have posted:
- A short video introduction to REV
- Talking points
- Links to all the documents

And while we are making our voices heard to the Commission with a duty to represent the public, find out how to make this a Renewable New York by promoting renewables and energy efficiency in your community.


Binghamton University to host star-studded special screening of "The Rewrite"

January 30, 2015 by pegjohnston

BINGHAMTON, NY – Binghamton University’s on-campus special screening of The Rewrite, a movie set at the University, will feature visits from director and alumnus Marc Lawrence ’81, as well as the film’s lead actor, Hugh Grant. There will be a limited number of tickets available to the campus and the general public on a first-come, first-served basis.
The special screening will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, at the Anderson Center’s Osterhout Concert Theater, just days before its national release on Feb. 13. At 5 p.m., following the movie, Lawrence and Grant will take part in a question-and-answer panel discussion.
“We’ve decided instead of going to the usual cliché, boring places to do a premiere, like New York or Los Angeles or London, we’re coming to the vacation capital of America — Binghamton, New York — on February 8,” said Lawrence. “And I’m going to be coming up with Hugh Grant and some other members of the cast, and a lot of thermal underwear. We’re really, really excited, and we can’t wait to see you!”
The Rewrite is Lawrence’s self-professed “love letter” to Binghamton. He grew fond of the area while attending the University and wanted to mirror his own experience in the film.
“When you first see it — at least for me — it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting with the color drained out,” said Lawrence. “And at the end of those four years it was The Wizard of Oz. The color was completely there, and that’s how I felt about it, too.”
“We were thrilled when Marc chose to set The Rewrite at Binghamton University, and we’re even more excited that he’s decided to screen the movie right here on campus,” said Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger. “It’s a big celebration for the University and for the entire Binghamton community.”
The first wave of complimentary tickets will be made available to students, faculty, staff and alumni from noon-5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2, at the Anderson Center Box Office. The second wave of tickets will be made available to the general public from noon-5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 3. Each day, the first five people in line will receive a Binghamton University related prop used during production of the film. In addition to the standard tickets, a limited number of VIP passes will be made available, granting the ticket bearer reserved VIP seating, access to a special reception and a prop used in production of the film.
The Rewrite follows a down-on-his-luck, award-winning screenwriter, played by Grant, who, as a last resort, takes a job teaching at Binghamton University, where he hopes to focus on writing another hit. However, he winds up becoming more involved than he ever imagined with his students, his colleagues — both friendly (J.K. Simmons, Chris Elliott) and adversarial (Allison Janney) — and a single mom going back for her degree, played by Marisa Tomei.
Watch the official trailer for The Rewrite at, and for more information, e-mail

PAST Salvage Showroom Closed for Renovation Until March

January 29, 2015 by pegjohnston

The PAST office on Court St will be closed and will incorporate their offices into the Salvage Center, on N. Depot St. "We will be re-opening in March. We're combining the PAST office with the Salvage Center...lots of construction. Promise it will be worth the wait - new, interesting stuff!" according to Karen of the Salvage Center which is open 9-1 every First and Third Saturdays and by appoinment.

February Cranberry Coffeehouse features Dan Duggan and Peggy Lynn

January 20, 2015 by bingsierra

The Cranberry Coffeehouse, on February 21, features
Dan Duggan & Peggy Lynn
Peggy Lynn, better known as "The First Lady of Adirondack Music," is recognized nationwide for her soulful songwriting and extraordinary vocal versatility. Her work has been featured at the famous Bluebird Café in Nashville, and in 1996 Peggy was selected Adirondack Woman Of The Year. She has released six recordings, Determination, Chameleon, Bio Songs, Earned These Lines, Cloudsplitter and Close To The Sun. Peggy and Dan Duggan also have a newly released CD, A Stitch in Time, songs celebrating the art and heritage of quilting.
Dan Duggan is known nationally for his wizardry on hammered dulcimer and flat picking guitar, and is the recipient of the National Hammered Dulcimer Championship. Dan has recorded four albums of original compositions, First Frost, Last of May, Seasons of Change, and Trillium Lane, as well as three albums of traditional holiday music: Christmas Morn, Winters Eve, and All Through The Night. Dan's recently released CD, The Pieces of Our Life, original songs written with children, received a 1998 Parents' Choice Approval Award. Dan's dulcimer work also can be heard on Paul Simon's CD, You're The One.

The Cranberry Coffeehouse, 7:30-10 p.m., on Sat., Feb. 21, is located at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, 183 Riverside Dr., Binghamton (next to Lourdes Hospital). Park behind the church or in front (for handicapped access). Admission is a suggested $8 donation.
The Middle Set is for you! The Cranberry Coffeehouse encourages all musicians, vocalists, story tellers, and dancers to share their talents in the middle set. Middle set performances are limited to 5 minutes.
Contact: email/ or phone 607-754-9437 for more information.

Teaching Peace - an honor and a daily struggle

January 20, 2015 by tim wolcott

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I take strength in contemplating the life of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Particularly near the end of his life, M.L.K. represented the pinnacle of fortitude, and fortitude is what all peace makers need on a daily basis.

Only days before his assassination, Dr. King in his speech of solidarity to striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee acknowledged the credibility of the current threats on his life. However, he remained selflessly undaunted and inspired the assembled to “stand up straight” in resistance to injustice and violence. M.L.K. was in Memphis to encourage garbage workers to be assertive and proud to wear the tee shirts stenciled with “I am a man” (who deserves a living wage and basic benefits). “When a man’s back is straight, another man cannot ride you.” His words resonated with the crowd then and with me today. Indeed, the Civil Rights Movement that Martin Luther King helped lead rallied against economic injustice, militarism, consumerism as well as racial segregation. Almost five decades have passed since that speech, but the message remains topical. The imperative to “stand up straight” against racism, militarism and capitalistic exploitation is as timely now as it was then.

Oh, if it were only that easy. It is a daily struggle. The fortitude needed to sustain active resistance requires a daily dose of love.

Teaching Peace - an honor and a daily struggle
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