NY Times highlights how voice of community saved Hamburg
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • August 20, 2013 @ 8:48am
One of the tell-tale signs of adulthood is moving away from your hometown for a few years—whether it’s for college, a new job or to get married—and then returning to witness the changes.
Definitions of positive change vary—you may be excited to see subdivisions pop up in formerly empty fields, but your uncle Chuck may be annoyed by the resulting traffic congestion. You may be thrilled about the wealth of small businesses that have piled into a bustling main strip, but your mischievous cousin Chelsea may be troubled by the fact that there’s nothing open after 9 p.m.
Professionals much brighter than me dedicate their lives to determining and ensuring that communities remain healthy and vibrant, and the New York Times highlighted Hamburg, NY, as an example of a community on the brink of obscurity that was saved by its citizens.
The Times’ Dennis Gaffney recounts how the village of Hamburg nearly introduced an additional traffic lane on Route 62—see the map on the right—in 2001, motivating a concerned citizen, Susan Burns, to create a group called the Route 62 Committee.
With community backing and the support of Dan Burden, now executive director of Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute, the group outvoted the state’s desire to plop another lane for more cars to speed through the town and, instead, arrived at an alternative—traffic circles.
Here’s perhaps the most telling section of Gaffney’s piece, which comes through the lens of Hamburg village trustee Laura Hackathorn:
She noted the crosswalks that were added midblock and sidewalk extensions into the road, making it easier to cross the street. Ms. Hackathorn stopped in front of the Coyote Cafe and pointed east up Main Street toward a cozy corridor created for strollers and outdoor diners.
“If you build a place for cars, it will be a gathering place for cars,” Ms. Hackathorn said. “If it’s built for people, it will be a gathering place for people.”
Not all is perfect in Hamburg, of course. Drivers still seem a little befuddled by how to navigate a traffic circle—and there are serious concerns within the community after two recent accidents—and local business was dealt a blow by the closing of longtime village stalwart Daniel’s due to the owner’s retirement.
Still, these are concerns of a community trying to adjust to progress rather than one willing to fade into obscurity.