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SAVE THE SUBWAY: Defeat "Erie Harbor Promenade"

This petition had 2,482 supporters

The abandoned Rochester Subway is a world renowned open-air art museum, and a vital destination for attracting visitors, tourists, and international artists to Downtown Rochester. For the history and future of our City, we demand that all remaining sections of The Subway be spared from demolition, remain freely open to the public, and preserved as a public art park where street art/graffiti are allowed to continue flourishing, uncurated, on a daily basis, as it has since 1984.

Therefore, we demand that all public officials addressed in this letter do everything in their power, including the use of eminent domain, to block the "Erie Harbor Park Development" and it's "Erie Harbor Promenade" (Ordnance No. 2012-367) proposal. "Erie Harbor Promenade" has clearly been concocted to facilitate Morgan Management's "Erie Harbor Park Development" plan of condos/apartments, private parking, and a strip mall. Accordingly, on February 25, we demand that the Rochester City Council immediately defeat Mayor Lovely Warren's requested Amendatory Agreement legislation to allocate an additional $250,000 for plan designs to be used in advancing the "Erie Harbor Promenade" proposal. In turn, we demand that Mayor Lovely Warren ceases all future requests for the allocation of public funds to be used for furthering Ordnance No. 2012-367, or otherwise support such developments.

This plea is not just about saving art. This is about harnessing the power of art to help save Downtown. Look at evidence from around the globe to see how successful street art/graffiti is at spurring economic resurgence. Look at Crossroads Park to see how ineffective "Erie Harbor Park Development" and it's "Erie Harbor Promenade" are going to be. They won't alleviate the plague of empty sidewalks and vacant properties that characterize Downtown; but a world class attraction might. We suggest that the $5.2 million dollars of public money allocated for the "Erie Harbor Promenade" and the additional $250,000 be used to make the Subway complex a public park. At the very least, leave it alone and watch it keep bringing thousands of people to Downtown Rochester each year at no cost to the taxpayers.

Please, Save The Subway.


Two proposals are on the table, but they are impossible to untangle as the public component ("Erie Harbor Promenade" (Ordnance No. 2012-367)) would be paying for significant amounts of preliminary work needed for the private Morgan Development, LLC/Morgan Management, LLC's project. 

The Erie Harbor Promenade and the Morgan project are both problematic, both for what they take away and for what they add. At the cost of demolishing many sections of The Subway complex significant to the Erie Canal, railroads, architecture, local history, natural beauty, urban exploration, and of course the international art world, both of the new constructions would significantly obstruct views of the Genesee River, the Rochester skyline, nearby historic architecture such as the Dinosaur BBQ building, and the Troup-Howell bridge to name a few. Furthermore, for those portions of the Subway that survive demolition, the Morgan project would require The City to install roll down gates to block all public access. It's estimated that thousands of tourists visit the Subway annually, ranging from suburban families, retired empty nest-ers, local musicians, fashion models, to traveling tourists, world famous artists, and acclaimed photographers. The lose of such an attraction is clearly at odds with the stated goal of revitalizing Downtown. With public access to the Subway eliminated, Rochester would lose perhaps the most vibrant and effective source of tourism in all of downtown Rochester.

Considering the detrimental effects this project would have on Rochesterians' ability to enjoy the riverfront and the planned destruction of world renowned cultural landmarks, we urge Commissioner of Neighborhood and Business Development Baye Muhammad and Planning and Zoning Director Zina Lagonegro to defeat the the "Erie Harbor Park Development" and do everything in their power, including the use of eminent domain to block the Morgan project, to protect Rochester's citizens from such a lose.

In the interest of Rochester's revitalization, we urge City Council to look at global evidence that it is art and culture, not redundant housing opportunities and strip malls, which spur resurgence. Please take advantage of our collective endowment that is the abandoned Subway and the world famous artwork within. A Subway public art park, should the 32 year old tradition of uncurated street art and graffiti be allowed to continue thriving, would do far more to enhance the culture AND commerce of Downtown Rochester than the proposed Erie Harbor Promenade and Morgan Management development.

Downtown already has a great abundance of: public riverfront access (Genesee Crossroads Park is a total ghost town); vacant condos and upscale apartments (with much more currently being developed); and empty retail space. There is not need for more of any of these.

Meanwhile, Downtown badly needs more culture, foot traffic, and exciting things to do. Why destroy a one-of-a-kind landmark that fulfills all these things we lack, just so it can be replaced with more or what we already have in great abundance? Cities all over the world have proven time and time again that street art and graffiti can successfully revitalize neighborhoods. In fact, most of the time developers have to throw tons of money at the arts in order to achieve that result. In the case of the Subway, because it's so unique, renowned artists from all over the world come paint it for free. Some of the biggest artists and photographers in the world have visited the Subway, and with a little support from the City, the impact of such a destination could actually help these City developers fill up all the empty blocks surrounding Erie Harbor. These empty spaces could either be at the doorstep of a world famous cultural destination, or near just another strip mall and some apartments. Which do you think will help these people find tenants, if that's their big concern. Malls and condos are not going to alleviate the plague of empty sidewalks and vacant properties that characterize Downtown.

Also at stake is the use of $5.2 million public funds for the construction of the Erie Harbor Promenade itself. The Promenade project would be an elevated sidewalk built upon the 1815 Johnson Semour Mill Race (which would be demolished according to this proposal.) The Promenade would begin at the Genesee River Trail terminal on South Ave, continue along the future Morgan property, and then it would jut off the river bank and cut through the Genesee river in front of the Dinosaur BBQ building. The Promenade would block views of the Genesee River and its natural rock formations and blue heron habitat, plus it would destroy the view of and from the historic Dinosaur BBQ building and other sights. In short, the Erie Harbor Promenade seems to have zero inherent public utility beyond serving as publicly funded means to demolish and build infrastructure (front porch and retaining wall) for the planned Morgan project.

A bike path/promenade is not a bad idea altogether, but in this case the design is completely geared toward benefiting the planned Morgan property, not the people of Rochester who have to pay for it (in more way than one). An argument being put forth by those in favor of the proposed Promenade is that it would reconnect the Genesee River Trail, but in reality the Promenade would simply dump pedestrians out in the middle of the Court Street bridge where they will remain disconnected from the Genesee River Trail. Should $5.2 million dollars of taxpayer money indeed be allocated to the site, it should be spent on turning The Subway into a public art park, where a bike path would be a wonderful way to see the park's attractions while also connecting the Genesee River Trail in earnest.

The identity of our City hangs in the balance. Please do not destroy a one-of-a-kind, world famous cultural landmark, much less squander the opportunity to benefit from it.

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