I teach a class titled “Sustainable Communities” at Hobart & William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. This past semester, students were asked to create projects that focused on the following places: the Seneca Army Depot, which once provided the most munitions for the U.S. during World War II all the way until the first Gulf War; the separation, differences, and possible overlap of services between the Town and City of Geneva; neighborhood issues and development; urban water issues, especially regarding Castle Creek, which runs through the City of Geneva; and the nexus of water and energy in the Finger Lakes. (Take a look at the course: http://flihappenings.wordpress.com/ [May 1, 2013, posting].)
Old Geneva High SchoolOne group of students selected as its project the proposed demolition of Finger Lakes Community College’s (FLCC) satellite campus in Geneva, which is located in the old Geneva High School. FLCC’s plan is to demolish the school in order to make way for a new, smaller building at the same location. These students did their homework. They spoke to the architect of the new school, conducted research in the local archives, located newspaper articles about the old building, interviewed neighbors, and reached out to City Council leaders. They then used their respective knowledge and skills in sustainability, design and architecture, environmental consciousness, and social media to produce the following video:
To put it simply: I was impressed. Without any prompting on my part (I happen to think that the oldest portions of this historic building should be saved, especially since demolishing the building runs counter to FLCC’s current needs for its students and stated beliefs about sustainability), the students addressed the needs of the community college, saved the historic school, and created a vision that I would think makes everyone happy. But money is still the problem: the current plan to demolish the school and create a new building costs $12 million, I think, while it supposedly costs $18 million to save the school, do limited deconstruction, and renovate.
There are solutions that can work. What a great many people do not realize is that FLCC, like a lot of community colleges, has a number of amazing strengths—one of which is in the arena of music, as these students and FLCC make clear. FLCC apparently has one of the best music production (Music Recording Technology) programs in New York State.
One part of my students’ plan is to renovate part of the original building for use as a recording space for FLCC’s music program. When I reached out to Travie McCoy, lead singer for Gym Class Heroes, which originated in Geneva, York, to see if he might be willing to donate money to save the building and create a recording space in his honor at FLCC’s Geneva campus, I was rebuffed—or at least I never received a response. (It should be remembered that apparently Gym Class Heroes’ naming stemmed from a bullying experience in an actual gym. The gym in the old high school could be renovated for performance and video creation, as part of an effort to save the historic school. What an amazing tribute to a successful music group.)
If you like what you see in the video and agree with the ideas and proposal, do something.
One idea: reach out to Travie McCoy to suggest that he “give back” to Geneva and create an amazing recording/music production location in a small city, like many in the Rusty Lake Belt, that need help, knowledge, and jobs. Instead of being a victory for FLCC only, such adaptive reuse could be good for the school, the city, the neighborhood, the students, and the planet:
Travie McCoy: ContactUs@traviemccoy.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Ashley.White@atlanticrecords.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Dan@fueledbyramen.com; email@example.com; Glenn.Fukushima@atlanticrecords.com; Chelsey.Northern@atlanticrecords.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, reach out to FLCC president and Geneva City Council members:
President of FLCC, Dr. Barbara Risser: email@example.com.
Geneva City Council: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com