Monday, September 19, 2016

Baseball

Now that the Bills' season is over, Rochesterians can focus on baseball.  The national pastime is a good fit for Rochester, a musically inclined city, but not in a top 40 sort of way.  While football is like pop music (catchy, immensely popular, and possibly overrated), baseball is more like classical music (painful at times, yet occasionally exhilarating and unrivaled).  In any event, here are a few interesting tidbits about our region's contribution to baseball:

  • Baseball was invented in Upstate New York (Cooperstown).  Apparently, this story is not actually true, but as the current election cycle shows, the truth is unimportant.
  • Many of the baseball scenes of one of the best baseball movies of all time, The Natural, were filmed in Buffalo's old War Memorial Stadium.
  • Traditionally, baseball bats have been made from ash trees (now seriously threatened by the emerald ash borer).  Where are these ash trees located? Upstate New York, of course.  Rawlings obtains its ash wood from the Adirondack region.  Louisville Slugger bats have largely originated from 6,500 acres of timberland in northern Pennsylvania and across the border in New York State.
  • Alumni of the Rochester Red Wings include Bob Gibson, Eddie Murray, Stan Musial, Cal Ripken, Jr., Frank Robinson (manager), and Earl Weaver (manager).
  • The upcoming Major League Baseball postseason looks to feature many teams genuinely longing for a World Series.  The Chicago Cubs haven't won since 1908, and the Cleveland Indians last won in 1948.  The Texas Rangers and the Washington Nationals, both somewhat younger franchises, have never won.  The Baltimore Orioles last won in 1983.  At the time, the Orioles were managed by Rochester Red Wings alum and Rochester resident Joe Altobelli.



Saturday, September 17, 2016

Crime Revisited

Rochesterians, both historically and currently, have embraced change.  This endearing characteristic is representative of our small town's worldliness.  Yet listening to certain Rochesterians discuss urban crime often raises the question of whether these discussants have ever stepped foot outside the Rochester metro area.

The city of Rochester, while by no means the safest spot on the planet, has some serious competitors when it comes to violent crime.  In 2014, the violent crime rate in Rochester was 839 per 100,000.  Here are a few equally-branded locales that in the same year put Rochester's violent crime rate to shame:

  • Cleveland: 1,334.3 (per 100,000)
  • Baltimore: 1,338.5
  • Milwaukee: 1,476.4
  • St. Louis: 1,678.7
  • Oakland: 1,685.4
  • Memphis: 1,740.5
  • Detroit: 1,988.6 

But how about better-branded locales? Here are a few that also had Rochester beat:

  • Las Vegas: 841.1 
  • Anchorage (in Alaska!): 864.6
  • St. Petersburg (in the Florida that Rochesterians worship): 864.9
  • Chicago: 884.3
  • Orlando (yes, in beloved Florida): 901.1
  • New Orleans: 973.9
  • Houston: 991.4
  • Minneapolis: 1,012
  • Philadelphia: 1,021.4
  • Miami (that's in Florida by the way): 1,060
  • Nashville: 1,122.5
  • Washington D.C. (that's the nation's capital): 1,185.3
  • Atlanta: 1,227.4




Thursday, September 8, 2016

Running

I don't run, although I clearly should.  As it turns out, for those who do run, Rochester is a rather desirable spot to carry out this pursuit.  Runner's World recently sought to identify America's 50 Best Running Cities.  Beginning with a list of 250 U.S. cities with populations over 160,000 that had been identified as having a high participation in running, the authors then ranked each city based on five weighted indexes of importance to runners:

  • Run Index (40% weighting) - included factors such as number of races, number of running clubs, number of running stores, etc.
  • Parks Index (20% weighting) - included factors such as parks per 10,000 residents, walkability, etc.
  • Climate Index (20% weighting) - included data on precipitation, temperature, and air quality
  • Food Index (10% weighting) - included data on farmers markets per 1,000 residents and healthy food availability/affordability
  • Safety Index (10% weighting) - included data on violent crime, pedestrian fatality rate, and travel time

Rochester was not a top performer in any individual index, but as is often the case, it excelled as a total package.  Of the 50 best running cities, here are the top 20:
  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Boston, MA
  4. San Diego, CA
  5. Washington, DC
  6. Portland, OR
  7. Minneapolis, MN
  8. New York, NY
  9. Omaha, NE
  10. Denver, CO
  11. Chicago, IL
  12. Madison, WI
  13. Colorado Springs, CO
  14. San Jose, CA
  15. Los Angeles, CA
  16. Rochester, NY
  17. Pittsburgh, PA
  18. Tucson, AZ
  19. Raleigh, NC
  20. Boise, ID

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Blank Canvas

Rochester, for all its detractors, also maintains a remarkably passionate fan base.  This fanaticism is driven by several factors (all of which have been noted many times), including:


Beyond these factors, Rochester also offers one other key element that generates an immense amount of enthusiasm: a blank canvas.  For an undeniably creative community, the ability to be part of a revitalization story borders on exhilarating.  While citizens shape their communities all over the world, the process in Rochester is arguably one of the most alluring:
  1. Rochester is a paradoxical blend of unestablished and established.  In other words, while opportunities for rebuilding and reshaping are numerous, a strong and proven foundation exists.
  2. Rebuilding in Rochester is a not-so-subtle undertaking.  Our conversations do not revolve around a small corner at the margin of the city but rather the following somewhat conspicuous stretches:
  • The waterfront along a picturesque, northward-flowing river that bisects the heart of the entire metropolitan area
  • The waterfront abutting a Great Lake, across which lies by far the largest city of another country
  • The most important plot of land in downtown Rochester and perhaps the whole region

So let's get painting (okay, that was bad.)



Monday, August 29, 2016

Rewording

A recurring theme on this blog is the statistically unfair comparison of Rochester to other cities across the country.  While Rochester comprises about 19 percent of its metropolitan statistical area (MSA), it can occasionally be compared to cities that comprise 40 percent (Raleigh), 42 percent (New York City), 49 percent (Memphis), or 60 percent (Albuquerque) of their respective MSA's.  As such, studies that depict Rochester as the most horrible city in America are not always telling a complete story.

As reported by the Democrat & Chronicle, a recent investigation performed by EdBuild attempted to identify the steepest lines of economic segregation in the country.  By looking at pairs of contiguous school districts throughout the country, the researchers could determine the borders across which there was a large disparity in child poverty rate.  The disparity in child poverty rate between the Rochester City School District and its eight bordering school districts (Penfield, Brighton, West Irondequoit, Rush-Henrietta, Gates-Chili, Wheatland-Chili, Greece, and East Irondequoit) was rather high.  In fact, all eight borders were in the top 1.2 percent nationally for this measure of economic segregation (among 33,526 borders studied.)

Before concluding how terrible, closed-minded, and intolerant we Rochesterians are, the data warrants a second look.  If the nine suburbs that make up the eight bordering school districts were part of the city, the city of Rochester would then comprise about 49 percent of its MSA (i.e. the same as Memphis.)  In such a case, what are now strict economic borders would turn into mere neighborhoods within one city.  The aforementioned study's conclusion would then read: Rochester has some very wealthy neighborhoods and some very poor neighborhoods.

Having lived in both Manhattan and the Bronx, I am confident that this circumstance is not unique.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Mindset

The essence of Rochester can be captured with the catchphrase "big city amenities without big city hassles."  An outsider might wonder what sets Rochester apart from similarly sized regions which may lay claim to the same slogan.  As outlined many times, Rochester's artistic, musical, and educational offerings are not just present but often world-class.  Furthermore, when these offerings are viewed on a per-capita basis, Rochester always seems to surface near the top.  Yet Rochester's big city amenities move beyond these tangible elements into the realm of something more nebulous...mindset.  Many are attracted to America's large cities not just for employment, cultural merits, and sporting events, but rather a general outlook that is current and perhaps ahead of its time.  What places Rochester in a select group is that despite not being a huge city, it frequently displays the mindset usually reserved for larger metros.

A perfect example is found in the following ranking assessing America's Most LGBT-Friendly Cities.  Vocativ, a media and technology company that uses proprietary data mining technology, looked at 16 "key lifestyle metrics" to identify the top 35 most LGBT-friendly cities among America's 100 most populous metropolitan areas.  Here are the top 10:

  1. Los Angeles, CA
  2. New York, NY
  3. San Francisco, CA
  4. Des Moines, IA
  5. Chicago, IL
  6. Seattle, WA
  7. Albany, NY
  8. Rochester, NY
  9. Denver, CO
  10. Madison, WI 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hipster

I'm slightly too old, chubby, and gray-haired to fully comprehend the definition of hipster.  Furthermore, living in suburban tract housing automatically disqualifies me from having a proper opinion on the matter.  That said, I can drink third wave coffee, listen to indie music, and throw back microbrews with the best of them.  Fortunately, Rochester offers this scene in abundance.  In fact, the hipster scene in Rochester is one of the most vibrant in the country, at least by one measure.

Infogroup, a big data, analytics, and marketing services provider, sought to identify the Top 10 Most Hipster U.S. Metro Areas among metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) with over 1 million residents.  Nine types of businesses were identified as being closely related to hipster culture:

  • microbreweries
  • record/tape/CD retailers
  • music dealers
  • non-chain coffee shops
  • beer/ale retailers
  • thrift shops
  • bicycle dealers
  • tattoo parlors
  • music/live entertainment

MSAs were then ranked by their concentration of these hipster businesses per 10,000 residents.  The top 10 were:
  1. Seattle, WA
  2. Portland, OR
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Sacramento, CA
  5. Grand Rapids, MI
  6. San Diego, CA
  7. Providence, RI
  8. Pittsburgh, PA
  9. San Francisco, CA
  10. Rochester, NY