Ithaca’s Economic Mystery (Again)

18 04 2014

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I don’t consider myself an optimist. Maybe that’s the result of growing up in upstate New York, or working in a field that suffered its share of setbacks due to the recession. I don’t like the term pessimist either, preferring to go with the more socially acceptable term “realist”.

But this IJ article citing the state Labor numbers doesn’t make one damned bit of sense. I’m not even talking about the fact that they threw Ithaca into two separate employment regions (Ithaca and Binghamton, and Ithaca and Syracuse). to quote a section of the article:

“In the Ithaca region, financial activities, trade, transportation and utilities, and leisure and hospitality each added 100 jobs.

The education-and-health-services sector lost 1,300 jobs from March 2013 to March 2014. That sector’s employment was 38,300 this March.”

Doesn’t it seem just a little unusual that the area lost 1,000 jobs? Recalling the headcount numbers for Cornell that were shared last month, the difference in employee headcounts on East Hill over the period of November 2012-November 2013 is a loss of about 50. Ithaca College’s headcount reports 1,822 employees,  about 12 less than the previous year. So those are both from the fall, and the state counts health and education are grouped together, but if we’re talking about 1,000 jobs, and it’s not Cornell or IC that caused it, then who did? I don’t recall any news of a huge layoff in Tompkins County.

The state regional breakdown PDF says the number of jobs went from 70,900 to 69,900 in the region (IJ says 60,900 to 59,900…someone in their office needs to double-check their numbers, because the 2011 average jobs number was 66,194).  The state description of their methodology says they use a time-series regression model and a sampling of 18,000 establishments statewide to determine jobs data. I’m wondering if this is all a quirk in the sampling, given that Ithaca is a small market (and small sample size in turn).

Maybe Ithaca’s economy really is in the crapper. But honestly, it’s not the first time the state has given overly-negative assessments, and the county agencies have to do damage control. But do we really have to go through this every other year?

 





Belle Sherman Cottages Update, 4/2014

16 04 2014

My last stop, on my out of town. In short order, I mentally debated stopping for photos, missed the turn due to the debating, circled back around, ended up ditching my car in a reserved parking spot at the Coal Yard Apartments complex. Then I ran down the hill, to the development, back up to the hill, and back into my car in the span of five minutes. I’m sure some of the neighbors that were outside Sunday afternoon were a little confused by my behavior.

Since my last time through, work was completed on the bungalow on lot 19 (someone gave it red porch trim; I’m guessing the owner), and the “Victorian farmhouse” on lot 14 is well underway, the modular pieces are assembled and it looks like siding swatches are being tested and installed. I expect this house will be done in just a few weeks. According to their facebook page, Q1 2013 was a stellar three months; five lots were sold: lots 4, 6 and 18 (elevations here), the spec house on lot 1, and one of the planned townhouses. That means 10 of the 19 houses planned have been sold. Considering they sold only six houses in the past two years, this is quite an uptick. Looks like Carina Construction will be busy this spring and summer.

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Dairy Bar and Bar Argos, 4/2014

15 04 2014

Two of the bars I hit up last weekend. For the former, it was my first time inside the new Stocking Hall (the old one is undergoing renovation, and the project won’t be fully complete until 2015). It was absolutely packed with 4H kids/parents, and Cornell Days kids/parents. To order and receive ice cream was a 40-minute endeavor. But I got my Italian lemon cream cake, and that’s what matters.

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Meanwhile, on the more adult end of the spectrum, this past weekend was also my first time inside Bar Argos, the open-to-the-public bar of the Argos Inn. I had a Cuba Libre that was not overpowering, just the right amount of bite. Drinks here run on the high side of average, but the interior was fairly warm and inviting.
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Boiceville Cottages Update, 4/2014

14 04 2014

I had an alumni event in Ithaca, and my drive in always take me in via 79. The Boiceville Cottages are about a mile out of the way, so I had just enough time before dinner to stop by and shoot a few photos.

Unfortunately, spring is also mud season in upstate, and that became all too clear when I stepped out of my car on the edge of the parking lot, and the mud went halfway up my dress shoes. Luckily, I had a second, not-as-dressy pair on hand, but this is definitely not the time of the year to be walking around in nice shoes.

Compared to my last time through Boiceville in December, all the foundations laid at that time are now occupied by homes that are largely complete, with exterior finishes and detail work underway on the newest cottages. No more foundations have been laid, so I’m unsure if more are planned for this year; some areas had been cleared, but it looked to be used for the staging of construction equipment.

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The Keyword Bar XXI

11 04 2014

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I figured I had two options at the moment – write about all the Chain Works District news, or do one of my tried-and-true keyword bar articles, where I examine and comment/answer on searches that led folks to this site. Well, I’m holding off on the Chain Works discussion, until some of the materials presented start floating around one of the local government websites (city of Ithaca, town of Ithaca, or county), and can be reused here. So in the meanwhile-

1. “what frat can ithaca college students join” 4-9-2014 and “ithaca college sorority options” 4-2-2014
Officially, IC offers a few professional music fraternities, but there are a couple of social Greek chapters that are based at IC but are not officially affiliated with the college. Rarely, IC students join Cornell University Greek organizations, though it’s normally no more than 10 IC students per year. Many of these are in the MGLC, fraternities and sororities that focus on minority groups, but a couple do join chapters affiliated with Cornell’s IFC (I don’t know if Pan-Hellenic allows sororities to recruit IC students; maybe in the informal fall rush). These students aren’t allowed to serve in leadership positions in most chapters, and I imagine the trek between campuses gets old after a while.
2. “cornell snow graduation” 4-8-2014

Thankfully, there’s nothing to worry about. According to the NRCC, the latest snow of any amount (trace or higher) in Ithaca occurred on May 18th (1973). With graduation traditionally at the end of May, the possibility of snow is very remote. Winter graduation is a different story.

3. “proposed south hill development town of ithaca” 4-7-2014.

That would be the Troy Road development. Which from a planning/land use perspective, I become less and less a fan of every time I see it. But then, I prefer New Urbanist planning, not suburban cut-and-paste development. I just keep reminding myself that the current zoning is worse, and the town has a poor track record in raining in sprawl.

4. “is there any problem of construction in collegetown terrace” 4-4-2014

Jason over at Ithaca Builds would know this better than I, but as far as I’m aware, there’s been no indication of construction issues. Perhaps the parking isn’t being utilized as much as they thought it would, but that has more to do with planning than construction.

5. “the cradit-moore house” 4-1-2014

Actually, this one has a pretty cool story attached. The Cradit-Moore house dates from 1817, with an addition built in 1860-61. The older north wing was built by Issac Cradit, and the south wing by Peter Kline (the Kline family were locally prominent farmers who held a lot of land, and its where Kline and Klinewoods Roads take their name from). The house was bought in 1938 by Dr. and Mrs. Norman Moore. Dr. Moore was the director of the Cornell U. infirmary, and in 1948, the Moores sold the house to Cornell but with the condition that they could live out the rest of their days in the home. When Cornell began plans to expand North Campus with CKB and Appel back in the late 1990s, the original intent was to demolish the house. This caused substantial protest, and working with the non-profit preservation group Historic Ithaca, Cornell donated the house away in 2000 and Historic Ithaca loaded the house, all in one piece, onto a flatbed truck and hauled it .3 miles to a new foundation on a lot donated by Cornell further up Pleasant Grove Road. The house was then sold to a private owner to recuperate the moving costs, the new foundation and landscaping.

Image property of Historic Ithaca

Image property of Historic Ithaca

6. “tunnel barton teagle” 3-25-2014

It exists, though like many of Cornell’s tunnels, it doesn’t appear to be open for public use.





College Towns As Retirement Communities

5 04 2014

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Growing up in upstate New York, retiring and moving to south Florida was considered a rite of passage. You worked for forty years, you retired with your company or government pension, you moved to a gated condo community in Florida, and then you complained about how much worse everything is these days and how terrible drivers are in Florida for the rest of your days.

I imagine that still tends to be a big draw (considering the New York to Florida population pipeline is the largest in interstate migration), but an increasingly-popular alternative in recent years has been to retire to college towns, enough that mainstream publications like USA Today and the New York Times have devoted articles to the topic.  it’s usually ascribed to some combination of a modest cost of living with expansive cultural and recreational amenities. Without having any numbers directly in front of me, I imagine Ithaca in a sort of second-tier in this category, if only because of the climate, which is a little cooler and snowier than the most popular college town retirement destinations. Still, I’ve been thinking about this topic a little bit because a number of the projects in the Ithaca area are targeted towards the retirement crowd. The individual trigger for this article was a Lansing Star article discussing review of a ~$17 million, 110-unit senior apartment building proposed for the forever-discussed Lansing Town Center development. The more I think about it, the more I realized a number of local projects, both recently built and proposed, are explicitly geared towards the 55+ age group:
- Hawk’s Nest at Springwood (50 units)

-Cayuga Meadows (62 units)

-Longview Patio Homes (22 units)

-Conifer Village at Ithaca (72 units)

-The Kendal at Ithaca expansion (24 apartments and 13 “skilled care” units)

-The Old Tompkins County library site (likely)

Some of the news stories focus on collegiate affinity (i.e. living near the old alma mater) and offerings at the universities as a draw for retirees. To that end, Cornell offers summer courses for seniors and the local community college allows residents over 60 to audit courses (I don’t see anything described for IC). Those offerings along with the open lectures and Ithaca’s fairly active community engagement seem to provide some draw for those in their later years. I find college students and retirees an odd mix (even if they live in different neighborhoods for the most part), but if it works, I have nothing against it.





Ithaca is Cold

3 04 2014

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It probably doesn’t take a meteorologist to realize that this year was a long, cold and harsh winter. But let’s give it some perspective. All data comes courtesy of the Northeast Regional Climate Center (NRCC).

Records go back to 1893 for the Ithaca area. If we look at just snowfall, this was a fairly average year. The typical Ithaca winter averaged 64 to 67 inches, depending on your source, with accumulations on 19 days. Barring any freak spring snowstorms (God forbid), this year will finish up at 63.3 inches tallied from 20 days of accumulating snow, virtually par for the course.

Then we take a look at the cold. That was the news maker this year – the cold, not the snow. Let’s put this into perspective and look at the period from November 1 to March 31st – what most folks would describe as the cold season, rather than just calendar or meteorological winter (we’ll hit met winter in a minute).

This was tied for the second coldest cold season since 1893. The average temperature was 24.8 F. Tied with the winter of 1969/1970, and 0.3 F short of the record holder, 24.5 F set in the winter of 1903/04. Even the detestable cold of the winter of 1993/1994 wasn’t as bad as this year (though it holds fourth at 25.0 F). The average coldest temperature in a year is about January 18th, with a high of 30 F and a low of 17 F.  23.5 F. In other words, the temperatures seen on what is usually the coldest day in a year could very nearly be applied to a five month period. It was that bad.

Now let’s look at meteorological winter, December 1 – February 28th/29th. 21.4 F. This is, surprisingly, not awful. It’s the 15th coldest meteorological winter on record. Below average, but not awful. 2002-2003 was worse (21.2 F). The winter of 1917-18 is worst, with an average of 19.0 F. So winter was cold, and seems to be shifting the blame to November and March.

In that respect, we have to hand it to March for being an epic piece of frigid dung. Fourth coldest March on record, at 24.5 F. Only March 1900 (24.4 F), 1984 (23.8 F) and 1960 (21.5 F) were worse. November 2013 averaged 35.7 F, which is once again below average, as the 16th coldest November on record. To sum up this season, it wasn’t just the cold, it was duration that truly made it a memorable year.

To touch upon the cold a little more thoroughly, the number of subzero temperatures in the cold season was 23. 23 subzero days ties second place for the most subzero days in a cool season. Tied with 1947/48, and one short of the record holder, 1960/61 (change it to met winter and it moves to third, behind 1960/61 and 1962/63). In terms of maxima, it still has yet to hit 60 this year, the last time Ithaca was above the “jacket line” was December 23rd. You know, because everyone wants a green Christmas, followed by three months of polar conditions.

So there you have it. Persistent troughing in the east gave us one of the coldest cool seasons in decades. If you want to blame someone, look at California and their persistent ridge out west, giving them their warmest winter ever recorded. But then, given the drought, and given that the fringe suburbs of SoCal may go through this again in six months, maybe blame’s not the right word.








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