Over the weekend, WROC News 8 highlighted a continuing conversation between Highland Hospital and members of the Highland Park Neighborhood regarding the Hospital’s purchase of residential property. Officials of Highland Hospital were quoted:
“As nearby properties become available, we are interested in exploring how they may be useful as office space, but are committed to maintaining the residential character that makes the South Wedge a desirable place to live and work.”
There are a couple of problems with this statement. First and foremost, maintaining the residential character of a neighborhood takes more than retaining the local architecture. Neighborhoods are created and maintained by people. People living in those buildings. People walking their dogs down the sidewalk. People planting flowers in their front yards for all to enjoy. People talking to their neighbors while sitting on their front porches.
Converting homes into office space by no means maintains the residential character of any neighborhood. Would you want to live next door to a house where 10+ people are constantly walking in and out the front door every day? And where will these people park their cars? Sure, you can tell them to park in the garage on South Avenue, but who is going to enforce that policy?
Over the last 10 years I’ve watched how employees of the hospital invade and overrun the neighborhood streets on a daily basis. All too often cars are parked in front of driveways or too close to fire hydrants. And as they make their way up the hill they leave behind a trail of cigarette butts. It is impossible to “maintain the residential character” of a neighborhood when the sheer volume of foot and automobile traffic continues to increase on an annual basis.
Another issue with this statement that may not be obvious to those living outside the city is the fact that Highland is “committed to maintaining the residential character that makes the South Wedge a desirable place to live,” yet the homes they intend to purchase are adjacent the Highland Hospital campus which is not located in the South Wedge, but in the Highland Park Neighborhood. It’s as if they’re making a conscious effort to destroy one neighborhood under the guise of preserving another.
During the course of the last 4 months, concerned members of the Highland Park Neighborhood have formed a coalition to keep this conversation on the forefront. Defend Urban Neighborhoods (http://www.defendurbanneighborhoods.org/) is a group of:
“Rochester, New York residents who believe in the power of urban neighborhoods to promote community spirit, prosperity and diversity. We are gravely concerned that Highland Hospital’s stated plans for expansion, and recent purchase of a home on Bellevue Drive, will lead to the deterioration of a healthy and historically significant city neighborhood bordering one of the city’s most treasured green spaces, Highland Park. We support thoughtful, responsible growth.”
As you’re walking through the Highland Park Neighborhood this weekend to attend the Lilac Festival, notice the historic homes surrounding the park. These are the properties Highland Hospital intends to acquire one-by-one with the plan to expand the hospital campus into the neighborhood. If you’re as concerned about preserving this neighborhood as members of this grass roots coalition are, please take the time to sign their online petition at Change.org and make your voice heard. Together we can work together to maintain the TRUE residential character of all our Rochester neighborhoods.