Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What’s wrong with this picture?

I was reading over a web article that explained how Gov. Pataki has established a two million dollar grant to help rebuild the historic (and loved!) Clocktower building. The reconstruction of this time-piece holds to be very important to me

The most uplifting part of this article comes from the mouth of Governor Pataki himself when he says, “This project will create new jobs, new housing opportunities and new retailers for this area; it’s truly a win for the Central New York Region and the entire Empire State.”

Isn’t this good news! Although it is good to mention the grant for the Clocktower building (two million dollars seems like a lot to me, but isn’t it going to cost a lot more than that?)… This isn’t why I’m writing this post.

I was slightly perturbed when I saw the image that coincides with this article. Sure it’s cool to see all of the important people walking through OUR Main St. But, the picture that is used makes our city look like a slum. In the background, there is an old boarded up building… Depictions like this are not going to help attract new people.

Ideally, I would like to think that a building under these circumstances is renovated immediately. If not, let’s not make it the center picture of an article. This is a good article with a bad picture. Cheers.


Some Props, Cortland

First off, let me apologize for the brief hiatus in posting; this past weekend was Thanksgiving. Because of this holiday, I was able to take a break and drive home for the weekend. It was awesome!

As I was away I could not help but think about this blog and the problems of downtown Cortland. I am usually (and try to be!) a cynic when it comes to the progress our city; this is not the case today. Let me explain.

I had to work on Thanksgiving Day, so I was not able to go home until that night. I was furious about this at first (didn't want to miss Mom's turkey!), but I usually don’t let things beyond my control get the best of me. As I was leaving Cortland I had the opportunity to drive through the downtown area to get on Interstate 81. I must say… Main St. looked marvelous! There were lights and decorations—I almost didn’t want to leave! There were a lot of people walking through that area; I was jealous.

The whole three hour drive home I was thinking about how awesome Main St. looked. I’m sure that some of the people walking through the streets felt the same way that I did. I give you props, Cortland.

Now the question still remains: how can we take this positive factor that I’ve just noticed and turn it into something of use? Would it be possible to set up a big Christmas tree in the downtown area and have a lighting ceremony just like in Rockefeller Center? I don’t see why not! Then, later, we could even have a craft fair or something around the tree to encourage more people to come.

I’ve only been around once (last winter) during Christmas Break, so, in reality, I’m not even sure what this area is like around here. But, if it’s anything like what I saw leaving last Thursday… we’re in for good times and business. Cheers, Cortland.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Downtown's Needed Metamorphosis

I take for granted the most challenging aspect of being a blogger, which is creating material that will spark the interests of the intended audience. Without a doubt this is the most challenging part of writing in general.

I think I’m going to take a couple steps backwards (away from the restaurant reviews) and provide some what of a more analytical view as to some of the issues that continue to hold downtown Cortland from reaching its full potential. This could get interesting. Today’s topic is change.

Unfortunately, I’m not seeing the progress that is needed in Cortland. Katie writes in a previous post how she is pleased to be able to witness all of the change happening in Cortland at this time. She even writes how it “will surely bring more people to Cortland and keep younger people living in the area longer.” I agree with Katie in the fact that the change is good. Although, from what I’ve seen, it is far from where it needs to be.

Katie does bring up a tremendous point, though. The city of Cortland would benefit from people staying in the area longer. Well, then, where are they going to stay? I feel as if there are minimal housing opportunities in the downtown area (specifically on Main Street). As a student I’ve walked through the apartments located above the various businesses on Main Street; they are less than formidable.

I digress…

It’s been a while since I’ve been back “home” to where I grew up. But, last summer, I was SHOCKED to see how much work was being done on my little town. Looking back to my child hood, I remember there was nothing in Modena. It was a huge deal when they put a Stewart’s in the center of town. Now when I go home, I see hundreds of nice houses being built. There was even talk of putting an amusement park three miles from my house—right next to the karate dojo, the Hannaford’s, the Key Bank, and the new restaurant. Modena is constantly changing for the better. The quality of life in my little town has quadrupled before my eyes. My father’s house is worth three times than what he paid for it…

So why can’t Cortland do the same? The point is that I’m from a little no-name town in lower New York that doesn’t have the opportunities that I feel Cortland does have. I understand that there is indeed a lot of alteration happening here also, but nothing significant is truly changing. A couple of restaurants, some pizza place switches, and a new bar are the only changes that I recall happening since I’ve been in this city. With as beautiful of a set-up that we are blessed with (Main Street) there has to be ways to promote promising change.

There is good news though. With the implementation of the Downtown Cortland Partnership, I feel that our city is in safe hands. Rumors of a new Clocktower Building continue to raise my hopes. Let’s get a move on Cortland! Tell me what you want me to do.

Sure, it’s easy for me to sit here and type mercilessly while taking out all of my anxiety on the keyboard, but in reality we need recommendations. I see the problem. Now what am I (are we) going to do?

Part 1: For starters, instead of traveling to Syracuse and Ithaca to get a good meal… let’s check out what’s available in Cortland. For some reason, as I’ve come to discover (in this post) that most students are unfamiliar with the restaurants in Cortland. Why this is, I don’t know… so let’s change that. Let’s see what this town has to offer.

Part 2: As a community we could promote new businesses to come to Cortland. Where’s the downtown Cortland Steakhouse? I would love to see another dance club fill up the area that Escape used to occupy. Where’s the new housing for students and people who plan on a creating thier future here.

These are rough ideas that need to be explored more thoroughly. Thank Heaven’s for the Cortland Downtown Partnership… until next time, folks. Cheers.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Downtown is Getting a Face Lift

Driving down Main Street the past few days I began to realize how many store fronts were being updated and changed. For starters the Beard Building had some wonderful renovations done to it. I noticed that Pita Gourmet and Woodman's Pub had newly designed and painted exteriors. Hairy Tony's has brought some life to its section of Main Street. It's decorative lighting and boldly-colored sign draw your eye right in. Work is being done across the street near the Army recruitment center. At least I think that's what's under the big yellow structure. The post office recently had some work done in front of it as well. The Red Jug (the newly renovated bar, formerly Bald Lucy's) will surely bring some much need life to Central Ave. I'm hoping the same goes for whatever the old Murphy's turns out to be. I heard a rumor that another bar/restaurant is in the works. Anybody know for sure? I also think M&D Deli is hidden down there. [This is an premature restaurant review for Ray: but it is the best place to get a sandwich downtown. The white chili is to die for! The catered food is excellent as well!] Some sort of daily special board would work wonders on the corner of Main and Central. Radio and TV advertisements would be another way for restaurants to advertise. But I digress....

Some fresh energy has also been brought to downtown Cortland south of Main Street. Coffee Depot is located at 3 South Ave. where Coffeemania is now roasting their own coffees. The building, an old train depot, purchased by Michelle and Craig Brooks in the fall of 2005, houses Coffeemania's storage facility, a large roasting room, and a third area furnished with an espresso bar for training. Coffee Depot was opened to the public last weekend Nov. 10-11. Tours of the facility were given and also tastings of Coffeemania's own coffees and blends of espresso. Plans to offer retail services at Coffee Depot have not been determined. For now coffee can be purchased by the pound at either of Coffeemania's locations, Port Watson St. or Groton Ave.

I am glad to see that downtown Cortland is getting a make-over. This along with Ray' proposed restaurant advertising will surely bring more people to Cortland and keep younger people living in the area longer.

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Great Restaurant Problem: Part Deux

A couple of days ago I proposed the inquiry as to why most of my friends and I, whom have lived in this area for five years, have never treated ourselves to most of the eateries in the downtown Cortland area. Although I have already written on this subject—I feel that it would be advantageous for me to take the next step; let me analyze this situation.

What brings people to a restaurant? I’ve narrowed it down to three major factors.

§ The food.

§ The service.

§ The atmosphere.

There are indeed other aspects that would dictate the popularity of a restaurant, but, I feel that the three main facets are listed above. Sure if the food is priced effectively more people would come. But if the food is incredible, I’m sure that the cost would become less important.

If the cooking is marvelous, but the server is rude and spills it on the floor—I guess it wouldn’t matter, right? That’s why I would label service as of the utmost importance as well.

Also, we are kidding ourselves if we don’t appreciate the significance that the atmosphere of a restaurant portrays. You wouldn’t take your mother to a topless bar to eat. I’m sure it would be awkward for a young man to take a couple of his buddies to a shirt-and-tie restaurant after drinking at the ball game all day. People don’t like to feel out of place.

From what I’ve heard, the restaurants that are located in downtown Cortland don’t serve crappy food while the rude waiters trudge through the unpleasant atmosphere. I would say that there are some decent places to eat that aren’t getting the attention that they deserve. Why is this? Well I’m convinced that advertising has a lot to do with it. I didn’t even know that the Community Restaurant was on Main Street until I was a junior!

I think that it is more imperative that we address ways that we can progress this situation. It feels weird to say it, but I really do think that a publicity stunt is one option. Some of the most memorable restaurants that I can remember going to have all had a story line. The Rainforest Café has a theme that is pushed throughout all aspects of the business (can you imagine a restaurant like that in our city!?). Bugaboo Creek is another. In my hometown there is a little bistro called the Egg’s Nest that has a vintage theme. The antique filled walls bring people from miles—despite the mediocre food!

It’s obvious that restaurants, such as the ones on Main Street, aren’t going to change their business’ to implement some silly theme because some college kid recommended it. Alas, there are other, more reasonable, solutions.

If none of the major aspects (which are discussed above) are tainted in the restaurants in town—then it would seem that recognition is the major cause. I have some ideas of how we can get some of these restaurants some acknowledgement…

How about a night where the Tuscan Grill has a student ID night? What if the students of SUNY Cortland were able to pay using their connections account (I think some of the pizza places have implemented this already). There are always coupons! How about a special for families? Think about the possibilities on family weekend!

I understand that most of what I’m suggesting deals with the college community. But, like I said before—I’m going to be honest. SUNY Cortland creates and brings a lot of revenue to the city of Cortland. I don’t know if I would believe that it would survive without the school/students.

This is something that most people understand, and something that everyone must realize. As a community we must use all of our ammunition to help us create a better quality of life… That’s it for now, folks. Cheers.


The Great Restaurant Problem

Of course the latest and most daunting fact that has fogged my brain this past weekend concerns food. If I’m not in class, studying, spending time with my girlfriend, or working, then I’m usually eating (who am I kidding—I’m typically eating during those times too!). I’ve always been a big fan of eating.

One of my mother’s most loyal associates has a daughter who is a first-year freshman here at good ol’ SUNY Cortland. Yesterday my mother sent me an e-mail requesting a recommendation of a good place for the two (my mother’s co-worker and her daughter) to enjoy dinner.

It took me two days to respond. Why is this? Well I’m sure that these two ladies are completely tired of eating at Applebee’s. I would put money on the fact that they have been to Fabio’s more than once. It seems that this Italian restaurant is getting old, already.

I’m a BIG supporter of downtown Cortland so I had to mention The Community Restaurant. This is a great little restaurant on the Groton Ave. end of Main St that has spectacular food.

[Side Note: I intend on being brutally honest when writing for this blog—and, I don’t mean to offend anyone. I believe that the only way in which I can be of assistance and provide useful information comes from me being straight forward.]

But, I don’t know if this is the type of establishment that I would prefer to take a date. I would wish for a place more like the new Italian Restaurant, Fabio’s. My personal favorite is Jeremiahs Place and Creed. This is a beautiful/elegant family-style restaurant located in Virgil. Jeremiahs (this is not a typo; there is no apostrophe in the name) has the best food that I’ve tasted, ever. No joke. You might want to try it.

Here’s my question for you folks: Why do I have to drive 10 miles to get a quality meal with a well-designed home-like atmosphere? Maybe I don’t? I know that there are a couple of other restaurants in the downtown area… but, I’ve been here for five years now—why haven’t I eaten at any of them?

There must be a way to either a.) Incorporate new businesses into the downtown area and/or b.) Help endorse the current restaurants, the ones that I’ve been missing out on.

Hold up. Perhaps I’m way off. Could I be the only one that feels this way? To find out, I did some research. I asked some of my friends—through AOL Instant Messenger—how many of the restaurants they have eaten at that are located in the downtown area… here are some of the responses (Screen names have been changed to protect the innocent):

RayHedrick: How many restaurants have you been to in the downtown Cortland area?
Malley: ummm... does Downtown Deli count?
Malley: haha

Here’s another:

: How many restaurants have you been to in the downtown Cortland area?
recklessdreamer: umm 1 maybe
recklessdreamer: pita gourmet is excellent

These are just two of the people that I asked. One of them is a senior, and the other is a Graduate student.

I guess this post will situate a question that I will leave with you, the beloved Cortland community, to ponder over. But, for now, I’m going to make a list of all of the eateries in our city, and check them out. Maybe I’ll post the reviews. Cheers for now, folks.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Katie's Introduction

Like Ray, I feel that it is important that I introduce myself. My name is Katie Loizides and I’m a graduate student in the MAT English program at Cortland. I graduated in 2003 with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Theater. I also have a Bachelor’s degree in English, which I received in 2005. After graduating in 2003, I moved back home to Bellport, LI (http://www.bellport.com/). I completed an internship with a local classic rock station and was offered a job in the promotions department with another neighboring station. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t want to wait around to climb the status ladder at any radio station. And I definitely didn’t want to sell office products for a place called Xtreme Promotions. But that’s post for a different day.

I was bored in my job as a counter waitress at the downtown coffee shop. I missed being involved in important events. I missed my fiancé Alex who was still up at Cortland. Although he changed his major several times, he decided on Geology and then the MAT Earth Science program. He suggested I come back to school for English (Cortland and most schools don’t have MAT programs in Communications or Theater) and then get my masters in teaching. So three years later, here I am. Since then I have gotten engaged, moved three times, and learned to love upstate New York.

As a naïve high school senior, I fell in love with Cortland’s campus. There was construction then much like there still is today. The second floor of Dowd was off limits and Clark Hall was being renovated. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to study but I did know I belonged on this campus. Old Main was and still is my favorite building. I can’t believe I’ve lived here on and off for seven years, I never thought I’d settle here!

As much as I miss summers on the beach and going wine tasting in the Hamptons I can’t imagine not being able to drive 20 minutes and see a breathtaking gorge and waterfall. If you’ve ever done it, driving on Long Island is not fun. One word—traffic. If you want to know where all the people are, they’re on the Long Island Expressway! That’s one of the reasons Alex and I decided to stay up here. There’s so much land up here. Except for when a Walgreen’s goes up right across from an Eckerd’s. When I look out of my window in the morning all I see is corn. And at night the sky sparkles with stars and goes on for miles.

It’s taken about seven years and I now feel like I belong here. Cortland has a way of growing on a person. The surrounding areas of Syracuse and Ithaca have helped. When giving campus tours as an undergraduate student, I used to talk to prospective students about how Cortland is centrally located. We have great cities and resources right within our reach. Skaneateles is one of the most beautiful areas I’ve been to in my life. But I digress…

I suppose I should talk about why I decided to become an English teacher. My Dad was a high school English and Drama teacher for over 30 years. He was dedicated and gave 100% every day and night. He worked long hours building plays and musicals from the ground up. His devotion to his students and his craft inspired me to want to do similar work. Did I mention my Mom was a teacher too? Many of friends’ parents were as well. I really couldn’t get away from education.

Since entering the MAT English program, I see how badly education needs me. It needs me and many other dedicated and devoted teachers. Today’s students are bored in school; they are not inspired to do work that matters to them. One of my goals for teaching is to get to know my students and discover what’s important in their lives.

I wouldn’t be writing this post if I didn’t believe technology was important for today’s students. Stay tuned for more musings on topics similar to these and also those related to revitalizing downtown Cortland.
- Katie

"The times they are a-changin’. "
-Bob Dylan

Thursday, November 09, 2006

So, What's Next?

Hi, All,

This is Ray Hedrick signing in again. Well, I’m back at The Blue Frog coffee shop. I decided that I would take a different seat today. I made this decision mostly because there is someone else sitting where I was last week, but, in all honesty, I was going to switch-it-up anyway. It’s approximately 2:10 PM, and in two hours I have another class (although this post might not be published until a later date as we are having some ‘technical difficulties’ with the website).

Anyway, when I first signed up to be a part of this blog, I figured that I would write a lot about the changes that I felt would be most beneficial to downtown Cortland. Before I had really pondered over what changes would need to be made, I thought that some of the recommendations that I would have made would have been such things as:

…redeveloping the Clocktower Building
…bringing in new, beautiful, businesses
…building a stage to have live concerts (integrating the college and the community)

While I do feel that these are important steps that will, at some point, probably be made… I also feel that perhaps the aesthetic improvement of downtown Cortland isn’t as significant as I initially though. Let’s explore…

As I look outside I can view all of the old, superannuated buildings. I used to believe that if they were more modern looking, then more people would be attracted to them—encouraging more visits. Why? I don’t really know, to be honest. But, as I get to thinking about it, I actually don’t imagine that a change in appearance is what this town needs. No. It’s really pathetic that the only place that I can go to get wireless internet in this town is The Blue Frog. Maybe the modernization of the business on Main St. is the change in design that they need. Not a literal change in appearance, but a change in operations and logistics. Sure, The Downtown Deli has wired internet connections, but don’t you think that America should have moved past this? I sure do.

This point brings me to a heated debate. One that we are actually discussing in the class I will be attending in two hours. The class is called Computers and the Study of English. It’s a great class. The main focus of this course group is to help future educators realize that we are now in a ‘flat’ world. The term ‘flat world’ was introduced by Thomas L. Friedman in his book The World Is Flat. In this book Friedman explains, in various different methods, how America is falling behind in the great technological race, and how we, as a society, are in the middle of a great movement away from the traditional and into the technological.

I, myself, have become very passionate about this argument. It is with no doubt in my mind that Americans must become more in tune with technology as we are in risk of being surpassed. Did you know that there is a program that is allocating $100.00 laptops so that all children in Lebanon will have their own personal PC by the age of 9? Check it out: here. Every child in this third world country will have a computer, and I can only get wireless internet in one café on Main St!? This worries me. But, it also leaves room for great potential. Here’s my question for the week:

What if downtown Cortland were able to improve dramatically through an increase of usable technological features?

Wouldn’t this be beneficial to the town? I guess I don’t expect all people to have computers, or to be able to rent jet-packs to fly up the hill, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the internet become more available in a wider variety of places…

Small situations like this can tremendously improve the quality of our city, tremendously. Now I don’t want to pretend that I know how feasible this is, but I don’t think it would be too far-fetched? Is it? It’s almost coming to the point that we almost HAVE to make it work…

The Main Street 4 Point Approach to Downtown Revitalization:

:Economic Restructuring

I do agree that these are of the utmost importance for the restoration of our beloved downtown area, but I also think that we would be able to add technological advances to each of the four approaches.

Let me warn you, the reader, that I am not 100% sure as to what the details of each of these specific approaches entail (as I did not design them), but I will do this as pertaining to the information I would expect each to involve.

I would expect the design aspect to deal with the aesthetic nature of downtown Cortland. So, how about doing something simple such as planting routers into each building; how about televisions mounted in lobbies; voice communication devices, automatic lights, and automatic doors that could be implemented as well. Like I said previously, I don’t know how feasible and likely it is that this could happen, but I think that we (Americans) are in danger of falling behind. There are thousands of things we could do! And, Cortland could be a good place to “set an example.” Long term planning is a set feature of the design aspect—and, if we are to be realistic, we shall realize that technology is coming—even though, in reality, it is here already!

I can cover the promotion aspect in two words: the internet. But, I know and I’m sure someone will call me out on the fact that very few people in this community have full access to the internet. One thing that we could do immediately is omit the ridiculous fee to use the internet at the city library. Besides reaching the people in the community—I’m sure the internet will help “us” reach new customers, investors, businesses, and visitors.

The economic restructuring of downtown Cortland can definitely be improved through technology as well. If we are to find “ways to expand to meet new opportunities and challenges from outlying development” (Cortland Downtown Partnership Pamphlet) we MUST use technology. This is the best and maybe the only way that we will be able to improve above and beyond the competition.

As for the organizational aspect… well what better way to organize and support ourselves than with technology?

I guess this is really all I have to say today, but I’m sure—as I realize how important technology is becoming—that this will be a reiterating theme throughout my blog. If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them. I can be reached at Hedric86@cortland.edu. Until next time, folks… Cheers.


An Introduction

Hi, All,

It’s one thing for people to read what I write, but in order for anyone to take what I’m writing seriously, I’ll have to introduce some credibility. OK, so, how to do this…

Let me start by telling a little about myself…

My name is Ray Hedrick; that’s what I typically prefer to be called. But, my full name is: Raymond Michael Hedrick.

I graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2006, with a degree in English/Prof. Writing, and I am currently continuing my education at Cortland as a graduate student.

I grew up in a very small (yes, smaller than Cortland) town called Modena, which is also in NY. My town is five minutes from New Paltz, ten minutes from Newburgh, and fifteen minutes from Poughkeepsie (yes, they are all bigger than Cortland). Why is this noteworthy? Let me explain. The aforementioned areas are all that I actually knew about life while I was growing up. The cities of Poughkeepsie and Newburgh are a second home to me, and happen to be very prosperous places. New Paltz, which is also another SUNY College town, happens to be an especially popular area for everyone to visit—it was also the place where I, personally, spent most of my time growing up. So, when I moved up to Cortland, to attend the college, in 2002, you could imagine how I would have been a little culture shocked. It’s a whole different world in Cortland, NY. Not that it’s a bad place, but I just feel as if it is a little ‘different’—and, when I say ‘different’, I mean there is not as much going on. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it in this town, and there are some things that I wish I could say were from my hometown.

But, now that it is almost the year 2007, and I have been a member of the Cortland community for about 5 years now, I must admit that I want to help. I’m not trying to disgrace our (I hope that I can say it is ‘ours’ as in I’m a part of it now) city; I’m just attempting to be honest in order to allow Cortland to rise to its full potential. I think the best way to improve our city would be to start with the downtown area. This is why I am here. As soon as I heard about the Downtown Cortland Project, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I’m writing this blog to lend my ideas and suggestions—as well as identify some problems—in order to make this place, which has been so excellent to me, a better one. In a couple years I can see Cortland being the place to be!

Another small detail that I feel is necessary for me to mention is that I was among the ‘displaced’ students who lived in The Clocktower apartment building. I loved everything about The Clocktower building. I loved the design. I loved the location. I loved the landlord. I loved the bricks (until they fell). I loved everything. All of my roommates and I were so proud to have been in, what we habitually called, “the most important building in Cortland.” So, when it fell, you could imagine how devastated we were. Not just because we lost everything (I mean everything), but because after that we were forced to live in other areas. The community was so great to me during this time. The Red Cross, all of the business, and all of the people of Cortland were such an integral part of helping me cope with such a disaster. I can not say “thank you” enough. So, writing this blog is the very least I can do to attempt to give back to a community that so graciously helped me.

Right now, I’m sitting in the Blue Frog coffee shop. It’s a very quaint little café, and I enjoy being here. This coffee shop is, perhaps, one of the most popular settings in the downtown Cortland area. It’s a great area for all members, students and civilians alike, to have a cup of coffee and use the internet. There are also various Open Mic Nights at this café, which I have attended and enjoyed. I highly recommend this establishment to everyone. But, while I’m sitting at this comfortable table, I must admit that I am a little worried. I’m worried about this question: why aren’t there more people taking advantage of this place? Granted today is a miserable, dank, rainy day—but, I still don’t remember a time when I would come into the Blue Frog and not be able to find a seat (except during the Writers’ Association Open Mic Night). As I write this blog, I will make it my main focus to ask myself multiple ‘why’ questions—and, also, attempt to answer as well as make suggestions towards ways to correct them.

Now that I have introduced myself and what I will be doing on this blog—I will have to say ‘cheers’ until next time… It’s raining and I haven’t been home to feed my hedgehog all day! Yes, I really do have a pet hedgehog. Tune in next time to learn more about Lily, my hedgehog, as well as the future of downtown Cortland. Cheers.