Sunday, September 30, 2007

Strand Not Stranded

“So what’s going on with the Strand?”

I hear that question on occasion. Sometimes I even ask what progress is being made with the restoration.

The other afternoon I had the opportunity to join a tour conducted by Sylvia Stack, president of the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts (NCCCA for short). She has been a leading force behind returning the Strand Theatre to its former glory.

Located in the heart of downtown Plattsburgh, the Strand opened back in 1924 when admission to a movie was only one thin dime. Back then movies where silent but an orchestra provided sound.

Over the years trends have come and gone with movies and other forms of entertainment. Before it was purchased by the NCCCA, the heyday of the Strand seemed long past. The previous owners were unable to keep up with the maintenance such a huge building needs. After all, if only five people show up for a film, ticket sales aren’t going to cover all operating costs.

Inside the Strand signs of its age are obvious. Despite the peeling paint and crumbling plaster, there lies underneath an infrastructure worth saving, despite the considerable cost.

Some of the Strand’s old-fashioned charm had been covered up but now the architectural detail from its early days is revealed. Red draperies have been removed, revealing balcony boxes near the stage that I never knew existed. Detailed woodworking accented in silver adorns the balcony frames. On the flaking ceiling you can see where a magnificent chandelier once hung, gleaming.

But there is more to a building than historic architecture. The acoustics in the Strand are superior to the tinny sounds of that aircraft hanger by the lake, the white elephant called the Crete Center.

Walk through the Strand and you’ll see old seats torn out, piled up in the corner, waiting for replacements. No more playing musical chairs, trying to avoid that one spot with a coil spring ready to puncture your backside.

Some sections are being rebuilt or even restructured. Two-by- four frames wait for walls to be added. New wiring is being installed. There will be enough heat in the dead of winter so that you don’t have to wear your thermal underwear during an event.

And more is planned than just restoring the basic necessities. Elevators for people with disabilities will be installed. Even a grand chandelier will someday hang from the ceiling again.

At this point there’s evidence of progress being made. But there’s a long way to go yet. Painting and plastering – that job alone will take some time. A great old building needs a great new effort to restore it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gateway To Plattsburgh

Back in the days when Dan Stewart was mayor, he spoke on a local radio station about the upgrades that would be done to the “major gateways” into Plattsburgh.

It was a matter of first impressions being the most important. A visitor driving into the city wouldn’t be favorably impressed by potholed, patched-over streets.

One of the major gateways, Margaret Street, was recently renovated after a long time of neglect. It does look better. And the ride is a lot smoother.

But there is more to a gateway than putting in a new street. Maintaining the overall appearance can’t be ignored – as evinced by this image:

Well, at least there’s no dirty diaper there – yet.

It’s Working

The Plattsburgh Common Council recently passed a new ordinance that forbids someone from parking his vehicle in front of his residence, especially when it blocks the public sidewalk.

Congratulations to the City of Plattsburgh for enacting this new regulation: it obviously has made a difference. This will be fondly remembered with the city’s other ordinances regarding sidewalk snow removal and hedge trimming. No scofflaws will ruin our fair community!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Peace & War

Kicked The Bucket

In previous years the city of Plattsburgh was flowery. It had wooden buckets and hanging pots all over downtown, each filled with colorful bouquets. But this year, due to budget cuts, the flowery display has been limited to a couple of buckets on the sidewalk, placed and maintained by volunteerism.

Two different businesses were asked to take care of the flower buckets. As you can plainly see from the accompanying images, one business paid attention and made sure its designated bucket was properly watered. But as for the other business and its bucket…

So, which bucket do you think truly represents the vitality of downtown Plattsburgh?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Weasel Wording?

A long, long time ago in a place that not far away, I worked at a TV station, handling public relations. This was when a major vote was taking place in the province of Quebec, whether or not it should secede from the rest of Canada.

The station where I worked was small, a Podunk operation. To cover the story, it had to use a live television feed from CBC, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation. While the station did have local talking heads coverage, it depended upon the CBC to track the story.

My boss – a man of considerable intellect – told me that I should write a press release this way to describe how the station was covering the event:

“The CBC teams up with our station to present…”

I didn’t use that phrase. I didn’t think that the CBC came to the pissant American station, desperately needing its services. It was more correct to say that the station was “teaming up” with the CBC. And even then, that was questionable, since teaming up implies two parties somewhat equal in stature and ability.

Due to this experience, I look at all media ads with a critical eye. Lately the Plattsburgh newspaper has run an ad promoting how job listings for the area are available through . Maybe this phrasing wasn’t meant to be intentionally misleading, but I still have qualms when I read the statement: “NOW MONSTER WORKS WITH PRESSREPUBLICAN.COM.”

Does consider Plattsburgh a key market for its continued success? Did it desperately seek out the Press-Republican to link their services? If the statement read that now works with, I wouldn’t be posting.

The placement of company names is important. In certain circumstances the name mentioned first implies superiority, e.g., AOL Buys Time-Warner. (Of course, the new name, AOL Time-Warner, has fallen into disuse. AOL, despite its former lead position, apparently didn’t deliver as planned.)

Maybe I’m being too cynical, parsing the phrase too closely. Then again, the Plattsburgh TV station, WPTZ – Channel 5, acts during its self-promotions as if it built the weather radar network used during its newscasts, having installed each radar station. (The Super Doppler Radar Network was actually built by the government, i.e., you the taxpayer.) It’s difficult to be open-minded when I see weaselly stuff like that.

Fireworks 2006

Don’t ask me the exact date when these shots taken. I try to note and index all my film but sometimes the system fails (mainly because I screw up). Due to my limited photographic budget, exposed but unprocessed film keeps accumulating in my refrigerator. I do code each roll but that code has to be cross-indexed with my notes – notes that somehow get lost. So all I end up with is the year the roll was shot and its sequence number.

Thanks to the courtesy of a Mr. B, I have access to a film scanner. So now I get my rolls processed and then scan the best shots from each roll at home.

Why don’t I use a digital SLR? The same reason why 25 exposed rolls of film are sitting in my fridge.

I do have a compact digital camera but it sucks when doing fireworks. I like long exposures and with my compact digital such exposures record the pyrotechnical trails against a bright blue sky.

Also, my array of lenses for my film SLR cover a wider range, unlike the limited zoom range with my compact digital.

All I can tell you about these shots is they were taken last year, down by the Champlain Monument on Cumberland Avenue (I recognize the location). Best guess: fireworks from the Battle of Plattsburgh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chronic Problem: Substandard Proofreading

The Press-Republican has editorially boasted about its high journalistic standards.

Maybe tomorrow’s edition will feature an article on “Crone’s” disease.

Car Accident Takes Out Streetlight, Crosswalk Post

Images © 2007 Luke T. Bush

If you’re in the vicinity of the former Kriff’s Furniture building this morning you may notice a couple of orange traffic cones on the corner of Margaret and Broad streets. Yesterday evening, as you can see from the accompanying images, a car ran into both the crosswalk and lamp posts.

Details? Ask the Press-Republican newspaper. Let them gather some news for a change. Me, I managed to take a couple of shots of the accident scene without the city police questioning me about what I was doing. They were busy interviewing people and didn’t need me trying to find out what had happened.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What’s Next?

Saturday afternoon, Sept. 8th. A concrete panel near the roofline of the building on the corner of Bridge and Margaret streets falls off, hitting the sidewalk. Fortunately no one is hurt.

The area around the building is barricaded from foot traffic and less than a week later three sections from the upper part of the building are removed. The yellow tape and wooden sawhorses blocking the area are taken away. The building is considered fixed.

But while safety issues are been addressed, the problem remains that the building has lost exterior sections, architectural detail is missing. It looks scarred.

Obviously the expense to restore the missing parts is considerable. While the city spends many thousands of taxpayer dollars putting in new stonework and fancy benches, the improvements could be overshadowed over time by deteriorating old buildings around downtown. The aesthetics have to be considered as a whole. After all, if a nearby building is falling apart, no one can sit in one of those fancy new benches.

And another point: I’m not an architect or a construction expert, but I’m wondering if not replacing missing sections to the exterior of the building affects the stability of other exterior parts. One person told me that he thought water and ice pried out the panel that fell to the sidewalk. With the sections removed, it seems that would provide more opportunity for water to leak in and then turn into ice, continuing the damage. Also – and correct me if I’m wrong – but I suspect that the exterior to some extent stays in place with all pieces reinforcing each other as a complete unit.

Even if there are no more safety issues, the building still looks damaged. It should be fully restored: its architectural features are striking, unusual. If Plattsburgh wants to spruce up its downtown, then it has to consider the state of the older buildings. Maybe grant money, low interest loans or tax breaks could be used to help out building owners.

Or will the city stumble along along, sleepwalking, until all of downtown Plattsburgh is cordoned off with yellow tape?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Building Fixed; Barricades Removed

Apparently it only took one day to fix the building on the corner of Bridge and Margaret streets where a concrete panel fell off last Saturday.

The above image was taken Friday, Sept. 14th at 1 PM. Another panel and a cornice section were removed, as you can see in the area circled in red.

This is the same spot I noted in a previous post that appeared to need attention. A construction worker had pointed out to me that water and ice probably caused the stonework to separate.

When the image was taken the yellow tape and wooden barricades were still up, blocking pedestrians from passing too near. A mechanical lift was sitting on the sidewalk on the corner.

By Friday evening the lift and the barriers had been removed. It seems any problems with the building have been fixed.

Please note I didn’t ask permission to take the image accompanying this post. I was on a public sidewalk across the street. The last time I checked, I wasn’t living either in the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Threatening Image?

Once again I’ve been challenged in regards to my right to take a photograph in a public place. Especially a photo of an inanimate object.

This evening I was about to enter a downtown eatery when I noticed how the neon lights were being reflected on a green plastic chair outside on the sidewalk. No one was sitting in any of the chairs in the designated dining area.

I snapped an image when the owner of the eatery told me that I needed his permission to shoot the chair. I explained I was just shooting the neon light being reflected on the chair. He repeated that he owned the chair and I needed his permission.

So I just walked away. I doubt I’ll be patronizing that eatery anytime soon.

Maybe the owner saw me earlier in the day across the street shooting the unsafe building where some concrete had fallen. I wanted to show how the yellow caution tape had been extended to the front of the building. (Hmmmm, I wonder who owns that building?)

Of course, I’m glad to share my challenged image and the details of the incident with this post. Nothing guarantees an incident being memed all over the Web more than telling a writographer he can’t pursue his interests.

Falling Sky To Be Fixed

From what I gathered on the street today the building inspector paid a visit to the structure on the corner of Bridge and Margaret Street (the former Zachery’s Pizza spot) where a concrete panel fell from the roofline last Saturday afternoon. The yellow-tape forbidden zone was extended around the corner to the front entrance on Margaret Street.

According to a street source, the building is going to be fixed tomorrow (Friday, Sept. 14th). He also said that the concrete panel on the Bridge Street hit the sidewalk about 45 minutes after the crowd watching the Battle of Plattsburgh parade had cleared out. No one was hurt.

Five days and counting. It should be interesting to see if the unsafe building can be fixed by tomorrow.

So far the Press-Republican hasn’t run any articles about the situation. Like I say, some of the PR gang should get out of their offices and walk around the town to see what’s going on.

Maybe “walking the beat” is beneath certain reporters and editors. (It is for the city police most of the time.) A couple of recent editorials demonstrated that PR employees are greatly concerned about traffic flow, getting to and from work. These editorials praised the latest changes at two intersections near the news offices that speed up the commuting process.

But can you cover local news when you’re either ensconced either in a car or an office? I wonder if the typical PR reporter or editor could find his way downtown without his butt attached to a car seat. Only a couple of exceptions come to mind when I try to remember seeing a PR person downtown on foot.

Or maybe the newshounds are afraid that someone will bark at them for taking photographs of public places and buildings. (See the post, A Threatening Image?) Hey, I get yelled at and I don’t get paid a cent. But I care enough to press on and report on what is going on.

Downtown Plattsburgh decaying to the point where lives and limbs are being endangered is news.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fan Email: JT

I really appreciate feedback. Writography is usually a lonely endeavor, just me, my camera, and my computer. Posting is like sending out a message in a bottle, tossing it into a vast, silent ocean. Here’s a missive from one fan:

love your writog blog!

Date: Fri, August 24, 2007 6:42 am

Hi Luke,

I'm a Plattsburgh ex-pat who reads your blog all the time. You present Plattsburgh in such an honest fashion. It's a captivating mix of the good, the bad, and the sometimes beautiful...

Anyway, I was just reading in the Press Republican that a consultant from California thinks installing surveillance cameras downtown is a great idea. When I read this, I immediately thought, "Luke is going to be all over this!" At least with cameras we can finally get to the bottom of who leaves behind all those dirty diapers!

Keep up the good work!

Take care and all best wishes,



Thanks for the comments. I’m glad that there are people like you out there who “get it” with this blog.

You wrote:

At least with cameras we can finally get to the bottom of who leaves behind all those dirty diapers!

Or maybe we’ll get to the bottoms of the dirty diaper dumpers. A good kick in the ass might wake ‘em up!


Entropy & Downtown Plattsburgh

I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: maintain what you have first before adding on.

A while back some tenants in a Clinton Street apartment building were flooded out. Rainwater backed up on the building’s flat roof and after it reached critical mass – BOOM! – the pool flushed down, ruining everything below. One witness said she saw ceiling tiles and other debris rushing out the front door.

Building inspectors perform a vital service. But with new properties being added, such as the housing at the old base, Plattsburgh’s inspectors are overloaded, can’t keep up.

And so we end up with the incident that occurred on Saturday afternoon during the Battle of Plattsburgh festivities. A large concrete panel came crashing down on Bridge Street, shattering all over the sidewalk. Fortunately no one was hurt.

The concrete fell from the building on the corner of Bridge and Margaret Streets. It’s an old structure, one of the oldest in the city. Before a furniture store moved in, the building housed Zachary’s Pizza and Bogart’s Bar.

What’s ironical is that the concrete fell all over the new plaza section that had been installed during the summer. Once again Plattsburgh proves the astuteness of its attention to detail.

Spend money on new stonework and benches, but don’t add another inspector to make sure that the buildings don’t fall apart and ruin all the new stuff.

As you can see from the accompanying picture, it appears another section of the building is getting ready to Humpty Dumpty.

Over the years there’s been talk of rehabilitating downtown. Remember the Seven Points Plan? According to an article in the June 8th, 2005 edition of the Press-Republican (page A1), then-Mayor Dan Stewart talked about repaving and fixing up Protection Avenue (Alley), running from Margaret Street to Oak Street. The mayor stated that the alley floor would be raised to fix the “droopy” feeling.

Maybe the city should start looking at its droopy buildings. Until then, heads up!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Homeless Bag O’ Chicken – Day 3

This bagged chicken is still on the street – Clinton Street, that is, near the law library. Image taken Thursday, Sept. 6th, at 3:43 PM. Couldn’t someone find it a proper home – i.e., a metal cylinder abode?

Fair Surprizes

Step right up and win a prize!

Here are a few prizes hanging around various game booths at the 2007 New York State Fair in Syracuse, NY. (Click on each image for a larger view.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Lost Food Items

As a public service here are food items that have been recently misplaced around Plattsburgh, NY.

Bag O’ Chicken: Clinton Street, near the intersection with Oak Street. Has been baking in the sun for at least two days. Barbequed chicken quarter in sealed bag.

Semi-Consumed Chocolate Cake: Margaret Street, near Triumph Auto Glass. Still plenty of sweet eatin’ left.

Call Plattsburgh City Hall if you have any interest in either item.

Urinal Journal

At the New York State Fair you can piss and peruse. The Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper is so desperate for readers that it hangs its daily edition above the urinals in men’s rooms on the fairgrounds.

Of course when I’m urinating, the first thing that pops in my head is, “Hey, I didn’t buy the newspaper today!” (Actually that pops into my head when sitting on the toilet and reaching for a few sheets from the white paper roll.)

This dubious promotion can easily be labeled as piss-poor.

What lies ahead in the future? Flat panel TV screens above the urinals featuring the web edition of the newspaper? My blog would be a better choice. It’s short, easy to read, perfect when you’re on the fly.