Editorial: Look at the forest, please

Dan Barton.

Last week, it was announced that Wall Street was named one of America’s 10 Great Streets by the American Planning Association. (According to itself, the American Planning Association is “an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live.”

While many were happy about this, some people reacted like — and I am paraphrasing here, so as not to single anyone out — “WTH, don’t they know how crappy Kingston is and how run-down and messed up Wall Street is? Are they blind?”

Maybe yes, and maybe no, but there are a couple of points to be made about this. First, the value of the designation is in fact not tangible (I don’t think anyone got a check), but important nonetheless. All of a sudden, our Kingston is getting mentioned by Diane Sawyer, the Wall Street Journal and other large media outlets, and for something positive. This is not meaningless. For Kingston to get better,Kingston needs energy and enthusiasm and a little outside investment. As the flitting of a butterfly in Bolivia causes ripples which spark a storm in Slovakia (or so I have read on the Internet), any good word about the city might fall on ears who will move here, invest here and bring their talent here. The O+ fest was a great party which offered a glimpse into what Uptown could be if it reaches cool-kid critical mass and really does become Brooklyn North.


The second point: This newspaper and others have made a lot of Uptown’s peccadilloes and shortcomings. That’s our job as journalists — to hold responsible parties accountable and to offer constructive criticism so the whole of civic life is moved forward and the goodness is increased. But sometimes, it happens that while one is busy examining the flaws in one’s own trees, someone from outside comes along and declares your forest to be thoroughly fantastic. Yes, you may know better and yes, you still have to fix your trees. But it’s helpful and encouraging to hear good things from a semi-disinterested party who can objectively say what your forest looks like on first impression.

The Stockade District is what it is, good and bad, as a result of literally 350 years of evolution. While we editorially hold that the comprehensive plan process the city is undertaking is of essential importance to Kingston’s future, the kind of awesomeness Wall Street displays every day — and has now been recognized for on a national and global level — can’t be planned.