“Binghamton sucks.” You’ve heard it. We’ve heard it. And there’s some truth to it — fifth most depressing, 10th rainiest, second most obese — those are all statistics that testify that, when it comes to our city, maybe we’re lacking something
But condemning this entire city is an insult to all of us, students and townspeople alike. The gag reflex with which we respond to this city means we see every part of it as repulsive; our time Downtown is time spent wearing shit-colored glasses.
It’s true, there are places that could use touching up. But this city also abounds with gift shops, cafes, parks and restaurants that would be just as at home in New York City. Laveggio’s has the best coffee some of us have ever had. First Friday features incredible art and events every month. And the park that loops under the bridge along Riverside is a great place to catch the sunrise or just get some fresh air.
The point is, there are some great places lurking around Downtown. Are they hard to find? Well, that depends; how hard are you looking? For most students, especially the freshman and sophomores who, by living on campus, can avoid all that perceived nastiness until the weekend, the answer to that is, “Not very hard. Because Binghamton’s gross.”
Therein lies the problem. As much as there may be areas of Binghamton that should be avoided, students should be seeking out the places that shouldn’t be. To some extent, the reflexive avoidance of looking and walking around Downtown is changing by necessity. With the increasing popularity of 20 Hawley and Twin River Commons, hundreds more students will be living in close proximity to the heart of the city. They will experience its essence on a day-to-day basis and whether they like it or not, they will have to find the good places to eat and hang out and become a part of their city.
And the urge to live Downtown is definitely real: most Downtown housing is already full. It’s somewhere students want to be, but on the city’s part, there should be more of a concerted effort to improve the ambiance it gives off. Walking Downtown should be a pleasant experience, not one spent dodging the walking dead.
There’s been somewhat of an effort to improve the aesthetics of the Downtown area already — construction to upgrade the infrastructure, sprinkle verdant islands, and knock down old buildings is ongoing. But it’s happening too slowly and in too concentrated an area. And, there’s one area, small as it may be, whose improvement would massively improve the ambiance of the entire Downtown: the Metro Center. That little plaza behind the bus stop is dilapidated and unused. If it was instead renovated into a student-friendly, sparkling new complex, students would flock to it.
Improving our relationship with this city is a mutual process. Students need to take the initiative; they need to explore, to seek out places they’ll want to spend time. So too, the city and campus should be advertising the great things that already exist and building new ones that are readily apparent. Binghamton isn’t just a city we should live in, it’s a city we should bring to life.