Downtown Binghamton will undergo some major changes in the coming months with the advent of Blueprint Binghamton, a comprehensive plan to help promote community outreach and change the local area in a positive way.
The first phase of the project was the participation phase, which included in-class presentations to local city youth, workshops with seniors, conducting surveys in underrepresented areas and the hosting of community discussions. It also included collecting data on what changes people wanted and what people were and were not happy with in the area. This phase lasted for several months.
Bryan Delacruz, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, lives near Binghamton High School, a short walk away from the Downtown area. Delacruz believes Blueprint Binghamton shows that the city government is playing a more active role in the lives of its residents.
“I think Blueprint Binghamton is an innovative and intensive effort to improve the Downtown area, showing that the city government is listening to the community and seeking to push changes,” Delacruz said. “The increased community involvement and the data can be used for making changes in the short and long term that the community wants and agrees with, which is always welcoming and exciting.”
According to the Blueprint Binghamton website, the project is “a citizen-driven effort to plan for Binghamton’s future and move our city forward together.” The project is being funded by a nearly $500,000 federal state grant secured in October 2011 from the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities.
Derrick Conyers, the Student Association’s vice president of academic affairs, is optimistic about the future of the project and its ability to bridge the gap between the students and the local community.
“I am really excited to see what happens as a result of Blueprint Binghamton,” Conyers said. “President Stenger laid out his roadmap for the University, and one of the major aspects was community involvement and making sure that there is a bridge between the community and the students, and I think Blueprint Binghamton is an excellent way to make sure that there are new and innovative ways students can get involved.”
Binghamton is one of 90 local cities to apply for and receive this federal government-awarded grant, which has gone a long way in ensuring that city planners can collect the information they need for the next major phase of the project — creating the Blueprint Binghamton.
Kevin Kauschinger, a junior majoring in political science, said that he was impressed with how Blueprint Binghamton used social media to access more people in the community and students who lived in the Downtown area.
“I think that Blueprint Binghamton is doing a great job with outreach and making sure that those interested can stay involved,” Kauschinger said. “The organization has a great Facebook page that keeps me updated about events they are hosting, and a Twitter feed that is also constantly updated as well.”
One of the major aspects of the project has been the series of community discussions where experts from a variety of fields were invited to give presentations on several community issues, including green infrastructure, environmental justice, public health and community design. The discussions were open to the public and brought many community leaders together to talk about the issues and how they could be combatted.
Daniel Friedman, a junior double-majoring in philosophy, politics and law and environmental studies, lives near Seminary Avenue in Downtown Binghamton. He thought the discussions have been really helpful in making sure a variety of opinions and thoughts on the future of the city could be heard.
“The main benefit of all the discussions is that different people with different views can contribute to the future of this city,” Friedman said. “It is great to hear experts on the field talk about how these issues should be approached, and then balance that with the views and the opinions of the community and what should be done, in order to make sure everyone’s needs are being met.”
The Department of Planning, Housing and Community Development oversees the creation of the program, the main goal being to create a blueprint after all the necessary information and input has been collected.
The Blueprint is a state-mandated document that describes the city’s policies and actions related to Binghamton’s land use, neighborhoods, transportation, infrastructure, the economy, the environment and quality of life, thus shaping future policy actions that the city then decides on taking.