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Syracuse incubators


Congratulations, Syracuse! We have triumphed.

40 years of non-stop progress since 2010 quintupled the city's population to almost 750,000.

We transformed our skyline with building after building and replaced a blighted highway with a glorious park.

We preserved pieces of our past amidst the new glory.

Our canal and railroad heritage is not merely preserved but active once again. The Syracuse Inner Harbor buzzes with activity once more, receiving grain from the west and shipping out our manufactures. Our railyards in DeWitt and Jamesville have grown four times in the last two decades, and even the now quiet Thruway has more activity around Syracuse than anywhere else.

Some of our gains resemble those of other cities. The suburbs' slow reversion to farmland brought us more residents, as did the move north after the hurricane seasons of 2026 and 2037. We learned from our neighbor, Utica, of the advantages of welcoming refugees, many of whom proved critical in re-establishing our industries.

How did we outpace Buffalo, Rochester, and Albany? Our incubator spaces proved crucial. We reduced the cost of starting a business or moving a business to Syracuse. Slashing the cost of doing business by making sure there was more than enough business space and few limitations on using it transformed our downtown, making it easy for businesses of all sizes to thrive. As businesses started roaring, incentives for urban builders to rapidly expand the housing stock similarly made it easy for people to move here in those critical years of growth.

Our growth rate has fallen, as the number of people moving has fallen, but our incubators continue to roar. A second generation of entrepreneurs, inspired by the genius they saw in their youth, is taking the reins. We produce goods, ideas, and knowledge at a pace never seen outside of the megalopolises on the coast.

And, of course, SU just won the NCAA basketball crown - again.

Will we continue to triumph?

Albany, 2058


[By Andy Arthur, originally published here. Reprinted by permission.]

What the future of the Capital City may be like after peak oil. May 5, 2008.

Albany in recent years has been undergoing quite a renaissance thanks to a change in the economy that made urban real estate much more desirable. The lower part of Arbor Hill is once again tree lined, and owned by mid-level bureaucrats who decades ago purchased up former apartment houses and turned them into quality housing.

Many structures in Albany during that period where either demolished or significantly renovated as new wealth floated into the city. The wealthiest bureaucrats and the whos who of the Albany elite all purchased homes in Center Square, while nearby neighborhoods came dominated by mid-level legislative and executive branch bureaucrats who make New York State government function. Indeed, several former state office buildings have been turned into condominiums and rental housing for the many state employees who continue to work downtown.

A lot of people no longer come downtown to work as their work has been digitized and provided on computers in people's homes. Regional offices for state agencies still buzz with a limited number of top level staff administering their functions, while rank and file work at home. Fiber-optics and widespread digitization means formerly paper forms move in and out of offices quickly. While technology has lead to a moderate decrease in the state workforce, most still are employed, a bit working from all corners of our state.

Today, with gas prices exceeding $25 dollars a gallon in most parts of our state, regular commuting is out of the reach of most New Yorkers. Modern cars are quite fuel efficient getting around 40 miles per gallon of gasoline, and can drive the first 50 miles all on electricity, but even that is expensive in New York State, with going rates exceeding $2 a Kw/h. Driving indeed is a luxury for most New Yorkers - something people do on the weekend for pleasure.

Due to the high cost of energy, houses and commercial structures are vastly more efficient then those of 50 years ago. Insulation is thick, and green roofs are the norm. The average structure consumes half as much energy as years ago, but remains comfortable in the summer and winter alike. Most houses don't heat above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, but without drafts they remain comfortable. Modern clothes, using advanced materials keeps people warm at this temperature, but is not bulky like sweaters of the past. In the summertime, a combination of highly-efficient fans and vent shafts. Incandescent lighting disappeared nearly 40 years ago from the market, and many houses use advanced lumeneres that use T-5 and T-8 florescent to provide lighting at actual rates exceeding 100 lumen for watt. Houses are designed to let in as much light as possible, and it rare that lighting is used at all in the day time. To turn lights on in the daytime, requires the resident to press a special override button that overrides the automatic switch that ensures lights are not on during the day time.

Many houses and apartment structures generate a significant portion of their energy needs. With such high electricity rates, it is quite profitable to sell as much electricity as possible back to the grid. Many houses with solar cells on their roofs can make their occupants as much as $30-$50 a day in energy, much of which won't be consumed immediately and will be sold be back to the grid to provide energy to major industries in our cities.

In the past 30 years the suburbs around our city have seen a collapse and failure. Many former suburban structures have long been abandoned. Many shopping malls have been torn down and the soils under them reclaimed for agricultural purposes, providing reasonably priced food to the cities nearby. Other suburban developments have been purchased by the state after most of the former owners have abandoned their property for the cities or towns where there is more community. Large tracts of suburbia are now wild forests, reverting back to their natural structure after a series of demolitions and controlled burns by the state.

Walk around what used to be Colonie and you will occasionally find foundations from old suburban housing. Dig in the soil you might find abandoned sewer lines. But what you mostly see is grown up woods, and a variety of farms producing virtually every kind of food product one could grow in our region to provide low cost food to the city. You can still see the remnants of the clover leafs of the south bound carriage road of the Adirondack Northway, although those three lanes have been converted over to electrified railroad tracks, and provide light rail service from Saratoga to Albany. The former northbound carriage way on the Adirondack Northway provides sufficient capacity for a two-lane highway that carries the remaining automobile traffic on the road.

Nobody would have guessed that suburbia would be a reversible condition that within 50 years would start to collapse, while cities saw gentrification and new life as never before seen. With such high fuel costs people find it cheaper to live in the city, where they can reach out with a diverse group of people. At the same time, small towns in are growing as they provide low-cost living and easy access to products and culture, and access to work through high-speed Internet.

Despite the increasing cost to travel across the state and the nation, people are well aware of what is happening in the world. The Internet brings in customized information from all kinds of people, from blogs to professional news organizations. Thanks to low-cost wireless internet technology, everybody from anywhere can quickly send information over the internet.

While we still rely on a variety of advanced technological devices, due to their cost of creation and importation to our country with high energy prices, we consume a lot less of them. Many people have computers that are over a decade old, but they still work reliably, as today's computers are much better built, and are too expensive to replace. Technological advancement happens slower now, but has reached maturity so most people are happy with their computers for a long time.

Cities and small towns in our country are flourishing. They are filled with inspired people who now have the time and resources to invest in their communities. Local community organizations are growing, as people have the time and money to invest in their communities. Pollution levels in our country have dropped to lowest levels since the beginning of the industrial revolutions, swimming and fishing are popular pass times in our rivers, which are largely lined with lush parks, particularly near urban areas. Without so much petroleum and other fossil fuels polluting our city skylines, cancer rates have dropped.

Maybe it was the Weather


For the past century, we in Raleigh have profited from a steady stream of refugees from the north. "Send us your cold, your overtaxed, your frustrated by unions," we said.

We benefited from a steady influx of newcomers we hadn't had to pay to educate, who bought our property, grew our economy, and adjusted to our culture. They even wrote home to tell everyone how great it was here, helping us drain many states north of us of their valuable youth.

This huge influx helped us to adjust to the loss of tobacco and industrial jobs. It guaranteed us stability and growth during a period when much of the country faced mounting bills and fewer opportunities.

Unfortunately, this has reversed in the last ten years. After investing millions in expanding the state university system, we've seen our own massive brain drain, as our educated youth move north to places like Burlington, New York City, and - who'd have imagined it? - Upstate New York.

This paper has warned our politicians for decades that they were losing their edge on taxes. We have warned that the counties spent far too much on roads and schools for developments that never quite happened the way they were supposed to. We have warned that the state put far too much effort into environmental protection while neglecting the need to generate cheap power. We have warned that the creeping bureaucracy threated North Carolina's competitiveness, and that supporting it with taxes was killing business.

Still, it seems that the cause of this exodus may be a problem this paper has no way of fighting: it's just plain warmer here. We may have the finest air conditioning on earth, but running it nine months a year is expensive, and we don't want to use it on fields of parched crops.

Perhaps the best we can say is that Upstate New York stole our weather, and is now stealing our people.



Herkimer, NY - The Upstate Refugee Resettlement Program celebrated its 30th anniversary today in this small city along the Mohawk River.

"We built on a long tradition of immigrants and refugees in New York State," said founder Elias Ocongwe, now 86. "While the focus had historically been on New York City, we knew there was tremendous potential up here."

Ocongwe's early years as a social worker in Utica had exposed him to the Bosnian refugees who were helping to rebuild that city, and his later work brought him to Ithaca's growing Tibetan and Burmese communities. He had also studied Stickley's work in applying the skills of immigrants to their factory processes, and concluded that Upstate New York had an overlooked opportunity.

"When Elias started this, there were a lot of doubts," said Congressman Colden Smith (R-Lockport). "Most of the country had decided that immigrants were a cost and threat rather than an opportunity, and the world's growing refugee numbers looked like an especially dangerous problem."

"Rising tides of refugees," said Ocongwe, "and they could be an angry flood or a source of power, revitalizing a dying area."

The URRP focused its efforts on local Congressional representatives, getting federal permission for a series of resettlement experiments with closely monitored communities. Early successes with Kurdish, Palestinian, and Sudanese Christian communities led slowly to greater willingness to allow refugees to come in clusters of a few thousand and settle in the Upstate Resettlement Zone, made up of 44 counties in Upstate New York.

"I think Americans elsewhere in the country would have been terrified of our doing this," said Congressman Smith, "except that the 2015 Mandatory Identification and Registration Act already made it difficult for people, especially non-citizens, to move around the country for anything more than a weeklong visit. Upstate was in a hard enough economic position that we were willing to take the chance, and the rest of the country didn't see it as a great risk for them. The instant deportation rules also helped."

For his part, Ocongwe is pleased that instant deportation for most offenses ended three years ago, though one aspect remains important: "As much as I want to believe in the goodness of human nature, the risk of refugee versus refugee violence is just too great when different communities come here from the same conflict, or even just live next to each other. The threat of instant deportation has forced those communities to get along, though it's still a slow process."

Smith offered Ocongwe a tribute from the Upstate New York Business Chamber, which cited the program as "the main driver of new business here, from artisanal work to industry to food and culture tourism." Smith added his own praise, noting that "When Americans found the rest of the world unwelcoming, they still had an opportunity to experience what the world had to offer, right here in our back yard."

Waverly mayor Miloska Sulejmanovic also congratulated Ocongwe for his willingness to take on the federal and state governments. "He got us the vote in local elections, at a time when we didn't know what to do and weren't given a voice," she said.

"He had to compromise on the naturalization question, but he made sure that we were still able to participate and govern in our own communities. Without his vision, a lot of us would still be living in the camps, wondering how to fit into a world ruled by people who don't look or sound like us."

Ocongwe, who formally retired eleven years ago, told well-wishers that he planned to stay involved. "I didn't have children myself - you all are my children, and grandchildren."

Comfort crops

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[By Angelika St.Laurent]

"Really? No, that can't be true!"

Kailee let herself sink on the bench. Her eyes wandered over the field of bright red flowers swinging gently in the wind, stretching from the garden down to the creek. Just five minutes ago the poppies had seemed a bright assurance of the farm's prosperity. But now?

"Not the Count," she protested.

"I just heard it on the radio," answered Ethan, slumping beside her on the bench. "I mean he was old, ninety-three. Not even Count Sam can live forever."

"I know," whispered Kailee, staring at the red field in front of her. "It's just that he's always been here."

Always wasn't quite true. She had been six, back in 2018, when Sam Bear had been elected Governor for the first time. She still remembered her father cursing that day, swearing that that drug-trading liberal gangster would wreck the state within a year. He had loaded his hunting rifle that night and placed it under the bed. It had sat there, loaded, until Mom got cancer and only the state health fund saved them from having to sell the farm.

That spring, Dad had applied for his first concession to grow poppies, and the gun had wandered back into the shed, coming out only in deer season. Governor Bear, always re-elected, had long since been called Count Sam.

Kailee had always loved the bountiful red fields full of the poppies they were allowed to grow every four years. She had never missed the chance to apply for a poppy license since she and Ethan took over the farm. Sure, hemp was good cash too, less trouble to grow, but it just didn't have the grace of poppy.

"With the Count gone, will we be able to sell the crop?" Kailee wondered, "with Billie going off to college next year and all?"

"I think so," nodded Ethan slowly. "Without comfort crops, there wouldn't be many public services left in New York."



ITHACA, NY - Cornell University celebrated the retirement of its president, Dr. Waclaw Czerwinski, whose 2013 accident at the University's Synchrotron led directly to the low-cost fusion power the world enjoys today.

"Luck was with me that day," reiterated Czerwinski. "My mistakes in setting up the experiment produced a small but strange amount of unexpected energy. and it only took five years to move from that error to a surprisingly practical source of energy."

Czerwinski, who grew up in Buffalo's East Side, seized the opportunity to help his hometown and the surrounding area. He described his childhood in his farewell address:

"When I was a child, I was very angry to see what seemed like everything leaving Buffalo, both people and businesses. I almost went into politics, but my parents kept pushing me toward the sciences. As it turned out, I've been able to do much more as a scientist than as a politician."

Czerwinski's successes, both in his initial (and repeatable) discovery and later in his rapid drive toward commercial implementation, led him quickly to a platform where he could control the way his ideas were used: the Presidency of Cornell.

"The Trustees were pleased to invite me, much to my surprise, and I'm not sure they quite understood why I was interested in the job. I'd been lucky enough to be doing that work on university funds, so the university had clear control of the patents. I wanted to ensure that those patents helped the area I care about, in addition to easing the world's energy problems."

Czerwinski's vision extended beyond Buffalo to include much of central and western New York. The primary assembly point for the fusion reactors is an enormous facility in Buffalo, but ceramic components are made in Corning and Rochester, and electronics in Jamestown, Syracuse, and Binghamton, with fuel processing in Oswego. Cornell itself, in Ithaca, remains the main center for research on the practical side of the field. Other universities have established centers, but focus mostly on the theoretical side.

"These reactors produce so much energy so cheaply," said Czerwinski, "that we could have set nearly any price for them. That would, however, have invited price-based competition. Instead, we set prices at a level that comfortably covers manufacturing costs, including a fine living for all of our workers with money left over to help Cornell reach more students. We know how to make these reactors reliably and safely, and they are so incredibly cheap relative to other forms of energy production that we can help this area tremendously while easing the burden of the world as well. That may not last forever, but hopefully our current lead will last another thirty years."

In his conclusion, Czerwinski thanked university founder Ezra Cornell for his confidence that "Cornell University could produce practical results, helping its students, its community, its state, and the world. His founding of 'an institution where any person can find instruction in any study' has brought us to a wonderful new world where we can help more people find more studies."

Washing upriver


The 2030s were a bad decade for New York City and Long Island. A two meter rise in sea level, supposedly caused by melting icecaps, combined with three Category 3 hurricanes were just too much for the metropolitan area. New York City's sewer system, always on the edge, collapsed in two of those hurricanes, and tunnels and bridges sustained major flooding and damage. Long Island suffered massive erosion, with two one-mile channels cut across the south fork of the island and major damage elsewhere. The Port of New York and New Jersey was devastated.

Connecticut and New Jersey sponsored major legislation to move homeowners from their coastlines to deeper in their interiors, covering costs for people who never realized they might be in a floodplain, and building new high-speed trains to help those people reach their workplaces in almost the same time it had taken them before.

That cost those states a fortune, but New York had a much harder problem: the destination where all those people were supposed to be headed was itself in danger of washing away. By 2042, the outlines of a plan began to emerge:

  • A new Manhattan would emerge, three stories higher than the old. Existing buildings less than five stories tall would be demolished, and Central Park would become an enormous pond with built-up islands. Tall buildings would be required to move all critical infrastructure to their new fourth-floor basements, and subways - newly laid out inside the elevated area - would run at the old third and fourth floors. Only about 30% of the island would remain in use, but it would gain much stronger connections to Connecticut, New Jersey, and Upstate.

  • Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island, would shrink drastically, with neighborhoods above 100 feet in elevation surviving but the rest converted to agriculture and other similarly non-permanent uses. The south shore of the island would be largely abandoned, turned into parkland served by hotels on relatively higher ground.

  • New restrictions on the lower Hudson Valley similarly required construction to move to the higher ground.

  • The Port of Albany, already benefiting from growing Erie (Barge) Canal traffic and the survival of its railroads, would be massively expanded to replace a significant part of the former Port of New York.

  • As in Connecticut and New Jersey, the State of New York built massive high-speed rail down the Hudson Valley and along the Thruway Corridor to help relocated residents connect to their former center of business.

All of this cost a fortune, with little assistance from the beleaguered federal government, which was already dealing with the near-complete relocation of Florida residents to other states. Leaders in the key finance and media industries rallied to raise private funds for the redevelopment of Manhattan, easing the burden on the state government. Land values along the old Thruway corridor skyrocketed, though the state used its powers of eminent domain to break several logjams that threated redevelopment.

As of March 2050, the resettlement is almost complete. Residents who refused initially to leave their homes have mostly surrendered to continuing weather problems and the decay of their surrouding infrastructure. The rebuilt Manhattan is widely praised, though the use of the Port of Albany has limited New York's access to the largest freight shipments. Both wealth and population are much more evenly distributed across the state, and the upstate-downstate divide that many feared would create catastrophe rarely emerged.



My grandparents were from Upstate New York, around Cazenovia, but they'd left for Phoenix in 1982, when Grandpa's job transferred there. My parents lived in San Diego, but moved back to my grandparents' place when they moved on to Lake Havasu City. My father's brother moved back to Syracuse in 2005, and it always seemed like a joke, moving to the land of harsh winters and taxes. The one time we visited in 2008 it was just too lushly green for me.

I grew up in this arid place and loved the desert - the sand, the cacti, the way it all looks the same until you look closely. When we had to stop watering my parents' lawn, I didn't mind - it seemed more real to me, and my brother and I had a good time trying to replace that grass with something that could last in the desert. I wound up using those skills as a landscape designer, helping people adjust to an ever-drier world while guzzling bottled water and turning up the evaporative cooler whenever I had the chance.

After a while, though, I had fewer customers. Somehow living in the brown didn't really appeal to people, and a lot of them headed for the coasts and for points north. In some ways that was a good thing, taking a lot of pressure off what little water we had left. We'd used up the aquifers a lot faster than we'd recharged them, and there wasn't more water coming in. A few wet years in the 2030s eased things a bit - actually kind of messed up some of my landscapes, but not permanently - but the 2040s have been miserable.

Phoenix is emptying out now, down to 200,000, and maybe there will still be a city there when they figure out how many people can live there permanently. There's not a whole lot of water left there.

Cascadilla fall

I brought my family to Upstate in 2047, not too far from where my uncle used to live. It's strange, looking around and seeing not just rain, but waterfalls. Everyone knows about Niagara, but who knew about Chittenango Falls, or Taughannock, or Watkins Glen? Water, even drinking water, is everywhere here.

The last few years of landscaping in Phoenix were pretty much a loss, so it looks like I'll be working here for a lot of my retirement, like a lot of us who moved back. The house is small and old, but it will do, and I have a lot to learn about gardening in a place where it's supposed to be easy.

Bobos in Paradise

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In 2015, when the Hudson Valley had filled in with growth pouring out of New York City, and as the rest of Upstate continued its dramatic population decline, the State of New York decided it was time to make the rest of Upstate New York as accessible to New York City as the Hudson Valley had been.

The state purchased railroad rights-of-way and tore up roads where necessary to build two high-speed rail lines connecting Buffalo to New York City, one following the Thruway and the old New York Central, and the other following the old Erie line and Interstate 86. A third line climbed up to Plattsburgh from Albany, and then ran south along the St.Lawrence, where it reconnected with the east-west line south of Oswego.

While the distances, even with burst speeds around 200 miles per hour, were still too long for an easy commute from Buffalo, the trains, powered primarily by windfarms all over Upstate, made parts of Upstate into convenient vacation homes for those living Downstate, and provided new (and cheap) permanent homes for people who could telecommute most of the time - something New York City's media and finance jobs could support easily in an age where videoconferencing was normal.

Unfortunately, mixing New York City culture with Upstate produced conflicts, including a few riots at schools as newcomers and older inhabitants came into conflict. Upstate's generally poorer residents and the wealthier newcomers had little in common, resentment between 'natives' and 'colonists' peaked in the 2030s, when several trains derailed because of damage to the tracks. Conflicts emerged over issues from styles of speech and dress to religion and ethnicity to local taxation and spending. State police crackdowns on theft, vandalism, and the more dangerous problem of train derailments led to the arrests and imprisonments of thousands of 'natives', reducing resistance to newcomers except for occasional outbursts.

In 2050, Upstate New York is thriving, with active cities along its high-speed rail lines and tourism and farming along its branch lines. Rochester, and Syracuse have grown into engineering centers, while Buffalo has become an important hub for finance and legal work, a gateway between similar work done in New York City and that done in points west. A generation of change, as well as steady accumulation of wealth, has calmed the conflicts between old-timers and newcomers.

(The title for this entry comes from a 2001 book by David Brooks.)

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