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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.

Escape from Rochester


Senator Trujillo: Commissioner Sorenson, let me be blunt. This committee has lost its patience with your dissembling and that of the Governor's office. The news from the Greater Rochester Correctional Facility continues to get worse, despite the many promises your office has made.

Commissioner Sorenson: Apparently you aren't reading the statistics we have been producing at your request.

Senator Trujillo: Reading, yes. Trusting, no. In a period when we know that there is open warfare among prisoner factions, you show substantial declines in prisoner against prisoner violence.

Commissioner Sorenson: The prisoners are more organized than they used to be, more disciplined. They do a better job of killing each other because they want to, but less killing because they had nothing else to do at the moment.

Senator Trujillo: When we established this new concentrated prison twenty-five years ago, we were assured that prisoners would never be allowed to organize militarily...

Commissioner Sorenson: I can't speak for promises made by previous administrations...

Senator Trujillo: Perhaps you shouldn't, as prisoners hadn't organized in this way until well after you became commissioner. You promised cost-cutting, but we've seen an increase in state incursions into the prison, and more casualties among guards as a result - leading to some pretty incredible costs.

Commissioner Sorenson: Those costs are not the responsibility of my department, Senator.

Senator Trujillo: But they are of your making. Worse than the costs you are creating, however, is the apparent failure of your incursions to establish order.

Commissioner Sorenson: It's no worse than the previous order, Senator. Yes, there's damage and death. There always has been damage and death. But when the State created this prison, we did so to save money, not to be kind to criminals. That said, this new regime may even be helping prisoners to develop clearer social structures than they've had before, something we hope will lead to a more stable prison environment in the long term.

Remembering 2012


[by Steve Balogh.]

I just renewed our lease on our apartment for another year, at a 15% increase. Demand for quality rental property, inflation, and my unwillingness to start a relationship with a new (and possibly shady) landlord made the decision to re-sign easier. I am hoping that my efforts to help our landlord renovate the home and bring up its energy efficiency will pay off in defrayed costs. Jim and I replaced the dinosaur of a boiler in the basement last fall, after I talked him into a pellet/biomass boiler with the capability to burn wood pellets, corn, or recycled paper. Jim had to move back in to his rental property after he could no longer hold on to his mortgage on his primary residence. Given the property tax increases we've faced to keep the schools running, I'm not sure that my monthly rent will help defer even half of his current payments on the 2 family house - so, again, I don't begrudge him the bump in the rent. Another 15% next year, and we'll be considering "consolidated housing" ourselves. Many of our friends and family have had to do the same, moving in together, or back in with family to help keep a roof over their heads.

It's amazing how quickly public perception can change. After the "consolidated housing" meme hit the cover of Time and Newsweek eight months ago, the stigma was lifted, and what was a terrible housing market became even worse as a flood of young professionals, families, and struggling friends gave up their homes and moved in together. Aging baby-boomers welcomed their families back in with open arms, as their meager retirement savings are now a shell of their former selves. (A good number of privileged people are also a "shell of their former selves" as well, as dreams of 5 day a week golf and winters in Florida have faded...)

Our winter preps are nearly complete, many of the changes pragmatic rather than aesthetic. Windows with no appreciable solar gain have been taped off, packed with old newspapers and draped with heavy blankets. We keep at least one window in each room uncovered for natural light, but keep furniture and beds against inside walls to fend off the cold. We could afford to heat the home to 68 degrees all winter, but we decided as a household that daytime heating would be keep at 65 degrees and nighttime temps allowed to drop to 62. The little things like sealing out all drafts, additional insulation on the windows, and our project this winter to seal around all pipes and insulate electrical outlets will allow our house to hold onto that heat longer and reduce the heating portion of our budget. We also fill large bladders of hot water at night and keep them below (and sometimes in) our beds to stay toasty at night.



Welcome to your first training session. I'm not going to be very nice to you today - I just can't be when the subject is so serious. I know you think you're here to learn about how to disassemble houses for best reuse, but our first subject is not vinyl siding: it's your lives.

The first rule of salvaging is that you're either a salvager or a looter. If you're a looter, and a patrol finds you, you'll be dead within an hour. If you're a looter, and you shoot back at the patrol, you and everyone they think you might have liked will be dead soon enough.

What's the difference between the two? It's simple. Salvagers have licenses - which you're here to get - and permits for specific sites. You can have a salvage license but work on the wrong site, and then you're suddenly a looter. Honest mistakes in neighborhoods where all the houses are identical might happen once in a while, and maybe a patrol will listen - but maybe they won't.

It's up to you to remember your job, and who your boss is. You do the work the city asks for, and we pay you a lot. Salvaging building products from suburban housing isn't easy, but it's the best option we have at the moment for housing everyone now that we've reconcentrated. Disassemble the houses carefully, transport the parts into the city, hand them over to the Metropolitan Carpentry Center, and spend a few weeks enjoying the proceeds. Or head back out to make a lot more money.

Some people find visiting the old houses spooky, like they're visiting something awful or wrong. That's fine - you can come back to the city and build in the city instead of going out on salvage runs. A few people find the quiet out there appealing. If that's you, you might think about transferring to farm work. Both of these are safer, but a lot less lucrative.

We salvagers are the few, the free, the proud, the rich. Step out of line and you're done for. Stay in line and you'll do well - very well.

If you'd like to submit a story, please contact me.

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