As I sit here, I try to imagine what it must’ve been like to live here 60 years ago. Binghamton, the little known city in New York’s Southern Tier and once home to thousands of manufacturing and defense oriented jobs, is now the picture of poverty. IBM was founded here. Ansco Cameras, Endicott-Johnson Shoes and General Electric all called the Triple Cities (Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City) home. The Flight Simulator was invented in Binghamton and the area was the second largest manufacturer of cigars in the United States, giving it the moniker, the “Valley of Opportunity”.
As the Cold War ended, the region lost thousands of manufacturing jobs. These days, industry is all but gone and abandoned buildings dot the landscape of an extremely depressed urban theater.
I was able to manage a few rides throughout the city and around the outlying areas. A dawn patrol pedal through the quiet streets took me over the South Washington Street Bridge and up Vestal Parkway to Vestal Avenue and into Endicott. The return trip pushed me the opposite way around the city.
The Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers flow through a downtown area littered with cafe’s, pizza parlors and quaint shops. It has an old world charm reminiscent of better days. Binghamton University, has a downtown campus and a lot of student housing for the main campus in Vestal have moved here, creating a shift for businesses to cater to student life.
A few days later, I crossed the Exchange Street Bridge and ascended Pennsylvania Avenue to Hawleyton Turnpike. The 4 mile climb above the tree tops, made for an exciting descent over pot holed, chopped up pavement. My return to downtown led me through some residential areas and back into the city center.
I’m not an urban renewal expert, but I’m pretty sure that a few coffee houses and trendy shops, although well intentioned, won’t bring this once thriving center of industry back to prosperity. The floods of 2006 and 2011 have halted progress. That said, this area needs some big companies to take a chance and re-locate here.
What’s Playing (what am I listening to while writing or what’s dancing around in my head while riding), today – Looking Glass – Brandy