Troy's Take: Lessons From The Fall Of Troy
By: TROY CLARKSON, August 8, 2014
I got to know Troy this week, and what I saw was a disappointment. This once-great pillar of strength and vitality has withered and declined. No, this is not a column about self-discovery and self-awareness; I actually traveled to Troy, New York, this week and saw the remnants of what was once one of the most prosperous and vibrant cities in the United States.
As Donna and I strolled through the quiet, sullen streets one evening, I marveled at the majestic, almost triumphant architecture, which belied the cavernous and numerous empty storefronts within, yearning for their former glory. As we scanned the skyline from the waterfront, you could almost hear the din of the city’s previous splendor, with the streets lined with reveling diners, plying merchants and eager artisans, all making this small city of 75,000 a triumphant urban center.
During the early 20th century, Troy was a leading producer of steel and garments, a teeming economic hub, shipping its wares on the Hudson River to the Northeast and beyond. As its leading industries—its soul and its very identity—moved elsewhere across the country and across the globe, Troy lost its focus, and the greatness that defined this lynchpin of New York’s capital region also moved elsewhere. Today, the population has declined by more than a third, and the city is searching for ways to bring back people and their passions, pennies, and penchants for success.
The story of Troy, although tragic, is simple. The pulse—the economic drivers—of Troy moved out, and malaise moved in. Troy continues to struggle day to day to return to its former greatness—or even some semblance of it.
The existence of Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and Russell Sage College provide a modicum of an economic engine, but Troy remains on the sorrowful end of an identity crisis.
There is a lesson in Troy’s fall, one that is applicable and timely right here in Falmouth.
We have a durable and inimitable identity. From our effervescent visitor-based seasonal economy to our year-round foundation in oceanographic research and health care, from our enduring agrarian roots in Hatchville and East Falmouth to our emerging cultural capillaries through creative ventures like the Jazz Fest and the Woods Hole Film Festival, Falmouth thrives and survives because its people share a commitment to its success.
On our local boards sit a mix of passionate natives and dedicated newcomers who share a common obligation to the success of the Falmouth ideal.
Recently, a couple of those local boards have been faced with a simple request that, while appearing to be modest and straightforward enough, is actually a regulatory Trojan horse, replete with danger and the makings of decay that plague Troy.
When the planning board looked askance at a recent proposal by Cavossa Disposal Corporation to expand trash pickup operations, seeking to commence emptying dumpsters adjacent to residential areas as early as 2 AM, it correctly noted and voiced concern about the impacts of this urban proposal on our suburban town. The members aptly noted that neighborhoods would bear the burdens of traffic, noise, and commercial activity during a time of day when tranquility is a key quality. Out of the Trojan horse that is this proposal would most assuredly emerge a desensitization to the quietude of Falmouth’s neighborhoods and a chipping away—however subtle—of Falmouth’s identity. When the first garment factory closed in Troy, perhaps no alarms of urban decay were sounded, but perhaps they should have been. This proposal is decay for the sake of the dollar, and the planning board was both correct and courageous in opposing it.
At a previous hearing on the subject at the board of health, residents who live near sites that would become late-night dumpster dumping zones expressed opposition, noting that a town bylaw was passed specifically to avoid this breach of serenity. The board of health, much like the villagers in the ancient city of Troy, balked at those protestations. They have wheeled this seemingly innocent proposal into our midst—and invited the calamity that lies within into our community. If trash pickup is allowed at 2 AM, what’s next?
This Troy doesn’t want Falmouth to become that Troy—or the more modern New York version. Let’s heed Troy’s lesson and keep our identity—and our tranquility—intact.
(Mr. Clarkson may be contacted at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @TroyClarkson59.)