Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy spoke with students and citizens Tuesday night, Feb. 5, in a town hall meeting sponsored by Urban Exploring and the Rochester Center for Community Leadership. Duffy spoke for roughly 10 minutes and then opened the floor for a question and answer session, fielding inquiries about urban planning projects and the difficulty of retaining young people to work in the city.
The former police chief opened the meeting, held in Hoyt Auditorium, with remarks on the state of the Rochester economy, a local stimulus package and public safety.
‘The University has done so much, not only graduating talent, but economically,” Duffy said. ‘[The University] has had a profound effect on the community during a very tough time.”
Duffy heard several questions from citizens and students, offered possible solutions and described future plans for the city.
One student, concerned about the Jefferson Avenue neighborhood across the Genesee river, wondered if there were any plans for revitalization in the near future.
Duffy said that a planning group is finishing up discussions about the area, and changes in the streetscapes and recruiting businesses to the area are the next steps. The mayor hopes to see a grocery store added in the neighborhood in the near future. ‘The area is prominently mentioned in the [federal] stimulus package,” he said.
Duffy also addressed the Renaissance Square project, which has recently been in the news. The original plans called for a bus station, another Monroe Community College campus and a performing arts theater, but New York Senator Chuck Schumer recently gave orders to go ahead with the project without appropriate funding for the theater.
Duffy said he supports Schumer’s decision to go forward with only two of the components and cited the renovation of the Auditorium Theater downtown as one possible alternative. He also said that he has spoken with numerous private investors who are excited to develop in the area.
‘It might not be a perfect construction project,” Duffy said. ‘But it will make a difference.”
According to the Renaissance Square Web site, ‘The project site is located in Downtown Rochester and includes portions of the blocks bounded by East Main Street, North Clinton Avenue, Pleasant Street, and St. Paul Street.”
Duffy also noted that over the past few years, the number of young people who have left the area has increased. The Mayor said that it would take proactive local businesses and city government to help retain young talent in search of jobs.
‘We should have the county executive, the mayor, local legislators greeting these
[prospective] CEOs at the airport,” Duffy said.
He recognized many of the problems facing the city, but is optimistic things will turn around. ‘The problems we face are complex and deep rooted,” Duffy said. ‘Fixing them doesn’t happen overnight.”
The mayor was also asked his opinion of Governor David Paterson’s selection of Kirsten Gillibrand to fill the Senate seat left open by Hillary Clinton’s appointment to Secretary of State.
Duffy met with Gillibrand on Saturday, Jan. 31. ‘She was intent, she listened, she took notes,” he said. ‘ I think we’ll be pleased with her.”
Duffy stressed that it was important that she help bring business to upstate New York.
The mayor also expressed support for Caroline Kennedy, who dropped out of the Senate race in a move that caught news attention nationwide.
‘I thought the media was tough on her, but I was impressed by her,” Duffy said of Kennedy.
Duffy left the crowd with a piece of advice: educate yourself about the issues, and get involved. Duffy added that joining a political campaign would provide valuable experience to any student looking to work in the public sector.
‘I come into work and learn something every single day,” he said.