Binghamton, NY, as I’ve noted once or twice here, is my hometown. Almost every year, I go to Broome County to attend the Olin family reunion – that’s my mother-in-law’s people who can be traced in what is now the United States back to the 1680s.
Those trips, however, were to a park in Endicott, part of the Triple Cities, to be sure. (Endicott and Johnson City, though, are villages; only Binghamton is incorporated as a city.)
When I did venture to downtown Binghamton in the 1980s and 1990s and even the early part of this century, it was depressing. The anchor department stores of McLean’s, where my late mother worked as a bookkeeper, and Fowler’s, were magic to visit on Christmas Eve in 1970 and 1971. When they left, and smaller stores followed, the downtown was overrun by vacant spaces. If it weren’t for Boscov’s, in the old Fowler’s, there would have been no downtown retail to speak of.
The building of a new Route 17, which will become Interstate 86, made it easier to get through Binghamton, but the city wasn’t a place to go TO. The State University of New York isn’t even in Binghamton proper, but out on the Vestal Parkway on old Route 17/Route 434.
“Downtown Binghamton, by most accounts, is in the midst of a revitalization. After years of decline, a boom spurred largely by masses of Binghamton University students leaving the dorms of the Vestal campus for the city has filled once-vacant storefronts downtown and chipped away at blight there.’
And that has spurred numerous coffee shops, tattoo parlors and the like catering to that population. I stayed in a hotel that was once the old city hall, not far from the current city hall, where I was a janitor for a few months in 1975, and there are blocks around there that have been totally transformed.
“But further away from the city’s core, other neighborhoods are waiting to see whether the ripple effect of the downtown boom will reach them.” I noticed that too, particularly in the part of town I grew up in.
Still, I felt hope that there is a chance of economic revival in my old hometown. That made me quite happy indeed.