Last night’s Channel 9 newscast and this morning’s Post-Standard both had stories on the big doin’s up at the Port of Oswego. The TV report focused on the increased current traffic at the Port, and the PS story was about how Oswego has been selected for one of the first container-shipping terminals in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence system. This is indeed big news, especially since the new, Nova Scotia-based enterprise would shave a day off of container shipping to New York City. (NYC, I believe, also has some issues with the depth of its harbor — some expensive dredging still needs to take place to accommodate the newer breed of container ships. I wonder if Halifax has solved those issues.)

The local news stories are no doubt prominent because of the possibility of increased jobs at the Port. However, there is a much bigger picture and it’s one that I dimly recall blogging about some years ago — a new North American economic region some call Atlantica, supported by some big-business interests and decried by others. Oswego, and Syracuse and other parts of Central, Western and Northern New York lie within Atlantica’s proposed economic sphere of influence. (Think of an economic engine that had the port of Halifax, not New York City, at its head.)

It’s a radically new way of thinking about Upstate New York’s possible future (and the future for all the Great Lakes region and many depressed Rust Belt cities), although most of the talk about it focuses on Canada.

9 thoughts on “Atlantica

  1. sean

    i notice they slice the map just right so my hometown dunkirk, a lakefront city that has lost 40 percent of its population and much of its economic energy since 1960, gets neatly cut out of the map. for pete’s sake. as a guy steeped in the upstate political tradition, i call for gerrymandering atlantica, which means it would eventually include bronxville.


  2. sean

    really interesting. why is it with so many passionate folks having similar conversations and kicking around ideas and caring deeply about their towns, from troy to detroit, that more turnaround isn’t happening? maybe it goes back to your question about dave bing’s challenge regarding politics: who, as this video asks, really pulls the strings?


  3. Ellen

    Sean- I think it has to do with social circles that do not overlap. Ideas don’t come to expression unless they jump these borders. There are good intentions everywhere, but people are too resistant (or more likely, too busy) to go out of their comfort zones and really synthesize new circles out of the old ones. The Internet gives someone like the Pittsburgh blogger (and all of us really) an opportunity to articulate new ideas, but in reality social circles remain difficult to expand (or melt). That takes guts, not just vision. The conventions of the past have a tight grip. And there’s nothing more demoralizing when you feel like you’re going out of your comfort zone and others aren’t going outside of theirs. I think that is a big reason why many bright people do not participate in the political establishment. There are too many comfortable people inside it.

    I think Atlantica’s critics make good points about the danger of NAFTA running roughshod over the Northeast (like it hasn’t already?), but that’s the whole idea behind the Atlantica concept – breaking down borders that may no longer serve a practical purpose. The concept of North America getting away from its “east-west” orientation (and back to a “north-south” one) is fascinating.

  4. sean

    i can think of a few simple and obvious examples of what you’re saying, the stadium primary among them. our political leadership in the early 1990s knew downtown baseball stadiums were the new wave nationally, that one had worked beautifully in buffalo (a close corollary), that rochester was also building its ballpark downtown, and that building a ballpark away from a walkable neighborhood defied economic sense. none of that was enough to overcome the local political culture, and i think you can find a slew of similar examples (the midland avenue sewage plant, razing the poorhouse, much of the destiny planning etc.)

    this also, unfortunately, goes back to dave bing’s point: all the good ideas from the sidelines don’t mean a thing unless you’ve got someone at the gearbox who can implement them.


  5. Robinia

    Re: gerrymandering. The neat and complete exclusion of the francophones is really a bit blatant there, no?

  6. Ellen

    Yeah, I noticed that. The think tank behind Atlantica apparently believes “back to the future” means returning to the Seven Years War…?

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