Guess-the-Suburb Winner Is: Matt

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Remember Wednesday’s guess-the-anonymous-suburb contest? I’m very impressed: You all knew the right region — the northeast United States. (Was it the Ames sign? The trees? The first comment suggesting that this was a place "north of the city"?)

Runner-up prizes consisting of official "Street Cred" go to Bill and Karla (your first attempt was closer!) for guessing the Albany area. The winner is: Matt Law, for his guess of Queensbury, N.Y.

In fact, the strip mall in question was located in … drumroll … Plattsburgh, N.Y., on the shore of beautiful Lake Champlain and not far from the Quebec border.

honkucover2.jpgMatt, you win a free copy of Honku: The Zen Antidote to Road Rage, generously donated by Aaron Naparstek. E-mail us to claim your prize.

The Times has been running stories recently about the exodus of young people and people in general from upstate New York. Do you think one of the reasons could be the poor built environment up there? Over on the east bank of Lake Champlain, in Vermont, the amount of crap sprawl like this was noticeably lower, and Vermont’s economy seems to be more healthy. City and town centers in Vermont (we visited Burlington and Montpelier and a number of small towns) seemed vibrant, with lots of people out walking, shopping, strolling, talking, and enjoying the beautiful weather in town. There is hope for Plattsburgh though. Its downtown seemed relatively active, and two new hotels are being built there, within a short walking distance from the Amtrak station. (But they’re not built yet, so we had to rent a car and stay in a lifeless motel over by the Interstate.)

As huge and hideous as this plaza was, it wasn’t huge and hideous enough. Ames went out of business in 2002 as Wal-Mart has been moving into the region with bigger stores. Rather than buy this empty store with plenty of already-built parking, Wal-Mart opened a new store and parking lot down the street at 25 Consumer Square (I’m not making that up) in 2004. So now the abandoned Ames and parking lot sit empty while formerly unbuilt land has been transformed into a carbon copy of the same thing.

A good piece called How to Fight Superstore Sprawl, was put out by the Sustainability Institute, which is located in Vermont.

What a coincidence.

  • Wow, I really thought I nailed it. Still, it feels good to win : )

    I’m a former Upstater and one of the reasons I left for New York City was that the sense of community really wasn’t there. I lived in a small town, but there was very little activity in the center of town during Winter. My town (Bolton Landing) is a popular summer destination for “flatlanders” that didn’t really appreciate the nature they came to soak up.

    New York has its down sides, but I like that I can find a group of people that shares my interests no matter what they may be. And I can probably walk there or take my bike! : )

  • I’m from Upstate too, outside of Syracuse, the spot that we call Central New York (CNY). I have a soft spot for how beautiful it can be up there, but moving to more urban areas was an eye-opening experience for me. Growing up, all of our activities centered around the car and being inside. Being able to drive and have all about independence and freedom. It was really really hilly where I grew up, so biking was more work than fun.

    Finally, I got to the city and could wake up, walk out the door, buy coffee and a paper, and still a bit groggy, head home for bed again without ever endangering anyone by turning on an engine. This sense of freedom is something I have never felt living in a place where I have to drive everywhere, in spite of all the car commercials that speak to the contrary.

  • Books for a Penny

    Congratulations Matt!

    Aaron: What’s the constellation prize? Old spark plugs from your volvo?

  • Hey, we never said the prize wasn’t going to be something you could buy on Amazon for 25 cents or less.

  • AD

    Shin-pei, you’re hitting on something I don’t think we mention enough around here: Despite the complaining and the room for improvement, we love it in New York City for the exact reasons you mentioned. That’s why we live here. That’s why the city has such an enormous attractive force for so many disenchanted former suburbanites.

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