Guest post by Brian Halligan
City Newspaper runs a Best of Rochester poll each year. Most of those years I took a pass, reserving, of course, the right to be outraged at the results. But I saw a Tweet about the 2013 poll the other day and decided it was time I supported my favorite restaurants, retail stores, and sexy tattoo-artist bartenders with more than just my patronage. About 67 categories in, I found something I felt was even more important to support.
Can you guess which choice is not like the others?
- Neighborhood of the Arts (NOTA)
- North Winton Village
- Park Ave.
- South Wedge
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of North Winton Village. Encompassing the Browncroft Neighborhood and bordered by Irondequoit to the North, the railroad tracks near University Ave. to the South, Brighton to the East, and Culver Rd. to the West, it does not have the urban cachet of the South Wedge. Neither is it young and fun like Park Ave., nor built with a singular, iconic purpose like NOTA.
A Place for Families
What it does have is a vision—one that is old-fashioned, but that has important ramifications for the future of Rochester. It’s a safe, supportive place in the City for middle-class families, which offers a small village lifestyle with the convenience and opportunities of urban living. North Winton Village is what Rochester used to be (downtown is only part of the equation) and what it needs to be again if it’s to grow beyond a place people drive to for work, visit on the weekends, or live in when they’re young and single only to move out when they hit 30.
We Are the Village Green Preservation Society
Nearly 20 years ago, the area would not have been nominated for any “best of” polls. Once a stronghold of the affluent and middle class, the neighborhood that is now known as North Winton Village was beginning to fray as crime and urban decay gnawed at its edges.
Two women who lived in the area decided to take a stand before the situation deteriorated any further. Mary Coffey and Marilyn Schutte started the North Winton Village Association to preserve what they felt was best about their neighborhood. Their organization was based on four ideals: safety, zoning, beautification, and an almost legendary tenacity that helped them get what they wanted from City Hall and the Rochester Police Department.
Their vigilance, and that of many other residents through the years, has paid off. Chief Sheppard has called North Winton Village the safest neighborhood in Rochester, and young families with children have been steadily moving in, looking for a place to settle down among the retirees and empty nesters who remember when “Rochester was Rochester.”
So Out of Date, It’s Back In Style
Modern urban advocates hearken back to that golden age with words like “walkability,” “public transportation,” and “diversity.” One walk around North Winton Village shows that those ideals never completely faded here, they’re just being updated for the 21st century.
You’ll find lavish homes and modest rentals, and you’ll see people of all persuasions frequenting their favorite bar and grill, shopping at specialty retail stores like Fahsye and Soulstice Artisan Market, or finding bargains at the dollar store. There are plenty of bus stops, bike paths, and easy access to downtown, Rt. 490 and Rt. 590.
Its “village within the city” vibe is captured in almost over-earnest miniature in the half mile it takes Humboldt St. to connect North Winton Rd. and Culver Rd. The street boasts single-family homes, rentals, apartments, a Catholic church, two schools, a Laundromat, a pizzeria, hair stylists, light industry, a recording studio, a union headquarters, the Monroe Youth and Family Center, an auto repair shop, and even a television station (the WROC and WUHF studios at what was once Rochester Radio City—but that’s another story.)
Where Do We Go From Here?
That’s not to say the neighborhood isn’t susceptible to the City’s well-documented problems. There’s an empty lot on Humboldt St. too, not every building is pristine in North Winton Village. There are retail vacancies along with some vacant houses, and crime will never be fully abolished. But, it’s my family’s home, and the home of my neighbors’ families, and we’re all working in our own ways to make it better. To make it worthy of the Rochester that once was, and will be again: to be the best.
Voting ends Friday, October 18 at 5:00 p.m.
About the Author
Brian Halligan is an ex-suburbanite who lives with his family in Rochester’s best neighborhood and serves on the board of the North Winton Village Association. His work commute to Penfield takes 10 minutes, about the same amount of time it takes him to walk most places in his neighborhood.