Wrapping up…

Over 2 years ago, the reUtica project was lauched with a home-grown film that presented a showcase of ideas.  While the time has come for me to move on from this endeavor, I hope reUtica continues to inspire others to explore the possibilities of a greener, prosperous and just future for all of us.  reUtica was never meant to be a total solution – rather it was a showcase of potential solutions and succeeded in sowing the seeds of some grassroots efforts illustrated in this blog.

If anyone has any additional questions about this project, I’d be glad to offer any insights.  Please contact me at reutica @ gmail dot com.

A final parting vision from last years’ Tour d’Utica series.  I hope people keep riding Utica’s streets and discovering all the good things about living here.  Bon voyage!

- John

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joe cart project featured on Utica Firefly

The Utica Firefly “is part live performance, part oral history project documenting the history, places and voices of Central New York.”  As I see it, this project is working to create a new narrative about the place we call home by lifting up the voices and stories of the people who live here.  I was really flattered when Ryan and Geoff approached me about featuring the joe cart project.  Although I consider the joe cart project to be in its infancy, Ryan and Geoff were willing to spend a great deal of time and energy to tell this emerging story on Utica Firefly.  They even sponsored a joe cart run themselves, and provided some local Utica Coffee Roasting goodness to a bunch of folks in West Utica.

With my thanks for the Utica Firefly project and the efforts of Ryan Miller and Geoff Storm, I’m pleased to share their telling of the joe cart story:

The Joe Cart – Utica’s Instant Neighborhood Cafe from Utica Firefly on Vimeo.

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joe cart: Utica’s NEW Instant Neighborhood Cafe

joe cart leaves the garage for the first time, headed out on the streets of West Utica!

On October 15th, Utica’s NEW Instant Neighborhood Cafe, affectionately named “joe cart”, took to the streets for the first time.  joe cart strives to be a grassroots, pedal-driven platform to showcase Utica’s local small businesses, non-profits and causes. As the name implies, “joe” cart is a coffee cart pulled by a bike.  In celebration of all things Utica, joe cart will offer Utica Coffee Roasting Company Coffee.  (For the maiden voyage, the folks at Utica Coffee Roasting were kind enough to donate all the coffee for the run.)

joe cart was constructed out of mainly reused materials, some new things and lots of local time and energy. Here’s a listing of what went into making joe cart:

Reused Materials:

  • reused wood and hardware (free),
  • previously used cart frame built from an old bed frame, hospital bed and two front forks from old bikes ($20 from a farm in northern NY),
  • “awning” frame adapted from a child’s toy lemonade stand ($4 at a thrift store),
  • one wheel from an old bike (the other wheel came with the cart) (free),
  • other supplies thrifted or bartered (around $15).

New Materials:

  • new wood trim ($15),
  • vinyl table cloth ($10),
  • whiteboard tabletop ($10),
  • paint, adhesive, various bolts, screws and other supplies (around $25)

Local (West Utica) Talents:

  • John Ossowski, Jr. (concept, procurement and construction);
  • John Ossowski, Sr. (engineering assistance)

joe cart is FREE…private donations to offset operation costs are accepted, but not required.

Want more joe cart?  Be a sponsor!

Q: Who can sponsor?

A: Anyone!  You can be an individual, a non-profit or a small business.  The only requirement is that the idea, product or service you promote must support the quality of life of EVERYONE in our community.  (No negative advertising or bashing or any kind.)

Q: How do I sponsor joe cart?

A: Sponsoring a joe cart run is as easy as:

1. supply coffee, goodies, etc. to give away to neighbors
2. supply some signage and literature
3. supply a volunteer or two (ON BIKE) who will represent you, help serve coffee, and make good conversation

Contact John to get the cart rolling: reUtica@gmail.com

joe cart at the Polish Community Club for the October 15th West Utica Meet and Greet Event

joe cart is a simple, clean, effective and fun way to make neighborhoods more livable – and safe.  Safe neighborhoods are neighborhoods where neighbors know each other, look out for one another and have a regular presence on the street. joe cart provides an instant, free, outdoor café venue where neighbors can gather and enjoy each other’s company over coffee or tea. In doing so, joe cart supports the social fabric of our neighborhoods, which is essential to public safety.

Have some ideas for joe cart’s next run?Contact John at reUtica@gmail.com.

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Moving Planet Tour d’Utica Recap

Tour d'Utica visits the green initiatives at Johnson Park Center

Utica participated with cities world-wide on Moving Planet Day, September 24th.  A bicycle-powered Tour d’Utica kicked off with a rally at the Tramontane Cafe on Lincoln Ave.  Riders learned about the day’s purpose: to move beyond fossil fuels.  One key goal towards that end is to reduce the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere below 350 parts per million (a concentration many scientists believe is a ‘safe’ upper limit – see www.350.org for more information).

After the rally, the Tour moved on to three Utica venues that feature sustainable solutions to our climate change threat.  First, riders biked to the LEED certified Hage building on Genesee Street.  The building was restored from an existing structure and features commercial use of geothermal heating and cooling systems.  Next, the Tour continued at the Utica Public Library.  The library itself is a sustainable solution because it encourages the efficient sharing of resources among community members.  The library was also kind enough to host SUNYIT’s portable solar roof demonstration.  Despite the cloudy weather, riders were able to enjoy some Saranac root beer that had been chilled using power generated from the sun.  After that, the Tour moved on to Johnson Park Center.  The center is building affordable green housing employing both geothermal and solar technologies to reduce energy costs.  Johnson Park Center also hosts a community garden and is planning on creating a green jobs training center.  (You can learn more about Johnson Park Center at www.johnsonparkcenter.org.)

The Tour continued down Genesee Street to Cafe Domenico’s community meeting place, The Other Side (http://www.theothersideutica.org/).  Riders got off their bikes and took a seat for a climate reality talk by Dr. Frederic Joyce.  The talk illuminated the scientific evidence for human involvement in the climate change crisis.  Dr. Joyce also focused on solutions at the individual, community and legislative levels.  A small group of riders expressed an interest in holding other Tour d’Utica events to promote active lifestyles, involvement in the local community and climate change solutions.  If you are interested in planning another Tour d’Utica, please email John at reutica@gmail.com.

Moving Planet Tour d'Utica Rallies at the Tram before the ride.

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Moving Planet: Utica

Utica joins the rest of the world on September 24th for Moving Planet -

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Community: reUtica style

reUtica focused on a number of strategies that could build our community while protecting our environment. The idea is that sustainability doesn’t have to be just environmental or economic – we can reap social benefits alongside environmental benefits. (This author believes that sustainability is inherently social anyway, but I’ll leave that for another post.)

Knowing about strategies is helpful when moving towards a goal. But what about the goal itself? I starting thinking about what would motivate people to invest in the reUtica strategies. And it goes a little something like this:


So community can be thought of as a relationship between individuals and a larger group.  The individual has wants and needs – as well as contributions to offer.  Same with the community.  Every community needs something and gives something.

Now consider this: Is more focus placed on one side of the street than the other?  I think so.  Given the way conventional economic development happens, the focus is placed on what the individual wants and what the community can provide.  Just check out advertisements for neighborhood developments.  (Like this one: http://www.gallerybuckhead.com/neighborhood.html  I just love the tagline at the end of the description – “Experience all it has to offer.”)

Welcome to another shade of consumerism:  the consumption of place.  In my mind, ‘place’ is not a commodity that individuals can purchase to ‘experience’, use up and move on.  Granted, we all have things we need from a place:  water, shelter, safety, fun, etc.  But is that all there is?

What about ‘place’ as a home?  A home where we can develop into active participants that make a meaningful contribution to schools, libraries, parks, hospitals, government and our families and friends.  The diagram below describes the problem as I see it:


What would things in Utica look like if we placed more emphasis on the relationship in the green boxes?  Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we should totally ignore the relationship in the white boxes.  What I am saying is that we need to consider our contributions to the community on equal footing with the community’s contributions to us.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to explore this theme a bit further and the reUtica project will be entering a new phase.  Stay tuned…

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At Utica College with the Young Scholars LPP

Over 100 Young Scholars students filled MacFarlane Auditorium at Utica College for reUtica’s third local screening. These students represent a diverse and bright group of middle school students from the Utica City School District. As part of their experience as Young Scholars, students entering grades 7, 8 and 9 are expected to attend Utica College over the summer for classes to prepare them for the upcoming school year. Students are also expected to participate in community service projects in addition to having strong academics.

reUtica was received well by these young people, despite being a pretty heady film at times. I was gratified that I somehow retained a junior high sense of humor in making the film…the students laughed and giggled at all the right parts. They also had some pretty intelligent things to say about the film and why ‘recycling, reusing and reducing’ made sense to them. We even had some candid conversations about values surrounding consumerism, community and the environment.

Thanks goes out to the Young Scholars LPP students, teachers and staff for all the time they devoted this summer to watching and discussing the film!

(Readers can learn more about the Young Scholars LPP at Utica College by visiting http://www.utica.edu/academic/yslpp/)

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