The Land-Rape of Dutchess CountyPosted: Monday, December 31, 2007
As property continues to be eaten in Dutchess County, the sell-off continues. In my post-graduate (lower case) years, political and civic leaders used to gnash their teeth with worry about how to keep from exporting their “most precious commodity” — their children, who, seeing the double rising tide of the increasing costs of housing and the continued job drain in the aftermath of IBM’s early ’90s purge, essentially left for college and never looked back.
What did they expect? The county sold out long ago and IBM’s downsizing dovetailed quite nicely with my generation’s high school and college graduations. But the Dutchess that has since arisen from those ashes more resembles an extension of Westchester — it is still unaffordable for their children, unless those children moved to New York and earned the means to move back, joining the march of downstaters who discovered their money went further upstate, either as commutable homes (in Southern Dutchess) or as second-homes and “estates” (in Northern Dutchess).
What saddens me is the continued land-rape that goes on in Dutchess. I saw it while visiting during the holidays, driving north on Route 9 in Hyde Park. It’s to the point where there is no more land to violate south of the Route 44/55 arterial. And still, proud hard-working families can’t afford more than an apartment, a condo with no yard, or a home without a basement, untethered to the earth.
The obvious suspects in this are the politicians and the land barrons feeding a frantic real-estate market. But I see an additional guilty party — the Poughkeepsie Journal. Where was the voice for those without one in the civic realm when the Great Land Sale was (and continues to be) underway? The Journal benefits greatly from the “new” money pouring into Dutchess. The Journal was happy to accept advertisers who benefited from new customers — no problem there, who wouldn’t? But at the same time, the Journal essentially wrote off the long-time residents and those younger workers who had stuck around, toiling and waiting for their chance to buy a home when their time came.
Instead, the PoJo subtly updated its editorial policy to be more inclusive of newcomers, essentially dumbing down the already dumbed-down paper, all in the name of “context.” There was a transparent push in publishing more stories on outlying communities, places where population had been low but was now booming with new residents. Nothing wrong with that, either, except their bread-and-butter communities of Poughkeepsie and the “older” suburbs were sacrificed — coverage there was greatly diminished. The issues that mattered to those who lived there the longest (or at least, longer than the newcomers) disappeared from the shrinking pages of the paper.
But the PoJournal was all too happy to line the pockets of their corporate masters in Virginia with this new money. With no real competition for local news, dedicated existing readers have had no where else to turn. In the meantime, downstate transplants are slow to give up on their old (and superior) papers from the city. And everyone in the newspaper industry still wonders why circulation is down.