Letter to the Editor: A Watch on the Rhine

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I’m delighted to report that the West End model, which has been on display at Alternatives Federal Credit Union since 2003, will eventually be housed very close to the site of the old Rhine neighborhood that it depicts, if not within the neighborhood itself. After the publication of Jessica Wickham’s recent  article on my efforts to find a new home for the model, I was contacted by Costa Lambrou of Lambrou Real Estate, an investor in the proposed City Harbor project on Cayuga Inlet, who expressed his and his co-developers’ interest in displaying it in one of the project’s buildings. Mr. Lambrou also offered to store the model in a property in Collegetown until its new home is built, hopefully within the next year or two.   

We plan to undertake the delicate task of dismantling and moving the diorama right after the first of the year, but in the meantime it can still be viewed on the second floor of Alternatives during regular banking hours: Monday-Friday from 9 to 5, and Saturday from 10 to 1.  

As we prepare to put the West End model back into “hibernation” for a while, I’d like to thank Alternatives for being such a wonderful host for its display over the past 16 years. Thanks are also due Historic Ithaca, an organization that gave moral and financial support to the project at its inception in the late 1970s, and that under current Executive Director Susan Holland advocated strongly for its preservation this year. 

Ithaca’s West End has undergone a series of dramatic transformations in the past half century, starting with the construction of the flood-control channel in the 1960s, which effectively obliterated the old neighborhood and displaced its residents. In the mid-1990s, after decades of passionate debate, the so-called low-impact solution to severe traffic congestion in the area was implemented, and the notorious “Octopus” intersection at the foot of West Hill was untangled through the construction of two new at-grade bridges over the channel. (The alternate plan called for the construction of a four-lane overpass through the heart of the man-made island and the realignment of Route 96 between the West End and the hospital.) 

In the 21st century, the neighborhood has remained an urban crucible: the southward extension of Taughannock Boulevard over the inlet will soon alter the street plan of Inlet Island yet again, while proposed residential and commercial development to the north along the waterfront promises to revitalize the area in exciting ways. It’s extremely gratifying to me that the City Harbor developers have seen fit to bring the past along with them as they set out to help forge a bright new future for the West End.

David Fogel

8 Union St., Freeville

607-844-6110

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