Have spent the last week or so in Troy, NY, where I grew up.
To give you a sense for how Troy was when I lived here:
- When NY de-institutionalized most of its mentally-ill population in the 1970s as a result of Geraldo Rivera’s investigations into the Willow Brook facility, a disproportionate share of the inmates ended up in Troy
- An industrial powerhouse in the first half of the 1800s, Troy has been in decline ever since
- You can still get a vacant building here by paying the city $1 and paying the back property taxes
- In the 1950s or 1960s, some idiots severed the city from the Hudson River by running a freeway along the banks (this idiocy was repeated in a lot of cities, including LA)
- Unemployment is high and education levels are low; the public schools have always been terrible
- People like me who grew up here were known as “Troilets” as a result of our distinct lack of class
But check out this picture I snapped on Sunday:
It’s a bit tough to tell from my amateurish pic, but the city is absolutely jammed with people enjoying a high-end farmer’s market ($5 lemonade?!).
Here’s what happened, as far as I can tell:
- Troy has always had an amazing stock of brownstone townhomes left over from around the turn of the 20th century
- As creative types have been priced out of NY, many of them have migrated north looking for affordable, urban living
- Meanwhile, the local university, RPI, has grown larger and more selective, attracting a lot of talented new faculty members and grad students
- If you squint, you can see the beginnings of the kind of small design / tech firms that are attracted to cool environments with educated workforces
So, you’ve got a bunch of creative-class urbanites plus a huge stock of amazing, cheap brownstones buzzing around a downtrodden city with walkable downtown neighborhoods. That’s the kindling and fuel.
Then someone organized this amazing farmers’ market, which was the spark. Boom.