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Honor Alco's history in Mohawk Harbor street names

Honor Alco's history in Mohawk Harbor street names

Streets in Mohawk Harbor development should reflect site's long history
Honor Alco's history in Mohawk Harbor street names

Does it really matter what they name the streets within the new Mohawk Harbor and casino development property?

Yeah, it kind of does.

Developers of the site have inadvertently stumbled into a public relations mess by naming the three streets within the riverside project after the developer of the casino (Rush Street), the name of the housing/retail/business complex (Mohawk Harbor Way) and the new harbor (Harborside Drive).

Normally, most people wouldn't give such a thing a second thought. Developers routinely name streets after themselves or family members or their businesses, and rarely does anyone get their knickers in a bunch.

So what's the big deal if the developers of the former Alco site demonstrate some routine corporate narcissism when naming the public streets on their property?

Well, for starters, they're dealing with an area that has significant historic value to the city.

The site was once anchored by the American Locomotive Co. (Alco) plant, which, for more than 60 years starting at the beginning of the 20th century, manufactured tens of thousands of locomotives, diesel engines, cars and even Army tanks that were vital to the nation's success in World War II.

The plant is as much a part of the city's history at General Electric, Union College, the Mohawk Indians and the Erie Canal.

So why not give a nod to the history of the site by naming the streets after something associated with Alco? How about Alco Drive? Maybe name a street after the company's first president, Samuel P. Callaway, or Joseph Burroughs Ennis, responsible for many of the company's locomotive designs over much of its history. Or after some of the company's famous products, like the Milwaukee Road 261 steam locomotive or the General Grant Army tanks.

Secondly, perception matters.

Even before they put a shovel in the ground, the casino operators were viewed by some as slick outsiders only interested in making a buck on the backs of local residents. Paying homage to the history of the property they're now occupying might go a ways toward easing some of that ill will, even a little.

There's still time to change the names of the streets, as the City Council hasn’t yet given developers the OK.

Maybe given a second chance, they’ll think it through a little more carefully and get it right the next time.

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