We’re all just passing through – what counts is what we do along the way.
For more than 20 years, I’ve been involved in historic preservation. I joined the board of Historic Albany Foundation in 1998 and the staff of the Preservation League of New York State in 2003. I chaired Albany’s Historic Resources Commission from 2015 – 2018.
In each of these positions, I was far more interested in the evolution of the neighborhoods and dwellings we lived in than I was in creating “houses under glass.” Perhaps that’s why this painting – on upcycled window sash – appealed to me so deeply. I won it at a fundraiser for Historic Albany Foundation, BUILT, in 2014. It bears a quote from Jane Jacobs, “Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.” I displayed it at my office at the Preservation League for many years.
In 2019, when I launched CMR Communications, I thought I might go “back” to work in an office again, so I stacked the painting with some other pieces and there it sat for two years.
Fortunately, CMR Communications is flourishing – I’m not looking to give up my business any time soon. So, it’s time to pass this piece along so more people can see it!
I'm donating this painting to the Albany Community Land Trust, because I believe deeply in their mission and the partners they work with.
Local real estate markets are in flux because of the pandemic and lingering affects of the foreclosure crisis. Population shifts and limited access to capital - often a holdover from redlining - have led to a decline in housing stock, and people who have lived in the same neighborhood for years are losing their homes. Community Land Trusts can help preserve affordable options for all. Land Trusts:
The Albany Community Land Trust (ACLT) is a community-based non-profit organization committed to rebuilding neighborhood housing stock and creating high quality permanently affordable housing in the city of Albany.
ACLT holds land in a trust for the use of community residents who would otherwise be priced out of the real estate market. The homeowner holds the title to the renovated building. They provide quality rental and homeownership opportunities.
Their work leans into Jane Jacobs’ maxim that cities need old buildings. According to a 2016 report from the National Trust, “older and smaller buildings and a wide range in building age offer real economic and social benefits for neighborhoods and urban centers.”
Whether you’re considering an old building, the land that’s under it, or a work of art, ultimately, we’re all just stewards. You can’t take it with you, right? I’m happy to pass along this painting by Justin Mugits, and hope that more people will take inspiration from it.
As he wrote about the title of the piece, "WWJJD? stands for What Would Jane Jacobs Do? It's a reminder to consider the impact that development has on all people and the environment. Bigger is not always better and planned development does not equal organic growth."
What resources are you stewarding for the next in line?
Drop me a line – let’s make #SmallTalk!
For further reading:
Jane Jacobs was Right: Older and smaller buildings and a wide range in building age offer real economic and social benefits for neighborhoods and urban centers. ROBERT STEUTEVILLE NOV. 3, 2016 / Public Square – CNU Journal
Colleen M. Ryan is an