The R2G Binghamton story
In 2013, with R2G Utica’s model in mind and with the goal of starting up a similar initiative in Binghamton, dialogue and meetings began between Cornell and Binghamton. Cornell’s R2G and Cornell faculty and staff met with representatives from CCE Broome, the City of Binghamton and Broome County, SUNY Binghamton, Broome Community College and the local business community, to name a few. In 2015, as a result of this dialogue, Rust to Green Binghamton (R2GB) was formally inaugurated as a program area of Cornell Cooperative Extension Broome County (CCEB) with core local leadership being provided by CCE Broome (Beth Roberts), Binghamton City Hall (Robert Murphy) and SUNY Binghamton (Professor George Homsy). With Professsor Shorna Allred taking the lead on the Living with Water initiative, joined by Paula Horrigan and Scott Peters, Cornell began working with Binghamton partners and R2G Binghamton was underway. Like R2G Utica, R2G Binghamton is unfolding and emerging as a dynamic place-based university-community partnership fostering sustainable community-development and resilience in the Binghamton area.
Living with water
R2G Binghamton’s primary project is Living with Water and is led by Professor Shorna Allred. Living with Water focuses specifically on community flood resilience and particularly on those social capital assets– dialogue, communication, decision-making, policies– enabling of greater resilience. Through Living with Water, several research and extension projects have been undertaken which lay the groundwork for building the capacity of local government and communities to develop resilience to flooding in Binghamton. In 2015 and 2016, community decision-maker interviews and resident story-circles were conducted and produced narratives and findings related to flooding experiences, concerns, needs and assets. R2GB’s Fall 2016 Flood Resiliency Summit provided a venue for greater dialogue and for presenting Living with Water’s relevant research findings to date as well updates, from community partners, on progress related to flood preparedness, mitigation, & resiliency. During Summit weekend and staged for the first time, was a community play derived from Living with Water’s narrative interviews and story-circles. The play, developed by a regional theater group, Civic Ensemble, highlighted the inherent tensions and complexity of issues needing addressing in pursuit of Binghamton’s flood resilience goals.
R2GB’s Living with Water project is growing to engage an enlarging group of actors–from academia and community– coming together out of shared interest in flooding resilience or with interest in addressing the larger constellation of issues, challenges and opportunities facing Binghamton and Upstate NY’s older industrial, shrinking Rust Belt cities. In 2017, R2GB partners completed Living with Water’s Hatch-funded project phase. Since then, they have been taking steps building on the work and advancing sustainable community development in the greater Binghamton area.