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The High Cost of Change

July 8, 2014

Seven years ago, in the wee early hours of July 6, the Fussies officially became residents of Albany. This was only my second time in the region. The first was a month prior when the missus and I spent a few frenzied days looking for a place to live.

Albany felt like a very different place then. And I think it was.

The College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering only had one building. New World Bistro Bar had not opened its doors. The only place to get a cappuccino was at Ultraviolet Cafe, and it was totally hit or miss depending on who was working. Ala Shanghai had not graced the region with its top notch soup dumplings. And I couldn’t find a grassfed burger anywhere.

A lot of work has gone into improving the region. And it has been going on for a long long time. And it’s great to see some of the fruits of those labors. Some come in the form of long awaited chain stores, and that’s fine. Others come in the arts and the worldwide recognition of the Albany Symphony Orchestra after its first Grammy win earlier this year. Then of course there is the ever-expanding roster of ethnic restaurants.

But all of this growth comes at a cost.

Last night, the Albany Business Review posted a story that Hoffman’s Playland will close for good on September 14, and all of its rides will be sold at auction. The eight acres will most likely be turned into a development for “retail and residential uses.”

You can probably get a good idea of what will come by looking at the soulless Villages of New Loudon right next door. That was what David Hoffman’s uncle Bob decided to do with his parcel of land, which used to be the home of the driving range and ice cream stand adjacent to Hoffman’s Playland.

Hoffman’s Playland is a regional treasure.

Once upon a time, the United States was filled with these small regional amusement parks. But much like drive-in movie theaters, over time they faded away. These kinds of enterprises require a lot of land. And when they were originally established, the land was cheap. But as metropolitan areas became denser, and land became more valuable, it became harder and harder to resist selling the property.

Many farms have experienced similar predicaments. But there are some programs in place to protect farms. Farms are important for our nation’s food security. Well, just so long as we don’t let a small handful of corporations control the patents to all of our seeds. Then we can kiss food security goodbye. But dammit, we still need farms to even have a chance.

There are apparently no such programs to protect amusement parks.

Young Master Fussy finally got his wish last summer of being tall enough to ride the bumper cars. Little Miss Fussy will never get the chance to do so at Hoffman’s. But we’ll make sure to make this last season count. And thankfully the kids get to visit Altoona, PA every year, so they can ride the amusements at Lakemont Park. Heck, it’s possible that Lakemont might buy some of Hoffman’s rides at auction. I can’t think of where else they might go.

I am truly glad that I got to live in a Capital Region where I could bring my little ones to Hoffman’s. It’s been so much a part of the fabric of life in the area, it’s hard to imagine Albany without this seasonal rite.

Hoffman’s Playland is a casualty of the region’s growth and success. For all of us who cheered the arrival of The Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods; for those who worked hard to establish a technology sector in the region, bringing jobs and the CNSE; for everyone who welcomed The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang’s with open arms, this is what you get.

True, the park might have closed anyway. But it would certainly be a lot less tempting to sell out if the payout wasn’t as high.

As much as I hate to see Hoffman’s Playland go, I’d much rather live in the Capital Region of today without it, than the Albany of seven years ago. That said, these coming years will be critical for the area. Change is part of the natural order of things. But let’s try to hold onto those things that make this little corner of New York special and unique.

Hopefully, we can usher in the future without discarding the best parts of our past. Maybe I’ll have to make a special trip to Gus’s this week just for good measure.

One Comment leave one →
  1. buffsoulja permalink
    July 8, 2014 1:29 pm

    Well written Dan!
    (Josh K btw)

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