Take exit B3 and you’re there

Cambridge, NY is a place that, I feel confident, will see me again.  I had a delightful (if short) time there, chatting with folks and exploring.  It’s going to take me some time to gather up my notes and share the content of the conversations, so today I’ll simply talk about the trip.

Travel map

It’s hard to imagine that I’ll find any other two Cambridges that are as easy to travel between as those in MA and NY.  Once I pulled onto the Massachusetts Turnpike (I90, about two miles from home), I went west until I had crossed the border into New York.  I took exit B3 for NY Route 22 and traveled past NY towns with names reflecting the upstate area’s tradition of mixing the classical (such as Troy), international (Lebanon), Biblical (Canaan), Dutch (Rensselaer), Native American (Hoosic), and English (Greenwich).  Another hour later, I reached the Motel Cambridge, right on Route 22 and where I would spend the night.  The local address is 51 South Park Street and, given that the address of my childhood home was also 51 Park, there was no doubt but that I’d be staying there.  (Also, it’s pretty much the only game in town.)

Common Sense Farm

Cambridge, NY doesn’t sprawl far beyond the intersection of Park Street and Main Street, where you’ll find the village’s only stoplight.  A few streets radiate out from Park or Main but, really, not too many.  That made it super easy to get around and meet up with everyone I had arranged to see.  Once outside the compact center of the village, most of the roads I followed took me past a farm, such as this one: Common Sense Farm.

The Cambridge Valley Chamber of Commerce describes the location of the village this way.  “Cambridge is located in southern Washington County, eastern upstate New York. We are northeast of Albany, east of Saratoga Springs and southwest of Manchester, Vermont….Driving Times: Albany-55 minutes; Manchester, VT-45 minutes; Greenwich-10 minutes; Saratoga Springs-25 minutes; Bennington, VT-20 minutes; Williamstown, MA-45 minutes.”  In other words, it’s neither completely isolated, nor is it part of a teeming metropolis.

Continental RoadCambridge has a long history, with Native American settlements and a significant role in the Revolutionary War.  And that long history is what, I think, has led to a very complicated government structure.  There’s the village, which was the focus of my visit, but there’s also a Town of Cambridge.  Most public services are provided by the village, which is probably a good thing, as the village is split among three towns — Cambridge, White Creek, and Jackson.  All of the towns are in Washington County, which stretches up the eastern edge of New York State.

(My home town on Long Island, NY is also a village that, along with several other villages, is rolled into a town, so the governance structure wasn’t totally foreign to me, but no one in Cambridge told me it was better to be part of three towns, much as they might be used to it.)

CoOpBefore my trip, I looked at the restaurant options in town and discovered that nearly all are closed on Monday, and many on Tuesday, too.  Folks seemed more amused than irritated when I commented on how eating out must be confined to Wednesday to Sunday.  With a lunch picked up at the local co-op, dinner at one of the open restaurants, and breakfast supplies from the supermarket, I easily got by.

After all the conversations on Monday and Tuesday morning, I followed a suggestion I received several times and zipped out to the local monastery (!), located on a hill that truly brings out the loveliness of the surrounding area.  From there, back to the stoplight, a left turn onto Rt. 22, and the drive back home.  My next posts will reflect my Cambridge, NY conversations.

Monastery

Mayor Carman Bogle reflects on Cambridge, NY

While I travel to Cambridge, NY, I’d like to share this Q&A with Mayor Carman Bogle, who took office in April 2015, following the village’s March election. 

I should note that Mayor Bogle was extremely generous in answering a long list of questions that I have since learned was simply too long.  But her kind response made me think that I might be onto something with this blog — that there is a lot to learn from each other. I’m excited to visit her village and to meet her this afternoon.

Carman Bogle
Mayor Bogle (waving from the front of the cart). Photo credit: Eric Fellows

How would you describe Cambridge?
The village of Cambridge is a charming walkable community with a population of about 2,000 people. Most properties are historic with a mix of Victorian and Colonial homes and businesses.

Because of close proximity and a smaller population, Cambridge is a close-knit community. Everybody knows their neighbors and fellow community members. People are always ready to help each other, as well as welcome new people to the community. Smiles and friendly waves of hello are readily available as you walk down Main Street. There is no shortage of those willing to volunteer to make and keep Cambridge a warm inviting place where people want to raise their families.

What are Cambridge’s current challenges?
Challenges facing Cambridge right now are a lack of infrastructure and economic development, particularly with regard to wastewater infrastructure. This has deeply impacted business development since property sizes are small and too close together to meet standards. Jobs are hard to come by in Cambridge.

What are one or two national issues that particularly affect Cambridge now?
I would say a national issue affecting Cambridge as of late has been the negativity that we see displayed through the media and social media, and the overall divide that seems to be developing nationally. While we are close-knit, there have been times when attitudes and treatment of each other have not reflected our local core values. We often need to remind ourselves that we are friends and neighbors, and ultimately we care about each other more than our opinions.

As you look ahead to the Cambridge our children will inherit in 25 years, what concerns you most?
What has me most concerned for the future we leave for our children is that the economic conditions will leave them with no option but to leave Cambridge.

As you look ahead to the Cambridge our children will inherit in 25 years, what leaves you feeling most hopeful?
What leaves me most hopeful when I think of the future we are leaving our children is that this is always home. There is always someone here who cares about you and wants to see you succeed in life. The feeling of community and belonging has been instilled in our children, and I hope they pass that on to their children.

Cue up the first road trip

On Monday, I’m heading out for my Cambridge (MA) to Cambridge (NY) road trip.  I’ve been studying up on Cambridge, NY, where I’ll focus on the village, rather than the town of the same name.  (More on that next week, once I figure it all out.)  For now, I started by gathering basic information (thank you, Wikipedia) to guide my conversations when I’m there.

A bird’s-eye view of these numbers could lead to the assumption that the difference between Cambridge, MA and Cambridge, NY is population and there’s not much else to see.  As I’ve read further, though, I’ve come to think there are other key forces at play.  I’m looking forward to chatting with folks there and finding out more.

Massachusetts New York
Type of community or government City Village
Zip code(s) 02138 to 02142 12816
Population from 2010 Census 105,162 1870
Area (square miles) 7.1 1.7
Population density/square mile 16,355 1151
Median age 31 40
Population breakdown (percent)
Under 18 13.3 25.7
18 to 24 21.2 7.1
25 to 44 38.6 24.5
45 to 64 17.8 23.0
65 or older 9.2 19.8
Percent white 67 98 (2000)
Median income $47,979 $31,164
Elevation (feet) 40 496
Miles to an ocean (approximately, as the crow flies) 3 124
Distance to Cambridge, MA (shortest driving distance) 0 160 miles