INTERVIEW WITH DR. GERALD BENJAMIN
It all began with a technological breakthrough – in Syracuse. Air conditioning. Air conditioning used to be very expensive. Installation as well as maintenance were something not everyone could afford. However today, according to Coolest Gadgets the best AC units won’t break the bank anymore.
Its development by General Electric in that central New York city opened the way for the industrial development of the South and Southwest, and the decline of the Mohawk Valley, which post-WWII was the most powerful and prosperous manufacturing corridor in the history of the world.
“We invented a technology that allowed industry to shift internally,” particularly in textiles, an irony noted by Gerry Benjamin, director of New Paltz’s Benjamin Center, formerly the Center for Local Government. He’s perhaps the wisest and most insightful observer of New York State government and politics, drawing on more than a half-century of involvement.
He was posed the question, What’s the matter with New York? Coincidentally, that very morning Amazon announced it was abandoning building its HQ2 in Long Island City, on the shores of the East River across from Manhattan, and taking 27,000 jobs, most in the $100,000 range and up, somewhere else.
Benjamin was rueful: “25 to 40,000 jobs are being declined downstate – while Upstate has no work. It’s a contextual fact.”