Blight indeed

With so many things in the city of Binghamton being worked on and planned for the future, a stark reminder of what needs to be done right now has occured. At 66 main street, just 2 minutes walking distance from downtown and a block from the highschool, there is the old Masonic Temple. It has seen far better days.

The Masonic Temple at 66 Main Street in Binghamton
The Masonic Temple at 66 Main Street in Binghamton

The Masonic Temple is one of the oldest buildings in Binghamton. It stands tall, a mere shadow of its former glory. Broken windows provide perches for pigeons. The walls draw the attention of graffitti vandals. The ornate columns shelter wayward students evading lessons in the school.

This says nothing of the murder that took place in the abandoned halls. Its outer walls and the various shrubs and weeds that are slowly claiming the building say nothing of the vagrants and drug addicts that have used this once proud building as their interim shelter.

Today, at 3:42pm, Binghamton police officers noticed yet another slap against the former granduer of the Masonic Temple. The side doors, victim to years of disuse and the abuse of the climate, lost their battle to remain fixed in place. The doors quite simply fell off the rusted hinges.

Side door after rain and disuse
Door falling off hinges at Masonic Temple in Binghamton

We learned of the police presence at the Masonic Temple at 5:31pm. At that time there was an officer on guard and police tape blocking the entrance. There had already been a sweep of the building to ensure neither vagrants nor wary children had ventured inside. Also on scene was a fire marshall, with a letter ready to fine the owners of the building for the numerous code violations, ready for the mail. The Parks Dept was en route to seal the building once again.

The Binghamton Housing Group, based in Sarasota Florida of all places, own the Masonic Temple. In large part it is their failure to upkeep the building that lead to the potential danger to curious kids and the public at large. One can only hope that the fine they have duely earned is enough to cause action on their part. But considering the years that they have failed to act, and the fines that should have been accumulated, the hope of future action seems minimal.

Where is the action from the City of Binghamton? Why have they not forced the Binghamton Housing Group to fix or sell the property? Why have they not enforced fines that would require action, or enable the City to take over the property?

Right now, the City is touting the conversion to student housing of the empty Hawley Street Building. The hope is the positive effect that this will have on the downtown economy, feeding much needed revenues into the area and creating jobs that might last longer than 6 months.

Masonic Temple alley, in Binghamton NY
Main street alleyway at 66 main street

What about the fiasco that is the Masonic Building? What about the dozens of poorly kept and abandoned buildings across the City? Like the boarded up building next to the Masonic Temple? Or the years long vacant former nursing home at 47 North Street. Or so many others it would fill an article just to name them all by themselves.

Binghamton has provided so many tax reliefs to draw business to the area, while buildings fall apart. Owners from Long Island, New York City, Florida and other areas are slumlords, leeching the vitality of Binghamton like the Binghamton Housing Group in Florida appears to be doing. Where will this end?

Perhaps stating the obvious, the decay that is spreading and the disrepair that families are forced to endure, is useless. Then again, it is no less futile than hoping for college students to save a City that seems incapable of finding solutions to long-term problems far larger than the ebb and flow of Binghamton University.

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