Monthly Archives: December 2013

The Binghamton Microcosm

Most of us know almost nothing about the city of Binghamton when we come here as freshman. We know what we hear, and that’s that the city is dangerous and depressing. If you don’t believe me, just look at this article: or check out the Urban Dictionary definitions:

For most of us, this is enough. We accept these things we see and the little that we get to know of the city itself (the bars and frats, of course) because this is just a stopping point. We’re only here for a little while, to get our degrees and go back to Long Island or New York City or wherever we’re from. Being in Binghamton is temporary, so it doesn’t really matter what kind of place it is.

The Binghamton Microcosm is a class that’s setting out to change that. The goal is to show the university students a little more of the city and to introduce them to a unique perspective. The projects we choose focus on finding ways to better connect the students and the city.

Executive Committee

Andreas Duus Pape
Dr. Pape received a PhD in economics from the University of Michigan in 2007 under Emre Ozdenoren and Scott E. Page. Dr. Pape’s research includes work representing agents’ causal models of problems in a decision-theoretic setting and developing software which represents the decision-making of an agent governed by case-based decision theory in order to empirically test the validity of that decision theory. Dr. Pape’s economic models provide Launchpad with an immediate academic element, and his expertise is key to Launchpad’s broader vision for local economic growth.

Charlie Ackerman
Charlie Ackerman is Binghamton’s premier real estate agent, with extensive experience in the Binghamton area. Charlie’s agency has provided rental and buying services for both students and community members, and his local knowledge and connections are essential to Launchpad’s continued success. Launchpad’s objective hinges on locating businesses in the right places, and Charlie is the best man in Binghamton to do that job.

David Sloan Wilson
David Sloan Wilson is a SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology. Professor Wilson is known for incorporating an Evolutionary Perspective into his work, which in the past has involved (among many topics) religion, education, and community organization. Included in his past work is “The Neighborhood Project”, a book focusing on the local Binghamton area and incorporating his Evolutionary Perspective. Professor Wilson’s extensive network in the community, with a strong academic backdrop, has been an integral part of Launchpad’s progress. Professor Wilson is also an instructor of the Binghamton Microcosm class, and carries on several projects in Binghamton.

Vishal Gupta & Tony Frontera
Professors Gupta and Frontera teach in the School Of Management at Binghamton University. They provide an essential resource to the Launchpad team, bringing a background of entrepreneurial and management experience. They play an important role in helping students translate create start up ideas into viable business proposals.

Elyse Stewart & Rafi Schulman
Elyse and Rafi, both BU students (‘16), started Launchpad Binghamton as members of the Binghamton Microcosm fall 2014. Rafi is an Integrative Neuroscience and Evolutionary Studies Major, and Elyse is a Spanish Major and Chinese Minor. Both of them saw the student community in downtown Binghamton as a ripe market to start student businesses to help get Binghamton’s economy off the ground.

Launchpad Binghamton creates the opportunity for motivated students with entrepreneurial ideas to launch their businesses in the Tree Street district of downtown Binghamton. We help students formulate business proposals, locate funding, find an ideal location, and get their business off the ground. Students in Launchpad get valuable life experience and contribute to the ongoing development of Binghamton’s economy, In the long run, we will create an integrated community of local student business owners.

Binghamton University is paving the way for a new generation of higher education, embracing the changes around us to create new approaches to learning. An integral part of this, laid out in the President’s Road Map Plan, focuses on experiential learning that engages the community around the school.

The Binghamton Microcosm embodies this approach, by teaching students about the community in which the school is located, and encouraging them to interact and understand the history. In addition to simply taking in information about the city though, it has birthed Launchpad, a program that allows for students to make a huge difference for the better in Binghamton.

Launchpad, part of the first class of projects to come out of the Binghamton Microcosm, emphasizes proactive  student involvment in Binghamton that benefits the student and the local area. Binghamton, as you can find out about in other parts of this site, has a history of relying on big corporation for economic stability. However, when these corporations that were so intergral to Binghamton’s well being picked up and left for financial reasons, it left the Binghamton area with a dysfunctional economy.

The University has been a key to keeping the area going- however, with the help of students, we can create an integrated, “urban village” that revives BInghamton and creates a healthy economy that involves both students and locals.





Launchpad Binghamton began as just the executive committee, but the desire was to get more of the Binghamton University community involved in this project by a series of events.  So far, there have been two important events and next semester we hope to continue getting more students involved with Launchpad.

Initial Brainstorming event- Entrepreneurial Rush

Binghamton’s students were invited to come and share their business ideas with the executive board. Everyone’s ideas were heard; the best ideas and most enthusiastic personalities were noted.  The students came from all academic backgrounds; this event was not limited to business students.


photo 1


David Sloan Wilson opens the event with a brief introduction.

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Students presenting their business ideas to the group.

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Students brainstorming ideas with each other.


Follow up event

The students who the executive board felt were the best fits were invited to meet us in the tree street district where the businesses would be opened. The students would be able to walk around the neighborhood and see the properties where the businesses could potentially be located. The object of this event was to describe the five niches of the area to the students to help them hone in on a business concept that is best for them.


A finalized business concept was required before the start of 2014.
As the students return to Binghamton for the spring semester of 2014, they will be required to show the executive committee a first draft of their business plan.

The Niches Explained

Taking an evolutionary perspective on the development of the Seminary Valley neighborhood, we want to develop five business ‘niches.’ These niches are a synthesis of student’s idea submissions and the executive committee’s opinions, analysis, discussion with others, and professional training. Viewed from an evolutionary standpoint, these niches are currently unexploited.  In the opinion of the executive committee, these are the most likely businesses to thrive here.  We believe they can thrive because through mutual beneficial business relationships.

There are 3500 students in a half mile radius in the Seminary Valley neighborhood, so student oriented business would potentially thrive in this area.

NICHE 1) Small neighborhood grocery/food co-op

Based on a survey done in the area by the Binghamton Neighborhood Project, there is a clear need for some form of market in the area.

NICHE 2) Study Space

There is no study location in the Seminary Avenue area.  Students would take advantage of a late night study space with coffee and snacks offered.

NICHE 3) Fitness

A fitness space would be in prime use in a student populated area.

NICHE 4) Cultural Meeting-space Restaurant

A restaurant that incorporates the food and customs of different cultures would be a nice addition to the area.

NICHE 5) Makerspace, Art Space, retail art/maker output and art/maker supply store

Students with an interest in art would benefit from a space like this where they can go and work on their own projects.


Works cited


Calloway,Colin. First Peoples A Documentary Survey of American Indian History. New York & Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s,2011.Print.

Grumet, Robert. Historic Content: Indian People and Colonists in Today’s Northeastern United States in the  Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries.Norman:University of Oklahoma Press,1995.Print.

Morgan, Lewis. League of the Iroquois. New York :Corinth,1969. Print.

Wissler, Clark. Indians of the United States.Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.,1966. Print.


Get Involved

If you are a student interested in

1)      Starting a business through the Launchpad Program

2)      Working with an already existing Launchpad business

3)      Getting involved with the growth and expansion of Launchpad itself

please get in touch with us, and we would love to find a position for you.

Email with the tagline “Launchpad”, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

The Binghamton Inebriate Asylum

On a hillside overlooking Binghamton stands a towering gothic castle. Although the intricate exterior stonework, stained-glass windows and medieval turrets make it seem something out of a fairy-tale, this castle has a very dark past. It is the former New York State Inebriate Asylum, once informally known as Binghamton Asylum for the Chronically Insane.

The Asylum has a strange history shrouded in tragedy, speculation, and mystery. Designed by New York architect Isaac Perry in 1858 and completed in 1864, the castle was built to house and treat alcoholics under the experimental theory that alcoholism, like insanity, was a disease whose cure required institutionalization. The Asylum faced financial woes for a decade after a great fire broke out in March of 1870. Governor Lucious Robinson deemed it a “complete failure” in 1879, suggesting that the Asylum be closed down and renovated to house the insane. In 1881, its doors were reopened as Binghamton Asylum for the Chronic Insane, later renamed Binghamton State Hospital. Hundreds of patients were transferred to Binghamton from Utica, Poughkeepsie, and Middletown, where they lived, suffered, and died in the castle-esque Asylum. Treatment methods only worsened with the turn of the century.

Architect Isaac G. Perry

In 1942, the hospital instituted Electric Shock Therapy, Hydrotherapy and later Lobotomy as methods of treatment for the mentally ill. These ‘treatments’ were nothing short of brutally inhumane. Patients were restrained in wet canvas for up to six hours at a time and forced into seizures by means of electric shock. The worst and most terrifying of these treatments was the Prefrontal Lobotomy, a form of psychosurgery that involved scrambling the frontal lobe of the brain with a sharp metal instrument inserted through the upper eye socket.

Vintage postcard of the hospital complex

The hospital fell into steep decline in the late 1900’s with the introduction of modern medicinal treatments until it finally closed its doors in 1993. Aside from a few remaining historical documents, the dark history of the castle and its patients has long been obscured, ignored, and forgotten. Richard L. Diffenbach relayed a few of his experiences as a former aid at Binghamton State Hospital to the New York Times in 2008. “These people are encased in my memory,” he said of the patients. “I worked on the violent ward. We had a patient who sat all day in a chair and shuffled his feet back and forth and wore a considerable size depression in the wood floor. The patient used to call himself ‘ZZZ Wafe Rainmaker Father Mother Simon Joseph Francis Carl’. He said he was the maker of Heaven and Earth. He sat in his chair in the hallway and shuffled all day.”

“I worked on the violent ward. We had a patient who sat all day in a chair and shuffled his feet back and forth and wore a considerable size depression in the wood floor.”

The original hospital gravesite, which contained 1500 bodies marked with numbered stones, was moved to an open field to make way for a new highway in 1961. In early spring, it is said that the melting snow collects in the basins of the shallow anonymous graves, leaving what little evidence of those who lived and died there in plain sight. The Castle itself is awaiting another phase in a series of renovations geared towards preserving it as a Historic Landmark. Once the renovations are finished, a portion of the old ward will be made into a museum in honor of its former patients.

Numbered graves in the cemetery

Source: NYS Asylums


Article: Detroitism in Binghamton, A Photo Essay

Ravi Arvind Palat is Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University who maintains a blog entitled ‘After US Hegemony.’ On July 17th, 2013, he created a post entitled ‘Detroitism in Binghamton: A Photo Essay.’ Palat points out how the movement of big industrial firms has “hollowed out the commercial cores” of cities in the rust belt. He draws an analogy between Detroit’s relationship to General Motors and Binghamton’s relationship to EJ Shoe Co. and IBM.