Some Arcades Died, Others Are Being Killed Off
Beacon, New York. A jewel at the foot of, ironically, Mount Beacon, in, doubly ironic, New York State. Across the river from aesthetically challenged Newburgh, New York. Up river from West Point, the institution which trains our future military leaders, and those of some other countries. Down the river from Albany, New York, which contains politicians that are as honest as the day is long. Beacon, New York. A town stuck in the 90s. Apparently, that could be considered the 1890s.
The Beaconites pride themselves in a city that seems to have been ready to explode into prominence with the opening of the Dia Museum of Modern Art, an extension of the MoMA down in Manhattan. The architecture is there, and several entrepreneurial people have opened shops, art galleries, restaurants, holiday stores, the famous Hudson Beach Glass, and a tattoo parlor. Well, that last one is now closed for some reason. It's a forward thinking city, ready to embrace commerce, why, even the old Beacon theater has been purchased to be used as a theater again!
Then there's the Retro Arcade Museum. My wife and I were walking down the East end of Main Street on gallery night, and saw the Museum was open. We walked in, and it was like walking into some far out time machine from the 1970s. The dark room with oddly flickering lighting, cases full of old game consoles, a small arcade machine with 1980s retro games, and the jackpot: a room filled with old arcade games. To all the kids reading, yes, arcades actually used to have arcade games, not what became the video arcade or the early 1980s version of Chuck E. Cheese. I myself have a vague recollection of most of the games inside the museum, but I do remember the likes of the Crane Game that would grab little toys and drop them into the shoot that operated on a dime, and the weird electro mechanical race car games.
But this place is amazing if just for the novelty of it being around. The smell of warm metal and old wood making up the cabinets, and the whirring and buzzing and clacking of solenoids, electricity, and awesome permeate the slightly musty air. The old games were in pristine condition, and speaking with Fred Bobrow, the owner, the collection on display represents about 25% of his collection. That's a huge collection, just check out what he has in the museum below:
In a time when regular video arcades are all but dead, Fred had opened an arcade in tough economic times of games that many people have never seen because they never noticed the machines, or they simply hadn't been born yet! But like many good things, there is controversy with Fred's Museum: the city of Beacon has laws preventing the operation of arcades on Main Street to keep riff-raff from gathering and causing problems. We're not talking skateboarders or kids on bicycles that like to throw dirt bombs. We're talking "riff-raff" like you'd see in A Westside Story. Street gangs like The Jets or The Sharks, or maybe even those greasers from The Outsiders. Are those types of gangs still around? I know we have the Latin Kings and there are some other well-known gangs in this area which are so well known, I've forgotten what their names are.
Beacon wants to keep out the wrong element. Those that remember the classic arcades, the 30-to-50 somethings who currently jam up Main Street with their BMWs, who increase demand for high end restaurants, who shop in antique shops and walk through art galleries, checking out the cultural scene and spending their money, bringing revenue to the city. Are they a mirage? Just what element is Beacon protecting itself from? The Arts? Culture? Niche museums?
The law was uncovered by somebody who obviously has a vendetta against the "noise" from the arcade, as it's one of those laws that pretty much nobody would know about until Mr. Whipple came around and scolded "Don't squeeze the Charmin!" It's strange, that on the East end of Main Street, where there is a coffee klatch and an Irish bar who have loud musical performances that somebody would complain about noise from an arcade. Here's a bit from the Poughkeepsie Journal:
"The problem surfaced because of noise complaints against Fred Bobrow’s Retro Arcade Museum, said Mayor Steve Gold. The city’s current zoning does not allow amusement centers on Main Street."
Strange, that in a town that was almost named Saloon Town because of the sheer number of bars (over 100 at a time in its history), there would be a law written against pinball arcades and arcade parlors to prevent the incursion of criminal behavior and seedy element. Not to be insulting, but seeing our corrupt lawmakers in Albany who can't even pass a budget on time but once or twice over the past 20+ years, who take partisan stances on issues, and bribe members of other party's members to wrestle power away from each other, and to play dumb games like turning the lights out in the assembly, do we really expect anything different?
The Circle Jerks (above) of Tammany Hall would be proud of the current state of New York State
The snails pace of New York government, from Local to State, is enough to make the typical New Yorker grow a shell of apathy about how poorly the state is run and how bad a shape the infrastructure is in these days. Hey, don't look now, but the Tappan Zee Bridge has been falling down for over 10 years, and there is still no set solution to the problem, at least not before something bad happens to the bridge. Are there other reasons why nothing is really built at the World Trade Center site almost 10 years later?
But I digress. Thankfully, there is a forward-moving thought which is a good start down in Beacon. Mayor Gold is looking to pass a law that permits amusement centers that have "vintage machines" built before 1980 which, for the most part, blankets Mr. Bobrow's collection on display at the Museum.
But is it too late? Last time I drove passed the building, the sign was up, but the building looked empty. I hope it was due to the museum simply being closed. This coming Monday, August 30, there is a town meeting to discuss the future of the Museum and the passage of the Mayor's law on amusement centers. We'll be trying to get in on that meeting to see just what is going on and to see if they allow the Museum to stick around, if Mr. Bobrow still has the time, money, and patience to do so. We hope he does!
Here is the announcement from the Poughkeepsie Journal's website:
BEACON: A public hearing on a local law to allow arcades on Main Street will be held at 7 p.m. Aug. 30. The problem surfaced because of noise complaints against Fred Bobrow's Retro Arcade Museum, Mayor Steve Gold said. The city's current zoning does not allow amusement centers on Main Street. If approved, the new law will allow, by special permit, amusement centers that contain only vintage arcade devices built prior to 1980. For information, call 845-838-5000.
Update: The Retro Arcade Museum will not reopen due to financial difficulties brought on by the City of Beacon and the arcane law against arcades on Main Street, that was brought up after the arcade was allowed to open. Look at the bright side, at least there will be no hoodlums in the City of Beacon. Of course, anybody who lives in this area already knows that the city has enough local hoodlums as it is, they don't want the transient kind.
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