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A Bizarre Decision of Dubious Origin

Joseph P. Bottini, November 8, 2019

A Cataclysmic happening of huge proportions is being foisted upon the citizens of Oneida County.

"To show an interest in the past is a characteristic of civilization," says a lot about the need to consider the history of a building before it is demolished.

"Old buildings and proper historic markers give a city its character,” and are the glue that binds a city into a cohesive, well-functioning unit based on a true pride in her past, commitment to her present and an excitement for her future.

Unfortunately, Utica and Oneida County have lost a lot of their history; not from a natural disaster nor the need to do so for progress, but out of a stupidity of local history evident among local politicians over the past 75 years.

Most of it was lost because those in power had limited knowledge and a short vision for the future; as well as little or no respect for the legacy bestowed upon us. Respect for past endeavors and bequeaths from magnanimous benefactors is shamefully absent. If children showed as little regard for their ancestors and American heritage as politicians show our history, civility would be in jeopardy of becoming extinct.

At one time, Oneida County was aptly named, "America's County" for its many historic people and events.

Must it be repeated; "Oneida County has as much people and events connection to America's history as any region in the nation."

Let me name a few that have been lost due to the weak efforts at trying to rehab Utica city.

One misplaced monstrous bridge wiped out:

* American Express headquarters of the 19th century with Utican John Butterfield as Vice President,
* Birthplace of the modern newspaper industry,
* location of Samuel Morse's telegraph experiments,
* location of Samuel Chubbuck's experiments of the telegraph key and creation of the first commercial key,
* location of the first commercial telegraph company in the world,
* a substantial portion of the first completed section of the eighth Wonder of the World, Erie Canal, while at the same time destroying Bagg Square that housed the entrance to Main Street, obliterating the Federal Building, and rendering the Bagg Square area abandoned. And,
* important buildings and streets that helped gave genesis to the current day Boilermaker road race; Uticas boiler and furnace manufacturing industry, once the country's largest!

Urban Renewal No. 1 wiped out:

* an iconic 19th century building (old city hall) designed by leading architect of that era, Richard Upjohn, leading church architect in America and the 19th century Frank Lloyd Wright,
* Many other historic places and buildings were lost: (due to poor management and a lack of interest in local history on the part of too many government leaders,
* the residence of the 27th Vice President of the United States James Schoolcraft Sherman (1909),
* the residence of twice governor of New York State (1853 & 1863) and Presidential candidate for the Democrat Party in 1868 (lost to Grant),
* the residence of America's wealthiest person in 19th century America who was magnanimous in support of the Women's rights Movement and the Abolition Movement, as well as being the biggest benefactor in Oneida County for many years - Gerrit Smith, and now...

The Mohawk valley Healthcare System (MVHS) is embarking on a journey that will destroy more of Utica's old landmarks.

MVHS Footprint Encroachment:

The route of General Lafayette’s entrance into Utica while on a visit in 1825 giving us Lafayette Street,
* location of world's leading manufacturer of furnaces in America,
* location of the residence of General Dan Butterfield, co-author of TAPS,
* encroachment on the Utica police complex with the immediate loss of the new police maintenance facility yet not paid for, potential loss of a city court building recently renovated and refurbished and, worse of all, the potential loss of the main police station - a 1928 edifice of some note (an addition to bring up to date for present needs with renovation of present facility desirable), none of which would be possible (space) if the proposed hospital is built downtown in the Columbia - Lafayette (COLA) district,
* location of the Utica Street Railway "barn" still standing,
* location of the mansions of Childs, Faxton and others... many viable businesses, some many years old.

Admittedly, "'not every blade of grass or scoop of dirt' with historic significance has to be preserved if it stands in the way of legitimate progress. The operative word in that sentence is legitimate. The governor's Cabal in Albany is not the legitimate source of decision making for a huge, important decision in Oneida County.

The denigration of the democratic process that resulted from the shameful way the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) approached this project is an affront to the founding fathers and all those who gave their last measure to establish, and since then the many who have given their best to preserve our Democratic Republic that gives the voters the final say in making decisions of huge proportions - such as this hospital project.

With a better alternative site available, and already being used as a hospital complex, the insistence upon building the proposed hospital in the COLA area is inconceivable, politically motivated, foolish, disruptive to many local businesses and destruction of sound buildings on the properties under consideration.

A list of over two dozen advantages to building at the Champlin Ave location along with a list of over a dozen disadvantages to building in the proposed location (COLA District) speak volumes to the sophomoric push to avoid the most logical and cost-effective construction site.

With the example set by the monstrous bridge at Bagg Square, and the damage it did to that section of our city's northern entrance, one would have to believe those making the hospital location decision are either blind to reality and common sense, or they are not on the level - having ulterior motives for their decision.

This past week’s storm and the resultant flooding of many streets in north Utica, causing them to be closed to traffic, show the possible dangers involved in a hospital in the COLA district.

It will be my penchant to continue to question this decision, even if it is constructed, into the future as long as I have voice and presence of mind to do so.

It is my conviction this is an issue far beyond a local hospital’s location. It is an event of major proportions as regards the continuance of our democratic republic at the local level.

When yet unborn children question the saneness of this decision, I want my progeny to exclaim their grandfather. great-grandfather did all he could to help those with myopic sight see the greater vision.

Anything less would give falsehood to the many years of preaching and extolling the virtues of America’s greatness. Although, not claiming to be the brightest person on the topic of local government procedures, at least I can say without reservation, “to thine own self be true” is alive and well in my heart.

Email: Joseph P. Bottini, Oneida County Historian

Return to Mr. Bottini's Main Page

No Studies, No Reports, thus we remain #NoHospitalDowntown