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Utica Business Owner, Ray Jadwick:
Before It Is Too Late

Below is a statement by a Utica business and property owner Ray Jadwick. We ask you to view and or join the discussion on his statement on #NoHospitalDowntown's Facebook page here, Ray Jadwick: Before It Is Too Lat

( Ray's statement follows this colorful image he provided... )

By Ray Jadwick, December, 10, 2017

“Any change should be welcome...” This sentiment is the typical reply to my first post questioning the downtown proposal. It also seems to be, based on conversations, shared by many residents. To be honest, it reflects my initial response as well. However, after taking time to look into it, I could only reach one conclusion: the Downtown Utica Hospital proposal is the most misguided, short sighted and irresponsible plan ever put forward in Utica’s nearly 200 year history. Given that they're trying to fast-track it before more sensible minds prevail, I thought writing a response to the “any-change-should-be-welcome” sentiment was not only urgent- but also a responsibility. So here it be . . .

While a knee-jerk “any change is good ” response to the Downtown Utica Hospital proposal is understandable, given the probable magnitude of its irreversible consequences, it is also irresponsible. Any plan calling for the demolition of an third of any city's downtown, warrants a respectable amount of consideration, debate, and dialogue, before being matter-of-factly embraced as progress by residents or community leaders.

Proponents of the downtown hospital like you focused on a single long-neglected Columbia Street block, but the truth is that the block they're exploiting represents only a tiny fraction of what the project will consume. The proposal (almost unbelievably) calls for bulldozing an entire 25 acre span of Downtowm Utica. It is massive, reactionary, and, most importantly, irreversible. It stretches north to south- from Oriskany Boulevard to Columbia Street, and, east to west- from Broadway (Bengees) to the Arterial overpasses on Lafayette, and Columbia Streets! Pointing to a single long-neglected block as justification for the magnitude of demolition they're talking about is misleading and deceitful. Let there be no mistake: what’s being proposed is the most massive and consequential demolition in Utica’s nearly 200 year history.

It's difficult to get an actual count as to the number of buildings proposed for demolition. That number, and the site's most southern and northern borders, seem to be purposely kept vague. Most likely, to help maintain the prevailing "any change is good-change" sentiment. Whether the number is 50 or 150, in spite of what they'd like you to believe, the vast majority of these buildings are indeed occupied and on the city tax-rolls!

At the heart of the proposed site, are a myriad of under-appreciated historic structures scattered in and around a couple of alley-ways. One can even argue that the alleys themselves can be considered increasingly-rare historic artifacts, without which, the bustling downtown storefronts of yesteryear would not have been possible. Hell, just on the western edge of the site alone, slated for demolition, are: the grand turn-of-the-century building that once housed the landmark “Columbia Restaurant,” the Witzeberger Building on Columbia and State (an undisputed architectural treasure in it's own right), the lovely group of historic turn-of-the-century "Row Houses” on Lafayette, near the corner of State, (which, miraculously managed to survive for all these years), and even the Urbanik's Paint building! All slated to be bull-dozed just to make way for an over-flow parking lot! Insanity.

The number of small business being forced to close or re-locate is also kept vague. From what I could gather, that number is between 30 and 50. Among them, some of downtown Utica's most well-known and established: Clemente Novelties, Wilcor International, Urbanik's Paint, Metzler Printing, Rockford Auto and Glass, Eggers, Caryl & Corrigan, North Country Books, etc. Several of these businesses' owners are nearing retirement. I personally know three who, rather than going through the struggle of moving, plan on calling it quits after getting their appraisal and re-location checks. Two others I know are currently scouting locations outside of Utica. How this can be considered "growth" is beyond me.

What boggles my mind is the fact that the proposal ever even made it off of the drawing room table. That it's now actually being sold to everyone as a reasonable option, is an insult to all of us.

You know, there's another downtown Utica block (not in the current proposal's footprint) that, for many years, was also similarly dismissed as a hopelessly neglected urban wasteland. I'm referring to the Genesee Street block between Oriskany Blvd and lower Whitesboro Street, now commonly referred to as Baggs Square West. It really wasn't all that long ago when it, too, sat dormant- nothing more than a crippled single sided block of mostly vacant buildings that survived the disastrous "urban Renewal" projects of the 1960’s and 70's. In fact, If it wasn’t for what it would've cost to demolish the 10 story Utica City National Bank Building there, that block, too, would be gone. Like the Columbia Street block now being exploited by the proposal's supporters, this block was regarded as nothing more than an dreary and desolate ghost-like remnant of the downtown that once was. Well here we are some 40 years later. All it took was a few young entrepreneurs and dreamers to roll-up their sleeves. While everyone else saw nothing but a decaying urban wasteland, a few dreamers looked and instead saw a unique urban asset, ripe with abundant possibilities and potential. Today, that lower Genesee Street block houses some of the most progressive and successful newer small businesses in Utica: The Utica Bread Co., The Utica Coffee Roasting Company, and the Tailor and Cook restaurant. That’s what real urban progress is about - character and spirit. the two traits that play the most important role in defining any city. Not a massive and short sighted proposal calling for the bull-dozing of a full third of downtown.

No one is refuting the desperate need to regenerate that Columbia Street section of downtown Utica. What's needed is a reasonable proposal that doesn't require the senseless "collateral" demolition of an entire 25 acre swatch. In the meantime, we've had to live with that block being in decay for some 30 years now, and we certainly can wait a few more. If the politicians can't get their act together, one day the right mix of young dreamers and entrepreneurs will undoubtedly come along and see it for the unique urban asset that it is. As far as the current proposal goes, we would be much wiser preserving the neighborhood, blemishes and all, for the future dreamers and entrepreneurs to tackle. We owe it to them and to the future of Utica to do so.

Why would such a ridiculous proposal ever be put forward in the first place? It's an interesting question. The only thing I can figure is that it was to give local politicians a way to save face in view of the failure of the Marcy Nano Center to materialize. While I can understand and sympathize with their delima, sacrificing a third of Downtown Utica to help them save face, is simply too high of a price for Utica to pay. To be honest, just the hell that downtown businesses would have to endure during the minimum 5 years of destruction and construction period is, in itself, unacceptable- particularly for a project that, while being sold as "growth", in reality, is just the opposite. It is, in fact, a dramatic downsizing.

There's no doubt that the proponents counted on the knee-jerk "any-change-is-good" sentiment to move the proposal forward. Their challenge has always been to maintain that sentiment long enough to carry the proposal to the point of no return. There is no other explanation for the secrecy, lack of substantial public hearings, lack of details, and the invitation-only unveiling of its master plan. It's also pretty telling that a day after the first "real" public hearing, where 60% of those polled were in favor of the St. Luke's site over downtown Utica location, letters of intent-to-purchase went out to downtown Utica building owners. So, exactly what was the purpose of the so-called public hearing if there never was any intentions for the public's input to matter?

No one is against building a new regional state-of-the-art hospital. It just doesn't take a brain scientist to conclude that the most suitable location would be present site of St Lukes. Plenty of land, minimal disruption due to construction, etc, etc. Choosing downtown Utica was just a PR stunt to bolster the visibility of the project for the sake of politicians.

The assertion that a downtown hospital will have a huge positive economic impact on the city is such political nonsense that I hate even addressing the myth. Think Fort Stanwix in Rome. The (in perpetuity) lost taxes alone would ultimately amount to millions of dollars (lasting forever and not just 1 year). Hospitals are tax exempt and self-contained. They come complete with their own cafeterias, gift shops, and florists. Other cities have regretfully taken this route. If you’re so inclined, there are many studies verifying the lack of economic impact that these recently built facilities have on the communities they’re been built in. Keep in mind that the proposal combines existing local hospitals. No new jobs would be created. In fact, mergers usually result in job losses. And as far as the temporary construction jobs created, just like the Rt. 12 Arterial Project, large outside firms with New York State connections will be called in. Either way, any regional economic boost stemming from actual construction, will occur whether the hospital is built in Utica or the obviously more sensible, St Luke’s location.

In fact, studies of the impact of similar urban projects show that the only "real" economic benefit (which is dramatically offset by the over-the-years loss to city tax rolls) will be reaped by bar owners within 5 blocks of the facility. While this fact may indeed be something to raise a glass to- once again, it 's certainly not a good reason to tear down a third of downtown Utica.

As bewildering as it is that such a ludicrous proposal could ever get as close to being adopted as this one now is, the bottom line is that without an immediate ground-swell of public opposition, it won't be long until a third of downtown is gone. I encourage you to do what you can to help prevent this irreversible downsizing of our city. Time is NOT our friend! Calling and writing the elected officials below would be a good start!!! Give them Hell (or, simply tell them that tearing down a third of Downtown Utica to replace it with a self-contained, tax-exempt hospital is ludicrous and that the New Hartford St Luke's site is obviously the much better option.)

Governor Andrew Coumo, Ph: +1(518)474-8390, Governor Andrew Coumo Contact Form

Assembyman Anthony Brindisi, Ph: +1(315)732-1055 / e-mail: brindisia@assembly.state.ny.us

NYS Senator Joseph A Griffo, Ph: +1(315)793-9072 / e-mail: griffo@nysenate.gov

Mayor Robert Palmieri, Ph: +1(315)792-0100 / e-mail: mayor@cityofutica.com

Senator Kemp Hannon, Chair of NYS Health Committee, Ph: +1(518)455-2200

New York State Department of health, Comments on MVHS's "Certificate of Need" (C.O.N), e-maill: cons@health.ny.gov

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No Studies, No Reports, thus we remain #NoHospitalDowntown