Local officials blast Tenney criticism of eminent domain in hospital project

Published Apr 19, 2018 at 4:00pm

The use of eminent domain to acquire parcels for a proposed downtown Utica hospital site drew objections Wednesday from U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, prompting responses by Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri.

In the event that property owners refuse to sell their sites that are in the new hospital’s footprint, two agencies will acquire the parcels through the use of eminent domain, published reports have said. Eminent domain if necessary would be used by Oneida County and Utica’s Urban Renewal Agency.

• Tenney, R-22, New Hartford, said “politicians in the state and some on the local level have a long record of abusing taxpayer money by using that money to prop up one private business over another. Declaring eminent domain — which allows government to forcibly take privately held property from one owner and hand that property over to another private entity — in the proposed downtown Utica hospital footprint is an equally egregious taking of Constitutionally protected rights.”

Tenney referred to “self-serving politicians...forcing multi-generational, taxpaying businesses out of our community. This is not only a costly undertaking for businesses, this could force many to the brink of bankruptcy. These businesses are among the few left which contribute to our shrinking tax base, to worthy charitable causes in our region and many have been staples in our community for generations.”

Tenney added “using health care as a reason to create economic development will not enhance the quality of care, nor will it provide the vital boost that we need to grow our economy.” She said “local leaders should pause to ask for public input and work with private businesses in the area to find a solution that best serves the needs of those in our community.”

• Following Tenney’s statement, Picente said Tenney “once again...speaks before thinking.” He added “obviously, she doesn’t care about the health care of her constituents. She doesn’t know anything about this project because in between her taxpayer-funded vacations to Taiwan and Egypt, she has failed to learn anything about it.”

Picente further said “while she continues to make headlines as a national embarrassment, we still await action from her on the issues facing our community including school safety, relief from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and help for our dairy farmers.”

Tenney, in a statement issued today by her campaign re-election office, said regarding Picente's remarks that "the level of hysterical name-calling leveled by the county executive in response to my call for transparency and careful deliberation before exercising the power of eminent domain against taxpaying businesses reveals the presence of a potential abuse of power."

Her statement also referred to politicians who "believe that ripping private property away from taxpaying businesses and increasing the tax bills of already overburdened residents of Oneida County is the pathway to quality healthcare."

• Palmieri, meanwhile, said the proposed hospital project is “a transformational, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring state-of-the-art medical care and technology to our community.” He said Tenney “is entitled to her opinion, but she is factually inaccurate in referencing ‘our shrinking tax base’ as Utica’s tax base has grown over the past six years due to proactive and aggressive economic development efforts.”

Palmieri added “rather than spreading political rhetoric, my administration will continue to work with and assist impacted businesses on an individual basis.”

An announcement last week said the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) and the law firm handling the property acquisition process. Bond, Schoeneck & King (BSK), PLLC are working with property owners to finalize purchase-option agreements.

As of last week, of 35 property owners representing 72 parcels of land in the project footprint, not including parcels owned by the City of Utica: 10 property owners have completed or are in the process of completing a signed, purchase-option agreement; 17 property owners are in active negotiation with MVHS; five property owners have received purchase-option agreements but are not in active discussions and three property owners have indicated they are not interested in any type of agreement.