It’s not too late to scrap downtown Utica hospital plan

Published Jan 30, 2018 at 4:00pm

Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) is planning to build a new, state-of-the-art hospital downtown on land they don’t own, that will displace scores of long-time businesses, offering them far below what they need or deserve for their properties, that will not be enough for them to buy, build and/or relocate elsewhere, and the owners will be forced to remove asbestos and lead paint that will be cost prohibitive. All of this is in the name of “economic development” and to justify a parking garage for the Aud at taxpayers’ expense.  

This area of Utica still has many businesses and at least five not-for-profits that serve the population of this neighborhood that will be forced to move or close. If owners don’t accept the laughable lowball offers they’ve been given, their property will be taken by eminent domain, which no governmental entity wants to take the lead in because it is morally wrong, and would only benefit a private not-for-profit hospital and a few “investors” who stand to benefit greatly from this (but not the existing businesses) and certain politicians who wish to forward their own personal agendas. 

Almost no one wants this built downtown: not the existing hospital staff, not the doctors or nurses, not the taxpayers, not hospital customers, virtually not any and all reasonable persons who look at the facts and realize this does not add up.

Some are unwilling to speak up for fear of reprisals. No one wants to pay (dearly) for parking when going to work or visit loved ones and friends at the hospital, to events at the Aud, or going anywhere Downtown (to make the garage viable, on-street paid parking will be necessary).  

Meanwhile, MVHS has 64 acres that they currently own, already off the tax rolls, that is easily built upon (only 6 acres of seasonal wetlands), that would not significantly impact current hospital operations, that was MVHS’ first choice, and is “within the population center of the county” as the legislation states (not that it must be built downtown). 

Is this not the definition of insanity? 

Ah, but there’s a solution! 

Stop plans to build downtown now. Transfer designs already established (“from the inside out”) to the St. Luke’s Campus. Avoid costly lawsuits, cost overruns, vastly expensive environmental cleanup, huge loss of tax revenue and tremendous cost to current and future taxpayers that will stall this project for years (and likely kill it). To build at St. Luke’s and not Downtown will likely save in excess of $100 million in both taxpayer and MVHS dollars, including (but not limited to) the $43 million taxpayer-funded parking garage and $14 million MVHS plans to pay for property acquisition. Taxpayers may also be “on the hook” for additional environmental remediation and relocation costs. MVHS has been promised $300 million (of an estimated $500 million overall project cost) that will very likely be far short of what it will ultimately cost.  

The city should do the right thing and allocate Community Development (not demolition) Block Grant (CDBG) funds to revitalize the Columbia-Lafayette district, allow existing businesses, “mom & pop shops” and not for profits to remain, expand, grow, and thrive, and encourage new investment, development, and growth.  

And everyone wins. Well, that is, except for those with “an agenda” who are pushing the Downtown proposal so strongly; however, their personal gain, or lack thereof, is really not economic development after all, now is it?

Contact your local representatives (assemblyman, state senator, county executive, county legislator, Utica mayor and council member) and voice your displeasure. It is not too late! 

— Michael J. Bosak, Utica