Monday, July 12, 2010

Fields of Dreams . . . In Duplicate . . .

Per the OD, Harbor Point could be host to a complex of baseball fields, at least that seems to be the plan in the draft Utica Master Plan.
The city’s draft master plan outlines not only building a baseball stadium at Harbor Point, but relocating Greenman Estates and its baseball and softball fields from Burrstone Road near Utica College.. . .

It also says the space where Donovan Stadium currently sits at Murnane Field in South Utica could become a business park.
Query: Where did this idea originate?

It is eerily similar to what Oneida County did when it moved its airport from Whitestown to Rome.  Could the same people have been involved?  The M.O. seems to be "Let's spend taxpayer money (hopefully grant money) duplicating what we already have someplace else."   While there might be some merit to clustering the ball fields on the flats, is it really worth the cost of the duplication and the disruption of what currently exists?

2008-0710-1079pWhile the OD article implies that the Harbor Point site can only be used for ball fields, was there any study of this?  Only residential use is restricted, which leaves a host of other possible uses.  This site was blogged about in 2008. As you can see from the picture, the site has a "million dollar view" of downtown, and connecting Washington St. with Washington St. (NOT Seneca St. as proposed -- the two parts of Wash. St. are seen at right.) would give a strong visual connection with the heart of downtown ... essentially making Harbor Point part of downtown. This would suggest that Harbor Point might support uses that are much higher than ball-fields . . . such as a "downtown" office park with plenty of parking and a waterfront promenade!

Both Murnane Field/Donovan Stadium and Greenman Estates are part of the Utica Parks System and are located on Burrstone Road, which is an extension of the Memorial Parkway.  Eliminating both of these parks would seem to lessen the value of the Parkway itself as the "string" holding together Utica's "emerald necklace" of park lands (to borrow an idea from the Greater Boston area that was the inspiration of Utica's own park system).

It is common knowledge that Greenman Estates is under a deed restriction that prevents any use other than recreational for the Burrstone Road site.  Did any one tell the Master Plan drafters about it?

The Utica Business Park is half empty, the Bosert site is vacant, the Bendix site is vacant, and the Psych Center is half empty.  These places are all within a mile of either Murnane or Greenman, so the need for a "business park" at either location is questionable.

Could the location of Greenman Estates being across the street from Utica Collage and Murnane Field being across the Street from Faxton Hospital have anything to do with this proposal?  The genesis of this proposal is so shrouded that we are entitled to speculate.

Do the people of Utica want to give up their parks?

Is the Master Plan the "people's plan" . . . or just more of the same nonsense  from the same well-connected people who have been running the area into the ground for decades?


Anonymous said...

As Strikeslip points out, the new plan does the very same thing old policies did, checkerboard uses while hoping and planning for unrealistic development. The most striking example is that of Griffiss redevelopment. A third grader would have realized that a small, declining area could not possibly absorb what amounted to be a huge new town at the former Base. The only way it could have been developed under the approach put into place was to entice existing uses to relocate there thus leaving holes in the areas from which they came. The enticements were tax breaks and below market rents and sales prices. What happened? See former RFA site siting empty in Rome. See former airport park in Whitestown languishing in the weeds. See empty buildings all over the county. The fundemental truth is that you can't attract new business from the outside without an adequate labor force in number, education and skill level. Our population is declining in number, old in age and undereducated. Until someone addresses and attacks the basics, we will keep repeating the failures of the past.

Anonymous said...

Utica's "Master Plan" should be renamed the "Maturbation Plan". These guys play with it too much. How else can u explain the idiocy of these plans?

Strikeslip said...

Now that the draft plan is public, you need to take a look at it. (Use the link to the UMP Website on the blog sidebar).

There is very little in the way of definite proposals aside from the Ballfields and Greenman "Venture Center" mentioned in the blog above.

Frankly, I'm seeing an awful lot of committees, studies and other things to be done, "incentives" for this and that, and a hodge podge of proposals seemingly thrown together, none of which coalesce into an understandable "vision" of the city in the future.

I fear that this plan will only institutionalize the forces and perpetuate the trajectory that Utica has been on for the last 40 years.

Anonymous said...

Your fear is well founded.No one seems to want to deal with the basic problems that will continue to cripple Utica, master plan or not. High taxes, aging population, rotting infrastructure,uneducated residents relative to the rest of the state and nation, a financial picture headed toward bankruptcy and serious drug related crime. Instead we get rain barrels and pretty pictures. Roefaro and his administration have no idea how to address the real issues. They may be the most incompetent crew in the city's political history.

Anonymous said...

Your fear is well founded. Until the basic problems of the city are addressed honestly, creatively and eefectively, the master plan whatever is in it will be irrelevant. Master plans and rain barrels are distractions from reality. The Mayor seems to prefer the unreal to dealing with those issue crying for attention and resolution.

Anonymous said...

There is another little secret about the master plan developed for Utica. A number of decades ago, master planning work was encouraged by state and federal grants to localities.A couple of companies became the primary master plan architects for most communities. One company, I believe it was called Russel Baily and Ass. was based in Utica. If you read all of the separate plans, you would immediately notice similarities. In other words, out of the drawer, cookie cutter elements were used in all of the plans. The old Urban Renewal plans were the same, a couple of companies made fortunes "planning" them all over the map. These companies were political favorites,so to speak. I suspect the Saratoga Group is part of the same type of industry and that much of the Utica plan is massaged out of the drawer stuff.

Anonymous said...

We can get Class A baseball back here in a minute. How? Let local business leaders put their money where their mouths are. I don't care how many new ball fields are built. If no one comes forward with the bucks to finance such an enterprise, the "Fields of Dreams" will sit empty, as they are now. Building a new stadium with no team to play there is the most idiotic idea I've heard yet. Me thinks these clowns believe the slogan, "Built It & They Will Come". Please tell me I'm wrong.

Strikeslip said...

I think you are correct, Anonymous . . . there is a "Build it and they will come" mentality that has driven us into the ground.

Up until the 1960s, PRIVATE ENTERPRISE built anything of significance in Utica ... including the Stanley, Hotel Utica, MWP Art Museum. Utica's park system was pretty much a Donation from private wealth. Utica was a spectacularly beautiful city.

It was only after Government thought it could do a better job that things got messed up. Prodded by the Chamber of Commerce, it thought nothing of tearing up large swaths of development to install highways to keep "economic growth" occurring (Utica was FULL at the time) -- sacrificing tax base, raising taxes for everyone else, and forcing businesses to relocate (mostly to suburban locations). It also thought nothing of raising more development in the name of Urban Renewal for the purpose of giving municipal leaders gleaming new PUBLIC buildings as a testament to their "greatness." People accepted this destruction because they got used to Government doing things for them in the New Deal.

Now we must take corrective action... recreate an environment where PRIVATE ENTERPRISE does the heavy lifting... and wait for it to rise to the task

Anonymous said...

The role of our local governments should be to create the best environment for private sector business development and then step aside. We should quit trying to pick winners and losers with tax dollars and wasting money on fantacies and facilities outdated long ago. We are not the same area we were even 15 years ago. Dumping all kinds of money into airports that are not actual airports, hotels that cannot pay for themselves, employees who shoot TV shows no one watches and feeding the never ending public employee pay fest are but a few reforms needed to create a new private sector job atmosphere. Until this is done, all the talk and fluff are meaningless.

Strikeslip said...

You are absolutely correct, Anonymous. The private sector built the Utica that peaked in the 1950s which we now look back upon with envy. Once the Big Government attitude took hold in the 1960s with Urban Renewal projects and Arterials, and, later on with social engineering, it drove people away in droves.

The more I look at this Master "Plan" the more it looks like more of the same.

buzzer said...

Funny thing is that the "leadership" will wag their finger at y'all and say something like, "Think positive! Sure useful people are leaving and we're not doing anything to help get us back in the right direction, but if YOU are the ones that THINK POSITIVE, then they will come! I promise! Scout's honor!"
I just love that all criticisms of the leadership in the area gets thrown back at the populace, and blame is reflected back on the citizens for "thinking too negatively."

Sure, and high taxes, cost of business and living, low salaries/wages, low and elderly customer base, etc have NOTHING to do with it. It's all about non-governmental people's "negative thinking." riiiight.