Monday, March 07, 2011

Pondering Parking ... and Park Ave.

Per the OD over the weekend: Plans might be off for downtown Utica parking garage
At his “State of the City” address in May, Mayor David Roefaro called plans for a downtown parking garage his “most ambitious project for the city.”

While it’s still a possibility, Roefaro said for the first time this week that it’s now likely the city will move in a different direction entirely.

The reason, he said, is that the $10 million cost of building the garage is prohibitive, and some of the money could possibly be better spent on a series of surface parking lots.
The "prohibitive cost" claim does not add up. The garage was supposed to be funded by grants which were already in hand.  There is nothing in the story that even suggests that any of these grants may have been lost.  In fact, it seems to reaffirm that they still are there when it states that half of the money will still be used for a Centro transfer facility at the same Bleecker/Charlotte location and that the other half can now be available for surface parking.

This sudden change in City direction coincides with the City's appointment of a new economic development director.  Simultaneously, per the article's side bar we learn . . .
Oneida County [Executive] Anthony Picente said the city’s plans to explore all options for downtown parking are an opportunity to renew his call to close Park Avenue near the Oneida County Office Building and build more parking there.
 Picente said the only thing the county would need from the city for the project – estimated at $2 million when the Common Council voted it down in 2007 – is to convey the street to the county. But he said some of the roughly $4.5 million the city has in grant money for downtown parking could be used to help.
Are the appointment of a new ED director and Mr. Picente's call connected? We seem to remember the same plays at the end of the Julian administration when buildings couldn't come down fast enough to create more parking.  (In fact, the destruction was one of the reasons why people voted for Mr. Roefaro, who appeared sensitive to what was happening.)  Is the mayor a semi-figurehead?  Allowed to do things his way just "so far" until the regional "powers that be" behind the scenes decide to step in?

The "change in direction" makes no sense unless regional politics is considered.  The grant money was intended to solve a downtown Utica parking problem for buildings along Genesee, not to solve the County's parking problem on Park Ave.  

But now, apparently, the County expects Utica residents to give up the grant, give up the downtown garage, give up more buildings to the bulldozer, and give up a street, to cater to the needs of those in the County's court/office complex.  It sounds like more Oneida County trashing Utica. And the current Democrat mayor's going along with it is just like the prior Republican mayor's going along with it.

The County "powers that be" in the courthouse spent $40 million renovating the interior of the courthouse for their own comfort and aesthetic pleasure, but left the exterior a pig sty and didn't bother to address  parking. That's the regard they have for their hosts. Now they want the citizens of Utica to fix parking for them.

Enough is enough.


RPP said...

Two things happened. First, you are correct to say that the garage was to be built with Federal and State Funds. Those were approved grants. The problem is that they were granted so long ago that they may have, in part, dried up by now. That and the fact that costs have probably risen, again, due to elapsed time, may mean that there is not enough money in the grant pot. The central fact to note is that the garage project was announced in 2004!! Under two administrations, what amounts to very small parking garage could not get built. This says much about both compentency and the screwy grant process that drives projects in the first place. My sense is that the city cannot properly carry out a complicated project. It should stop kidding itself and stick to basic city services. All of this Master Plan, Harbor Point, rust to green stuff is a lot of talk, and little else. And yet, between federal, state and local funds and to of taxpayer money is being wasted on those paid to do the talking.

RomeHater said...

I'm not a big fan of Downtown Utica, especially the parking. One of my tortures was having to go into the city from Rome when they consolidated all the unemployment programs for 3 counties into 207 Genesee. Don't even get me started on 800 Park Ave.

I think it's ridiculous for the County to scheme over parking spaces when their own planning created the county office congestion within the confines of downtown.

I understand the problems with urban and suburban sprawl, but this is too far in the other direction. Overpopulating one section of the county just makes it a pain in the ass for the people who live in it. It's even worse when you live 30-60 minutes away.

Anonymous said...

All the bellyaching will do no good. Not until the citizens of Utica smarten up & get rid of the stinking politics & those who wallow in it on Park Ave. will things ever change. It's pathetic what O.C. has done to Utica. If Roefaro lets Picente steal Park Ave away from Uticans, he should be thrown out of office post-haste. Of course, he may end up higher up in the food chain if the powers that be allow him to run for Destito's seat. What's worse, Roefaro as Mayor or our rep in Albany?