Utica Mayor David Roefaro says Utica Common Councilman Jim Zecca may put that project in jeopardy if he goes through with a request to get the state to reconsider the current plans.The mayor's implication that Mr. Zecca waited until the 11th hour to bring the arterial's design topic up for discussion is patently false.
Roefaro said Sunday, "you cannot expect to change at the 11th hour and expect you're going to keep a 60 million dollar project in Utica. That's the problem with our politicians here, is that they send the jobs packing and the money packing, and the citizens of the City of Utica lose." . . .
Mayor Roefaro says he hopes Zecca and the rest of the common council reconsider their own efforts, "this plan has been thought out by the best engineers the D.O.T. has, we have gone over the scenarios and this is the best viable plan for this area."
(1) Zecca has been calling for a Boulevard replacement for the Arterial for years - practically from when the design process was first made public.The Mayor and his staff have been privy to all of DOT's plans and have supported them right from the beginning. Mayor Roefaro has been content to rely on what DOT engineers have figured out as "best" -- but best for whom?
(2) The DOT, from evidence available thus far, never properly engaged the Common Council in the design process -- DOT's obligation under the Highway Law.
The NYSDOT is going to do what it believes to be best from its perspective. It needs to move X amount of traffic while eliminating Y amount of accidents. It designs a road to meet these requirements. Fair, good, and understandable.
While Utica needs these things, too, it needs so much more to create an environment where people within the city are supported in their day to day activities. People LIVE here and they WORK here. DOT can try to understand these needs, but it can never achieve the level of understanding of those who are both responsible for meeting the needs of city residents and engaged in dialogue with them.
The residents of the "host neighborhood" have been steadfastly opposed to this project right from the beginning. They are going to be seriously inconvenienced -- some to the point where they will be losing their houses, businesses, or their jobs. How are their needs being met? Eminent domain payoffs might help some individual property owners -- but everything is part of a web. What happens when part of the web is torn out? DOT at least met with people in West Utica -- but where has the Mayor been? City streets are being cut off. The Mayor is supposed to be the leader for city residents -- these people. When has the Mayor ever engaged them?
The Common Council members are the policy makers for the City of Utica. They are both responsible for their constituents and engaged with them on a day-to-day basis. Should not the Mayor have engaged the Council, and asked the members how they felt about:
- a wall going up across West Utica
- about 2 additional street closures on top of the devastating street closures of the past (such as Whitesboro St.)
- about additional property takings on top of the devastating property takings of the past -- which properties will forever lose their potential for productive use
- about potential lost property and sales tax revenues
- about jobs ultimately being lost from a very poor neighborhood
- about businesses that likely will shut their doors due to traffic disruptions
- about potential crime increases when traffic is reduced on local streets
- about personal inconvenience and disruption to UTICA residents
Money isn't everything. . . .
The Mayor is placing the City of Utica in jeopardy.