Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Why Invite the Public . . .

... if you are not interested in what it has to say?

That sums up the impression left from last night's Urban and Economic Development committee of the Utica Common Council with reference to its discussion of the North-South Arterial remake.

Certain members of the public were asked to attend the meeting which began at 5:30 PM, but were not permitted to speak until almost 8PM . . . only after the late hour was pointed out to the councilmen, the news media had long left, and the public members insisted on speaking... and only after everyone was already exhausted from listening to the councilmen nit-pick over trivial details.

This was not a serious effort to receive input from the public and invited guests, but, rather, the proverbial "dog and pony" show.

Councilman Bucciero is specifically called out for this.  He ran the meeting when it got to the subject of the arterial and kept everyone waiting. In spite of his expressions of concern at the last Council meeting over what the arterial would do to the city, it was pretty obvious that his mind was already made up to favor the State's proposal, and that the project only needed "tweaking."

One slide from DOT's repertoire succinctly summed up the issues.  It was an artistic rendering of the view of the arterial looking south from the new Court Street bridge. . . It was gorgeous . . . showing a beautiful new white highway passing through a lush green countryside.  Only if you looked close could you see some recognizable buildings in the distance.   

Essentially, Utica is gone!

Therein lies the problem.  The Council is apparently prepared to allow huge swaths of properties to be removed from what should be in private hands and have them turned over to highway use.  That guarantees that they will never be the site of economically productive activities . . . never create jobs or wealth . . . and never generate a dime of tax revenue for the financially-strapped City of Utica.  Instead, they will create a "green gulf" (with a bisecting wall in some places), that will forever divide West Utica from itself and prevent it from ever functioning as a neighborhood.

Councilwoman Arcuri liked what she saw, particularly the features that enhanced safety by separating pedestrians from the traffic.  But for the only person who voted against the Utica Master Plan simply because it did not address Utica's precarious financial situation, her lack of interest in the financial impact of this project to the residents of the City of Utica is inconsistent.  Quite simply, no one has been presented with an estimate of the property/sales tax revenue to the City and to the School District that will be lost due to the proposed takings. That should not be too hard to figure will be removed from the tax rolls and businesses will be shut down ... but where is the estimate?  In addition, no attempt is made to estimate the potential revenue loss that can be expected to result from the change in traffic patterns when Sunset Ave. and Warren St. are cut off.  Businesses, such as Carl's Furniture, will lose customers when they become difficult to reach and the city will lose sales tax. How can Mrs. Arcuri . . . or any council member. . . allow the project to go through without at least first knowing how it will impact Utica's tax rate?

Yes we need to move traffic through Utica . . . and we need to do it safely for pedestrians . . . but the way to accomplish these tasks is not to erase a city neighborhood and build a mini-Thruway in its place.

The State needs to seriously reconsider its 60 year old policy of rerouting traffic in cities and sending it down one or two limited access highways at high speed. Instead, look at improving the street grid  to provide a variety of alternate routes which can accommodate the traffic.   Streets, such as Whitesboro St., which formerly handled a lot more traffic now have their capacity wasted due to arterial reroutings.  Use them. Traffic will move, businesses will have places to do businesses, their customers will be able to reach them, and the economy will improve.   The State, however, will not look at alternatives at this point because they are well along in their project and the Council is not going to insist on it.

The Council, again, fails to protect the interests of Utica residents.     


RPP said...

You put your finger on the most important point in examining projects funded with tax dollars; time after time the enticement of so called "aid" dictates policy and decision making. Sound, comprehensive cost benefit analysis goes out the window. This invariably results in waste of money and severe harm to what is the original intent.

Anonymous said...

I live in New Hartford and I can't wait until this project is completed. The less time I have to spend in Utica the better now I will be able to blow through on my way to my summer home in Old Forge without having to slow down .Ain't the NYSDOT great?

Anonymous said...

Lorraine Arcuri is clueless. I wonder if she might be more attentive if they were wanting to build that long talked about bridge connecting N Utica to Culver Ave or Mohawk St in East Utica? Maybe they could take the property on Domenica Court and put an approach ramp to the bridge over the Thruway just about where her chaise lounge and swimming pool are now. Has she become the stereotypical self serving N Utica snob with absolutely no regard for anything or anybody south of the Baggs Square bridge or west of Mohawk St? If so, she doesn't need to be on the council. Too many in N Utica and New Hartford simply want to be able to breezed through town with no regard for those that live there, or the impact of taking their homes and businesses for ramps and bridges.

Strikeslip said...

I think that is an unfair criticism of Mrs. Arcuri, Anonymous.

I only pointed out what appears to be an inconsistency in Mrs. Arcuri's concern over finances re the Master Plan, and apparent lack of it re the Arterial. In fact, *NONE* of the council members appear to have budgetary impacts from the Arterial even on their radar screens.

I have to give Mrs. Arcuri A LOT of CREDIT for entertaining discussions of problems with the Master Plan back in January -- early enough to have allowed corrections to have been made...should that have been the Council's desire Meanwhile, other councilmen, particularly Mr. Zecca, did NOT want to hear anything bad about the plan. What followed was a long drawn out affair before the UED committee engineered by Mr. Vescera and Mr. Bucciero where each section of the Master Plan was "nit picked" and "tweaked" (my words,here) by the Council in a manner very similar to last night's dog and pony show. The end result was a Master Plan that was changed only in very minor ways, and left with significant flaws that remain to this day.

There are some "tea leaves" to be read in the above information. Maybe my readers can sort them out.

Strikeslip said...

Post Script to the above . . .
There is a Huge difference between people who live in North Utica and people who live in New Hartford: People in North Utica pay Utica Taxes.

Regarding the 60+ year old dream of bridges from N Utica via Mohawk St and Culver Ave to central and east Utica, that would probably result in the biggest boost to Utica's economy that a traffic system could create: The "end of the funnel" for traffic will no longer be New Hartford. ... Which may be the reason why excuses always seem to be found not to construct them.