“If there’s no garage, there’s no downtown hospital,” Steve DiMeo, president of Mohawk Valley EDGE, told Utica Common Council members at a meeting of the Economic Development Committee Monday.As yet no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Downtown Hospital has been produced.
The Downtown Hospital is not only in material conflict with the Utica Master Plan and various pieces of legislation over the years that established the community's character, it will open a whole Pandora's box of impacts that may make the Downtown site for the new hospital unpalatable. Will sanitary sewers and water lines designed to handle loads from a grid of small customers be able to handle the load from one or two large users? Will existing storm sewers be able to handle the quick runoff from acres of new parking lots? Will hazards to human health be created by the destruction of many old buildings? Will the blockage of streets create traffic congestion, air pollution, and inconvenience for people not going to the hospital -- and possibly lead to business decline and blight elsewhere? Will the change in land use from tax-paying small businesses to tax-exempt large institution make city services financially unsustainable? What will happen to the two hospital sites that will be left behind? Will they become blighted like the Psych Center did? Who will pay to mitigate the various adverse impacts? City taxpayers? Water users? Sewer users? An EIS now will help to answer these questions.
Asking the City to make a decision on the garage now without an EIS is asking it to make a decision blind.
MVHS' "back up" site at St. Lukes has plenty of room for the new hospital in spite of a small federally-regulated wetland. Numerous large construction projects have occurred over the years there with no disruption in hospital services. No change in community character will occur by constructing the new hospital there, and no businesses will be booted out. There will be no loss in tax base. No streets will be blocked. Considering that there has been a decline in beds at St. Luke's, adding the activity currently at St. Elizabeth's would appear to be only an incremental increase in use over what had previously been at St. Luke's. Simply put: the St. Luke's site is practically "shovel ready." It makes no sense to put the new hospital elsewhere.
The Downtown Hospital is a "Pig in a Poke" -- and the taxpayers and water/sewer rate payers will be left holding the bag.