Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Downtown Hospital: Stepping Over the EDGE. . .

The right to private property, and the sense that one is secure to keep the fruits of their labor, encouraged the entrepreneurship that built this nation. So how would you feel if, unbeknownst to you, your property had been marketed to a potential buyer by an agency funded with your own tax dollars? Would you feel more or less secure to know that the same agency had previously taken private property by eminent domain merely to make adjoining property "more appealing" to potential customers? Would you feel better to know that the agency is run by local business people?  Or that the agency believes itself to be a "private" organization not subject to public disclosure laws?

While everyone debates the merits of the Downtown Hospital, the bigger story has gone unnoticed: Mohawk Valley EDGE's role in the decision to locate the hospital downtown and the threat presented by EDGE to local residents' and businesses' private property rights.

EDGE's operation may be legal in light of the Supreme Court's recent Kelo vs New London decision which broadened the scope of what could be taken for "public" purposes -- but it is bad public policy because it discourages private entrepreneurship.  The hospital illustrates how this happens.  From its website:
The footprint for the hospital would be located on 17 acres. There are an additional 17 acres surrounding the hospital which could potentially be used for parking garages, medical office buildings or other complementary facilities. Development of the 34 acres may not happen at one time but it is important to be future-focused on the expansion needs of the organization.
So while 17 acres will be immediately developed, a surrounding 17 acres will be in limbo until the "organization" determines what its "future-focused" expansion needs will be. What is the likelihood that anyone will want to invest near the hospital while the "organization" makes up its mind?  What is the likelihood that anyone will even maintain the surrounding properties? Those who think the hospital will "spur" more development downtown need to think again.

EDGE did not have to market this site to the hospital -- the hospital is not going to leave the area. There are other sites that would not involve taking private property, including the hospital's own St. Luke's campus.  So why was this site chosen by EDGE?  We can only speculate because we still do not know who originated the idea of a Downtown hospital.  Was it a politician?  Was it someone on the EDGE board? Someone with connections to the EDGE Board? Was it one of the hospital officials? Was it an owner of a business -- or a property -- that might want it to be taken? Who knows who? or Why.

As Justice O'Connor wrote in her powerful dissent in Kelo:
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.
EDGE's practices place us all at the mercy of those "with disproportionate influence and power in the political process." In the end, this discourages private investment in Oneida County.


Anonymous said...

How about some close up videos of the decrepit buildings that the hospital will replace. How about a listing of the owners of these buildings and exactly how much in taxes have been paid on these buildings over the recent past years. As frequent visitor to the hospital area in Boston where many medical facilities are located I can state that the area around the hospitals there is thriving.The hospitals are in an area off of Huntington Street in a very urban setting. Time for Utica to move this project ahead and a chance to revive a blighted area of the city at the same time.

Strikeslip said...

Boston is already a thriving city. It's mixed use neighborhoods help to make it so.

Besides, the Huntington area medical establishments, rather than being a regional hospital, are affiliated with educational institutions -- with the presence of students being a "captive audience" for cafes, small shops, etc. that give the area a vibe. See Longwood Medical and Academic Area. In fact, there are all sorts of educational institutions along Huntington Avenue.

Did any of these Boston hospitals take up 17 acres of downtown space, and threaten to take a surrounding 17 more acres while deciding what garage, office or other "complimentary" facilities were needed?

MVHS is selfishly considering only its own needs, and not the needs of its neighbors and the city of Utica itself.

Cadillac Rules said...

A new hospital dropped on top of Utica will not transform the city into Boston. I know, I live in Boston. Bad analogy.

Anonymous said...

The whole point of mentioning Boston was to show that an urban setting is entirely possible as a medical site.No, the new downtown hospital will not transform Utica but, the urban blight that now exists there most certainly will NEVER transform Utica. The search for reasons why it should not be done is exactly why nothing ever changes here.

Anonymous said...

The numbers do not add up. Stated 600,000 sf hospital on 13ish acres. That's a one story hospital building 600000/43560=13.8 ac.

Now in a downtown, everywhere but in Utica you build up, not out.

Assume you have a minimum of a four story building, it makes senses for some portions to be taller but limit the building to four stories. You only need about 3.5 acres. Double that for inefficient badly designed parking garages and we are up to a blotted 7 acres. WTF what a bunch of fools.

Anonymous said...

A question that arises regardless of how one feels about a the location is why the EDGE is involved at all? EDGE is supposed to advance the local economy through the creation of new, private sector jobs and the preservation of private sector jobs. A new hospital is neither and will not pay taxes to boot. Why is the taxpayer who makes an annual contribution to EDGE paying for services to a tax exempt venture? Let those behind the hospital venture fund from private resources consultants to package and evaluate their location choices.

Anonymous said...

Answering the question "why the EDGE is involved at all" since ... "EDGE is supposed to advance the local economy through the creation of new, private sector jobs" -

This is because they are, and have always been, incapable of their fundamental task so they are looking for something else to do. Because when you're in Central NY and you're proven to be incompetent you double down and expand on it rather than try something else that might actually work. I say everyone in EDGE gets a raise to boot!!

Anonymous said...

1. Follow the money. 2. Hospital downtown settings may or may not actually invigorate and area. The Yale Medical complex for example has little impact on the downtown or city proper; people come in and go out and most of the medical staff lives in the suburbs.3. Most lunch time food is sold from food carts and in the hospital cafeteria. 4.All the property is tax exempt.

The core problem of the Utica situation is the role of the EDGE. EDGE has not proper role or right to be, in effect, making land use decisions for the city or area, particularly when it and its sister agencies wield tax related powers.