Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Regional Hospital (or "Transformational Opportunity District"): Lacking an Environmental Review?

Yesterday it was noted here that the MVREDC, in its application for funding of various economic development projects, proposed the creation of a 34-acre "Downtown Utica Transformational Opportunity District." The application showed a large sprawling building covering portions of Lafayette, Cornelia, Carton, and Pine Streets and Sayer Alley; two parking garages; and other buildings. The site depicted is the same as that picked for the proposed Regional Hospital.

Environmental Conservation Law 8-0109(2) states:
2. All agencies (or applicant as hereinafter provided) shall prepare, or cause to be prepared by contract or otherwise an environmental impact statement on any action they propose or approve which may have a significant effect on the environment. . . . 

6 NYCRR 617.3 (a) states:
No agency involved in an action may undertake, fund or approve the action until it has complied with the provisions of SEQR. . . [Note: SEQR means State Environmental Quality Review]
6 NYCRR 617.4 "Type I actions" lists those actions that are more likely to require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement if they are to be directly undertaken, funded or approved by an agency. Among those are:
a project or action that involves the physical alteration of 10 acres
6 NYCRR 617.7 "Determining significance" lists illustrative criteria for determining whether an action may have a significant adverse impact on the environment. Among those are:
(iv) the creation of a material conflict with a community's current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted;

Here we have MVREDC applying for funding of a project (a) that will involve the physical alteration of more than 10 acres and (b), as previously noted here, that will be in material conflict with the Utica Master Plan -- " a community's current plans or goals as officially approved or adopted."

There is nothing in MVREDC's submission to indicate that an environmental review of the proposed "Downtown Utica Transformational Opportunity District" was ever performed. Since the State would be prohibited from funding such a project without the requisite environmental review, is that the reason why the funds for the hospital no longer seem to be available?

It would not be the first time that our region lost out because it ignored its environmental compliance obligations.


Anonymous said...

That's because there is and was never was an actual plan for the downtown hospital. Faxton-St Lukes is a private organization whose board can go and pretty much do whatever it wanted. If they wanted to build a hospital there they would have already put their ducks and a row with offers and money already on the table, if not accepted, before they announced plans for construction.

Due to the cost, regardless of the location, St Luke's needed to accept money from Politicians who will hold St Luke's to putting the hospital downtown, and thus they came out with this Downtown "Idea". Additionally, they announced something hardly ever done/announced with projects like these - they had a very clear and explicit backup location (St Luke's).

The board is smart and realized from the beginning that due to a variety of issues they would not be able to put it there but still has to put on the show - hence the backup. The biggest from the beginning there was, and still is, a $300 - $500 million gap of funds needed to put the hospital downtown. I guarantee that after securing $200 million more they are going to go with the St Luke's location (as actually planned in the beginning) stating that the money is just not there for the downtown location - all the other issues brought up in this process is just "gravy".

The sad thing is this is Utica Politics as usual and, in my opinion, the downtown location is actually best for Patient access but that's another post.


Anonymous said...

The idea that government will fund this massive, costly plan in tiny Utica is a pipe dream. Consultants will make a lot of money.

Anonymous said...

Corruption is just oozing out of every action taken by local government which is why:

1) outsiders do not move here
2) residents jump at the chance to leave here
3) taxes are so much higher here compared to both the national average AND the rest of NYS itself
4) Albany will never make a meaningful investment here

So keep electing the same people (better have them run unopposed) and send them to higher offices so this trend continues until there really is nothing left here.

Anonymous said...

If a close look at the local economy is taken, the fact that it is heavily dependent on government, both directly and indirectly cannot be missed. And, the insiders of the political/donor/board class control the flow of the government money and other resources. Of course, the same people will keep getting elected. Just follow the money.

Rick Kaplan said...

I think the People are missing an obvious question concerning this "new hospital". The State would furnish 300 million but this is not enough money. Why isn't the state ponying up 398 million, if 98 million is still needed? What does the 98 million represent. If the 98 million represents the present debt including private retirement accounts of St. Elizabeth, St. Luke's and Faxton, then the state may very well be prohibited from using taxpayer money to pay off the old debts of the private entities.

Article VII, § 8 (1) of the State Constitution broadly declares, in relevant part, [t]he money of the state shall not be given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association, or private undertaking; NOR SHALL THE CREDIT OF THE STATE BE GIVEN OR LOANED TO OR IN AID OF ANY INDIVIDUAL, OR PUBLIC OR PRIVATE CORPORATION OR ASSOCIATION, OR PRIVATE UNDERTAKING. This provision contains two separate prohibitions: first, it precludes the State from giving or loaning money to private recipients and, second, it more broadly forbids the State from giving or lending its credit to private recipients or public corporations.

Therefore, Reporters should ask the Mohawk Valley Health System, the entity which previously consolidated the three hospitals under the tutelage of the NY Attorney General what is the total of the present debt obligations of Mohawk Valley Health System. Is is $98 million dollars?

Strikeslip said...

Good point Rick. I've said the same thing re the State Constitution on many occasions. Unfortunately, our Court of Appeals is corrupt and has allowed the State all sorts of ways to get around Article VII.