Jul 10, 2018 - Yesterday, Elected News posts an interview with Anthony Brindisi regarding MVHS's Downtown Utica Hospital, #Emailgate, and #NoHospitalDowntown. Transcript from Youtube, with manual corrections follows below, but first, "
Elected News - What is currently happening with the revitalization of this region?
Anthony Brindisi - Well I think when I first took office back in 2011 we were probably at one of our lowest points as the country was really coming out of a recession and a lot of folks said to me at that time, "Why would you go into office right now? I mean you know there's nothing you can do to fix the problem." But I really believe that over the last seven years it's not just mean it's working with community leaders it's working with Senator Griffo it's working with people like the mayor and the county executive here as a team to really try and bring more attention to this area from Albany. I grew up in this region in the 80s and 90s and at that point in time companies were leaving downtown people were leaving the city of Utica and since then since the last few years we've really been able to bring more emphasis towards revitalization of this area. Where you know people always say you know it's gonna money we'll go to Syracuse or Rochester Buffalo or New York City and we would always get left behind here in Utica, but we've been very successful working as a team to bring more funding to the area to help in the revitalization process. We also have a lot of young people that are coming back into the area that are taking some chances and certain companies that are helping in the process.
Elected News - Why do you support the downtown location for the hospital?
Anthony Brindisi - So for me I think the most important thing is that we get a new hospital this area we have two aging healthcare facilities that just aren't conducive to 21st century medicine they lose a lot of money for the healthcare system because they're old and they continue to need renovations and we want to have one facility where we can help attract better younger doctors to the area and other specialties for this this region I support the downtown concept just like the hospital board suggested because number one is patient health care and from patient health care standpoint that's the most central location because you have good transportation routes with the north-south arterial and risky Boulevard and Genesee Street and other points of access into which is important but not as important is patient health care this is an area of the city that's been blighted for many years and a new healthcare facility like they did in downtown Buffalo will help revitalize that area and bring new businesses in create more loft apartments hotels are already there for families who are coming to the area we have loved ones in the hospital so ultimately I think it's a good location.
Anthony Brindisi - A lot of hospital systems across the state in cities right down the road to a place like Syracuse don't don't always work well together. You know they they compete and our area had two separate hospitals that put aside their differences and affiliated to try and provide a better service for people and ultimately save money and the state saw that as a good thing and we were able to advocate that we have a hundred-year-old hospital in a 60 year old hospital and we'd like to have a new hospital but we need some assistance from the state. So the senator and I working with our team here in this area were able to convince the folks in Albany that investing in Oneida County and in the city of Utica for a new hospital was a good idea. We had to fight against legislators from all over the state who said why Utica why should they be getting three hundred million dollars for new hospital? We want money for a new hospital in Syracuse we want money for a new hospital in Buffalo or Rochester or other areas but we were able to argue that this is an area that has been looked over many times in the past and we deserve our due and we made the case that we could do a good job here with that and ultimately I think it's the folks locally that are gonna benefit from having a new health care facility in the region.
Elected News - Can you comment on the released emails to Mr. DiMeo and other government officials?
Anthony Brindisi - Yeah, so in the course of the whole process you send thousands of emails out about the the new hospital and certainly if you take a couple of them you can certainly pick a few lines out and take them out of context but I could say that I'm human and you do get frustrated from time to time especially when you do a good thing like secure 300 million dollars and then you have folks who are opposed accusing you of corruption I don't get an extra cent in my paycheck whether the hospital goes downtown or St. Luke's or doesn't get built at all. Ultimately the people that will lose out if we can't hang on to this money are the people in this region who truly need a new health care facility so are there things that I said an email that I regret absolutely and I apologize for that, but certainly I've always fought for an open process and I want the public to have as much input into this process as they can but at the end of the day we got to build something because we could have another recession or something like that and this money will go away it's not going to stick around forever.
Elected News - In one of the emails he said that if the St. Luke's location was chosen by MVHS you would leave the project. Did MVHS has to tell you that they wanted to build it at St. Luke’s?
Anthony Brindisi - No state says Mohawk Valley Health System did a side-by-side comparison of the hospital whether it would go downtown or St. Luke's and what they found is that the cost of building at St. Luke's is almost as much as it is to build a downtown because you still have demolition cost at St. Luke's you still have to build a parking garage to put it at St. Luke's you're restricted by wetlands that surround St. Luke's so there's a whole permitting process that they'd have to go through to get Army Corps of engineer approval to build outside of the parking lot area at St. Luke's and the ideal location for a new hospital at St. Luke's and this is not me this is me listening to the experts who build these things is to build it where the existing hospital is at St. Luke’s. You can't do that because you have to operate the existing hospital while you're building a new hospital and when you build a new hospital the idea is to design it from the inside out, not from the outside in. So if you can't build it where the existing hospital is you don't have to put it into the parking lot area and you're constrained by the wetlands that surrounds St. Luke's so you're now building a hospital from the outside in and it's not conducive when you're trying to build and operate at the same location. That's why they select the downtown so they could have more of a clean slate to build the new hospital as opposed to trying to jam it into an area of the St. Luke’s campus that really is not the best ideal situation.
Elected News - Do you believe that St. Luke's is a viable location, could it be built there?
Anthony Brindisi - Well I think anything to be done and but my job is to listen to the folks who are in the business of designing these things, you know hospital planners architects engineers they've looked at multiple sites over the area working with the MVHS board and concluded that downtown was the ideal location for them and I am supportive of that concept I think that that's gonna help the area and it's good for patients it's good for the workers because most of them live within that radius around that site within 10 miles of that location that's where most of the patients and the workers reside and I think from a central standpoint it makes a lot of sense and I support the hospital's decision to build there.
Elected News - How will the hospital bring economic development to the region of downtown?
Anthony Brindisi - Well if you look at a lot of studies, there's been studies done to talk about educational institutions and medical institutions in your downtown areas and their anchor institutions and cities that have either a large educational facility or a large medical facility in their downtowns create more economic development around that area and you can look at down the road in Buffalo where they built a new hospital in their downtown region. It’s funny because they went through a lot of the same problems that we had there was people in the community who are not supportive but ultimately now many years later I think most people are very proud of that Hospital in downtown because they've created a medical campus and around there and they have other kinds of facilities they have loft apartments they have retail they have hotels that people can stay in and it's really helped revitalize an area of Buffalo that has been blighted for many years and we have a similar situation in the city of Utica where you have many buildings that have been abandoned you have many buildings that are city-owned that are not contributing at all to the tax rolls at this point in time and if we can build something they're still being working with the existing property owners making sure that they have the resources they need to be able to relocate but at the end of the day I think we can do something pretty pretty great down there which will benefit the whole area.
Elected News - What about the businesses that are down there that aren't that aren't blighted, which again is it's still a few businesses down there that aren't blighted, what would you say to them?
Anthony Brindisi - Well what I've told the hospital is do everything in your power and the hospital has put additional money into their budget to help those companies with relocation costs the many of them the bulk of them really are working with the hospital right now to come up with a fair market value for the property and are looking at other sites to relocate and the hospital is working with them along the way in that process and I support that and lend my support in my office to help but to achieve that. Ah, what I don't agree with our people who have purposely bought properties in the footprint of the hospital just to force the hospital to pursue eminent domain and that's what the leader of the no downtown hospital group is doing.
Elected News - Would you support eminent domain in those types of proceedings?
Anthony Brindisi - I hope it doesn't come to that and I hope the hospital can work with the property owners to come up with a fair market value and to help them with their relocation cost and ultimately I hope it doesn't have to come to that.
Elected News - Were you involved in any way in the selection in a location for the hospital?
Anthony Brindisi - No, I've always said that I'm supportive of the downtown concept but at the end of the day that's a decision that had to be made by the board of MVHS and the administration there and that's what they chose. I've never shied away from the fact that I do prefer the downtown site but at the end if they tell me that's not the best location for us then I would say we got to find the best location for you
Elected News - One more question I'll hop off your back. In the emails that said that you would spoken to Scott Perra and relayed your preference for the downtown hospital, how did that conversation
Anthony Brindisi - Well actually with Scott Perra who first told me that, "Wouldn't it be great if we could build something downtown?" So I've said that's something I would be very supportive of and have been supportive all along the process but at the end if they say base to find our studies we we can't build it downtown there's no way me as a lay person is gonna force force it to go downtown we at the end of the day we want the best Hospital for the people in this area I don't care where it goes but we got to get something built pretty soon because like I said this money is not going to sit there forever and to have a half a billion dollar facility built within the city of Utica is a good thing for this region and the state came up to the plate and it helped make that happen now it's our job to put the fighting aside and actually get something done.
Elected News - In the emails you called you seem to call some of the people in the new hospital downtown group idiots do you want to clarify that?
Anthony Brindisi - Well I certainly regret using that choice of wording but again sometimes things were sent out of frustration and out of thousands of emails you can find a line or two that you wish you didn't say but there's always seems to be a group and folks who are more in the leadership of that hospital, that no hospital group seem to always be opposed to a lot of things that are happening in this area, never really offering solutions for a way to move forward.
Elected News - What do you want our viewers to remember going forward just about this congressional race about the hospital itself what do you want them to keep in mind?
Anthony Brindisi - I think at the end of the day I want people to know that I'm someone who's never been afraid to to criticize my own party when I think they're wrong we need folks who are independent in this office who could actually put aside party differences and work for the people I want people to know that based on my track record I've always been someone who's reached across the aisle worked in a bipartisan way to bring results for the folks in this area and that I'm someone's going to listen and be around a lot. My job as a representative is to be out there listening to the people doing town hall meetings working with others to try and help this area not trying help this area, not to cozy up to the special interest groups not worrying about what the folks down on Wall Street think because they're not funding my campaign, but unfortunate you can't say that about everyone.
You can help, please join us on Facebook #NoHospitalDowntown. Also consider adding your voice to Hundreds of People Saying, "No Hospital Downtown". Get to know BUD, that's the future of the Columbia Lafayette Neighborhood!