Joseph P. Bottini, May 20, 2019
Expertise in the world of medical/healthcare is not my boast.
Urban planning is not one of my areas of knowledge either.
Whether or not we need a state-of-the-art consolidated hospital for Oneida County is beyond my pay-grade.
So, I am not a professional healthcare provider nor a professional urban planner.
Most of my opinions on the new hospital proposal are concluded by researching the topic with personal conversations with key players as well as what I read in the newspapers and what I read online.
One area where I have some degree of expertise is in the field of common sense and history.
Looking at some of the projects completed in the past for guidance, it is disheartening to see mistake after mistake, decision after decision all culminating in the destruction of much of Utica’s 18th, 19th, and 20th century heritage.
First of all, every one has the responsibility to collect, preserve and share historical material.
Respect for the past and the legacy left to us is not a choice, but a mandate.
Let us look at the "Bridge That Ate Bagg’s Square" history. Can you believe a single bridge accomplished all the following?
(1) Bagg’s Square was buried,
(2) Federal Building camouflaged,
(3) Travelers Insurance building minimized,
(4) many buildings in the lower Genesee Street Business Corridor demolished,
(5) Bagg Commemorative Park obliterated,
(6) Proctor Memorial building hidden,
(7) the location of Samuel Morse’s telegraph experimentation sponsored by Theodore Faxton, the experimentation location of Samuel Chubbuck’s work on the first commercial telegraph key, and the location of the first commercial telegraph system (Associated Press) in the United State were all lost with the demolition of the Dudley Building on the southwest corner of Whitesboro and Genesee Streets,
(8) the first train station in Utica as well as the headquarters of the American Express Company with John Butterfield as Vice President in 1850 lost by neglect and removal by destruction,
(9) birthplace of the modern newspaper industry (Saturday Globe) bulldozed,
(10) the destruction and displacement of many businesses on lower Genesee Street eliminated,
(11) the place of the first office building in Utica, Washington Hall/Donalty’s Tavern,
(12) truncated entrance to west end of main street to Union Station,
(13) blocking the east entrance to Main Street, and
(14) monuments of Utica’s founding mislocated, and
(15) Old fort Schuyler Park was destroyed/displaced.
I am certainly not an historical information “tree hugging fanatic.” I do not believe every blade of grass or scoop of dirt located in a past-event location is eligible for salvation. Sometimes, it is impossible to make progress without sacrificing some of the past. I get it; I understand it.
However, wanton disregard for places, buildings and sites with a significant historic past is beyond the realm of a noble government. Ignorance of that history in no sin. Not everyone is into history. But when ignorance of a subject turns to unwillingness to learn about it in order to make a good judgment/decision as to its worth for salvation as opposed to the gain of some project is not ignorance, it is stupidity.
Mrs. Jacquelin Kennedy-Onassis said it best;
“Is it not cruel to let our city die by degrees, stripped of all her proud monuments, until there will be nothing left of all her history and beauty to inspire our children. If they are not inspired by the past of our city, where will they find the strength to fight for her future?”
Today is the place where yesterday deposited her experiences. Today is the well from which tomorrow’s experiences are fashioned.
History dies when placers are destroyed. One cannot recreate destroyed history.
Oneida County has as much people and events connected to America’s history as any region in the nation.”
At one time, Oneida county was called “America’s County” for its multiple connections to American history.
All top ten national people-events have a connection to Utica/Oneida County; The Great Pass, French & Indian War, Revolutionary War, Eighth Wonder of the World, Telegraph, Associated Press, Western Union, Modern Newspaper Industry, TAPS, Pledge of Allegiance; plus - the birth of “modern” treatment of mentally ill people.
President George Washington said of those men who fought at Oriskany, “The fate of a nation was in their hands.”
Is there none in government leadership who is able to fathom all of the above logic?
Is there no one in government leadership who cares enough to learn of our glorious history and be moved to abide by the lessons the past destruction has cost Oneida County?
More astounding, to me, is the fact that even though many - or most - of the citizens in Oneida County with whom I have discussed this hideous plan oppose it being implemented downtown; few are speaking out or joining in the effort to have the project built at Champlin Avenue.
This includes medical personnel, ambulance folks and fire rescue system individuals who agree it would be more reasonable to build the new state-of-the-art hospital at Champlin Avenue.
In a democracy within a Republic, it is the voices of the people that are supposed to be raised and heard by the decision makers.
In an oligarchy or dictatorship, it is the will a few, or of one individual, who rule.
Of course, I am not so naïve as to think all is well and according to the letter of the Constitution. One would be a simpleton not to know human beings are flawed and many operate form a weak moral position; and I also understand that politics is a “give and take” affair played by many who wish to be re-elected.
Few have the luxury of being independent in this world. One tenet to help establish a modicum of independence and liberty of thought, word and deed is to be willing to not “have it all.” Life gets too complicated and messy when one does, so one is better off having less.
To have the basics; food, clothing, shelter, proper healthcare, companionship, and a purpose in life are all that is needed for a full, content life; if one embraces a higher, more noble lifestyle.
A good definition of a noble life is: “Being able to live without the things one desires, but able to appreciate the things one has.”
Each one ought to find another to help; thereby making the other person’s life more palpable and your own more satisfying.
Share your blessings and praise God for them.
Email: Joseph P. Bottini, Oneida County Historian
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