Who Can We Trust?

Joseph P. Bottini, August 28, 2016

It is hard to trust our decision-makers when examples of huge misdeeds are so obvious.

As I continue to think about the “new unified hospital complex” proposal for downtown I get more frustrated.

Again, I must state that I have limited knowledge about the issue, because not much is forthcoming in the newspaper (obviously they are not receiving much) and the one public presentation at a Common Council meeting left me with little more information than I had prior to the meeting.

Again, I must state I have “no dog in the hunt” and “no axe to grind.” My major concern is to help shine some light on the topic in order to help those making the decision posses all possible data of the topic to use in deliberations.

It has been my disappointment to discover too many failed decisions made by our community leaders in the past 50 years. We are living with the poor results of them and pretending they are not there.

I repeat the litany of failed governing including: a bridge to large, a round-a-about too small, many iconic structures razed, much history ignored, and few visible indications of our community’s vast, historic past.

One must point to the Union Station as an example of what ought to be done - with Hotel Utica and Stanley Performing Arts Center as two others we can cite with proper pride as evidence of proof we can get it done right.

One glaring example of poor planning and questionable decision-making is the obliteration of the north face of the “Gold Dome Bank” or whatever the new conglomerate is named. How, in anyone’s nightmarish existence, could any community leader (mayor, council member, planner et al), architect, designer, engineer, construction company allow a “one-of-a-kind” gem like this building to be defaced in such a hideous manner? It is no less a defacement than it would be by young hoodlums using cans of spray paint.

It not only has an office building constructed adjacent to its north side, completely hiding one-fourth of this unique structure, but the addition is protruding out beyond the original bank building in front (west side), thereby creating an obstruction that encourages those driving by to completely miss the opportunity of enjoying the esthetic beauty sitting proudly on the site of a famous mansion, once visited by General Marquis de Lafayette.

When any person partakes a libation of the spirits, they ought to be prevented from making serious decisions. A state of inebriation is no condition for the body and mind to function on any level except that of the sophomoric level.

What is even more disturbing, there is little said of this blight in the middle of our downtown. With ample room for the addition to have been built apart and behind this original, rare member of Utica’s varied architectural beauty, WHY/HOW did this monstrosity grow right in front of our eyes? To add insult to injury, it does not even “fit-in” with what was already there. An addition ought to enhance the existing structure, or at the very least, not detract from it.

Another long forgotten fiasco is the razing of a Richard Upjohn (nationally famous architect) designed city hall. This venerated building was saved the first time its demise was contemplated (1920s). One letter to the editor by Maria Proctor (one of Utica’s greatest benefactors) altered the decision on the part of “gutless” decision makers. Alas, the next time, 1968, it came up for consideration, Mrs. Proctor was dead and no one had the power to persuade the decision-makers to consider an alternative plan, leaving at least the tower of the building standing as an anchor to the proposed promenade to the new city hall complex.

The reason for its demise was “it was unsound.” Yet, be it known that it took the wrecking ball more than a few wild swings at its stately presence before any bricks came loose.

Don’t sell out the future generations by saddling them with a huge debt just to build a hospital downtown because the state has cleverly crafted the provisions of the money gift in such a way as to dictate the decision.

I have a news flash for our city fathers, the architectural beauty of a community goes a long way toward developing tourism repeats. Everyone likes to work and play in a clean, cornucopia of beautiful architectural displays of conspicuous consumption. In other words, if a blank wall is painted, it must be maintained because the peeling paint and faded colors only add to the depressed state of an already depressed street of open lots where once stood examples of vibrant living.

If the major purpose of building the medical complex downtown is to resurrect an otherwise decaying section of our city, then say so. Let the decision be made on honest and open dialogue. If all else is kosher, it may be a good idea; and accomplish another step in rejuvenating Utica.

However, I am of a mind that this point is too difficult to prove, making it easier to use smoke and mirrors to fool the public - as has been done many times in the past.

Email: Joseph P. Bottini, Oneida County Historian

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No Studies, No Reports, thus we remain #NoHospitalDowntown