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"Super Blocks" Are Bad for Downtown

Consider This! Some see a potential downtown hospital as a giant step forward for Utica and the region. Others, like our group #NoHospitalDowntown, have big concerns. Among them;

a) the total cost and who will pays the short and long term bills,
b) further deterioration of the city’s tax base and increase of non-profit entities downtown,
c) demolition of buildings and destruction of our small city scale,
d) what is the exact footprint and acreage, and
e) jobs to be created or lost, etc.

Super Blocks

A local architect educates us about the term “Super Block”, which is what's being proposed with a downtown hospital. Read the Wikipedia’s Super Block entry, and an article from a "Urban Design & Architectural Engineering” magazine titled “Block, Superblock and Megablock, A short history.”

In an email to #NoHospitalDowntown a Utica-based architect offers, "In Rome NY, the superblock almost killed the downtown entirely, some argue it did."

Another except from another review (regarding Rome NY's past Super Block effort), reads: "The Plan goes on to say that twenty years later, most of the old retail structures had been torn down, leaving an urban core with gaps and holes, detours and barriers. By 1995, the failure of the original idea was obvious to all, as was the impossibility of regaining what was lost." Read the full (PDF) document here City of Rome Comprehensive Plan

October 4, 2015 Utica, NY- Perhaps because we've asked? #NoHospitalDowntown pionts to an article on a possible downtown hospital in today's Utica Observer-Dispatch. Read this Q&A, however after doing so one will not know; where the 17 acres are, how will a hospital and two parking garages fit into 17 acres (when a report stated 25-40 acres are required), where would space come from for future expansion (we will need it with nano-based job influx, right?), or how will a large medical complex keep Utica a "walkable" downtown for downtown residences that are arriving?

October 2, 2015 Utica, NY- On newstands today, the October issue of the Utica Poenix, Utica's Independent Newspaper. Read the #NoHospitalDowntown = #YesTeachingHospital" editorial by Cassandra Harris-Lockwood... "With all the talk of upscale loft dwellers to come to downtown, don't you think Trader Joe's might want a stab at anchoring a central downtown location? Pick-up your copy to get the full story, in addition to our group's full page advertisement.

Also today at the Utica Public Library from 4:30-5:30PM, meet with us. Let's hear all views, pro and con, as your input can shape the outcome.

October 2, 2015 Albany, NY- Albany-based headline "Utica hospital plan comes with great promise, few details" features and interview with Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi with POLITICO New York. The story goes on to report "A spokeswoman declined to offer any further details on the new proposed hospital and said the company isn't taking media interviews at this point." Further reported... "As stipulated by the state budget, the state's health commissioner Howard Zucker is charged with distributing the state funding. But until MVHS has specific plans submitted and approved by the state Department of Health, no expenditures can be made from the state’s allocation. The DOH has yet to develop the request for application for the new hospital, officials said, and the health system, Griffo said, is working with consultants to plot their course of action on it."

October 1, 2015 Utica, NY- We celebrate win of Upstate NY funding and our two leaders working together; State Senator Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, and Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica- congratulations, and hooray for Utica!

Our group #NoHospitalDowntown celebrates the absence of the word "downtown" in their conversation, as it appears in today's Utica Observer-Dispatch article regarding $300M for a new Utica hospital. Our group is ready to join forces with our state representatives as soon as the "downtown" hospital plan is abandoned.

Consider This! Use the $300M to make an amazing Eds & Meds Complex. Merge multiple Eds and Meds locations on a 350+ acre parcel; two current hospitals and two existing educational institutions!

Imagine how Utica residents would rejoice! Finally a plan to repurpose New York State's nearly 90 acres at the former Utica Psychiatric Center, expansion space for the schools and the St. Lukes campus. A remarkable chance to create a huge parcel that would transform West Utica. And plenty of housing stock to develop, city streets to improved (not bulldoze!), and ample green space for buffers, sidewalks, parks and pathways! Is this not a plan that could rival even the Big Apple?

September 30, 2015 (11:50PM) Utica, NY- Comments (4) below online Utica Observer-Dispatch article regarding #NoHospitalDowntown have returned...

September 30, 2015 (11:13PM) Utica, NY- The Utica Observer-Dispatch removes comments below online articles. Yesterday at least three comments were displayed, and now it’s “no comments”. We share our speech with reporters, TV, radio, the paper took our story, we spoke to government leaders, yet now the media is censoring us. Headline reads "Vocal opponents" Less so after @uticaOD deletes comments...

September 30, 2015 Utica, NY- New weekly meetings- and a third location announced! Today #NoHospitalDowntown gathered at the Tramontane Cafe in Utica. It was decided to continue meeting on Wednesdays from 10 to 11am each week. Stay late for lunch, or come early and grab a coffee or tea. Add the Tram to your calendar, and help us fight to preserve the scale and future of downtown Utica. These new meetings combine with those at the Fort Schuyler Club on Wednesdays, and Mondays at the Utica Public Library. Please see page bottom for times.

We have so many questions! Please join us in developing better plans for our downtown.

September 29, 2015 Utica, NY- New information on possible downtown hospital location, not a 34 acre parcel, nor 12.5 acres, newest report- there's 17 acres. But this is well below the 25-40 acres that the Mohawk Valley Health System stated was required. Join us #NoHospitalDowntown. Until we’ve been convinced that destroying block-and-blocks of downtown building fabric; buildings, streets and allies are an ABSOLUTE requirement, let's not bulldoze and remove 17 to 34 acres of downtown Utica off the tax rolls...

Consider This! Please take note... our Utica hospital system has three primary sites; Faxton (7 acres), St Luke’s (41 acres) and St Elizabeth’s (17 acres), all totaling (65 acres).

Each location has undergone expansions and expensive improvements in recent years. Each has steadily expanded by taking over neighboring properties, cutting down trees, razing commercial buildings and or homes (one can see this in the maps linked above). This removes taxable property from the city's revenue and transfers a greater burden onto a smaller set of taxpayers.

Currently the County building and the New York Court are doing the same along Elizabeth Street in downtown Utica, creating even more surface parking and displacing tax-paying businesses at a cost to taxpayers of $2,800,000 for 178 parking spaces ($15,730 each).

Now local leaders in government and healthcare, supported by others in Albany, want more parcels for a new 4th location that will alter a very significant part of downtown Utica forever; they suggest this will use another 34 acres. Our leaders claim to only see blight along Columbia & Lafayette Streets in downtown Utica as quietly plan a fourth hospital location.

Meanwhile New York State owns nearly 90 acres at the former Utica Psychiatric Center, remarkably this huge parcel is not being considered for the new hospital!

Consider This! New hospital in Prince George's County, MD debated: Dimensions Healthcare Systems. Two opinions include; ““If the hospital is an isolated enclave, it will do little to catalyze economic development in the area and miss the opportunity to use the site's great transit access and mixed use environment.” As well as, “And again, even though hospital complexes have lots of workers, they generally have little time to spend off campus, therefore provide minimal multiplier effect for commercial district revitalization.”

September 28, 2015 Utica, NY- New meetings, additional location, announced: starting today #NoHospitalDowntown will gather on Mondays at the Fort Schuyler Club in downtown Utica from Noon until 1pm. Please consider placing us on your calendar in the coming weeks and months. We'll be meeting, until we’re convinced destroying block of downtown building fabric; buildings, streets and allies are the only thing our downtown Utica economy (and regional/state government leaders) have to offer… bulldozing 34 acres!! Or, is it 12.5 acres? We have so many questions! Please join us in developing a better plan.

Consider This! Another city tried a "downtown mall" twice, but... "Those failures became magnified, because Worcester had bulldozed a huge swath of its downtown and erased key roads to accommodate the mall." The story goes onto say, "The city is currently working on rebuilding a downtown that looks and functions like one. It’s a turnaround plan that celebrates the downtown, instead of suburbanizing it. It recognizes that good downtowns start with people, and once downtowns fill with people, business happens organically." and "CitySquare needs around-the-clock residents to anchor Worcester’s new downtown, not just office workers who punch the clock before driving home."

September 27, 2015 Utica, NY- Hospital plan's Q&A sessions in the near future #NoHospitalDowntown will be ready with many questions, but until then we have a very basic question that is four days old and counting...

September 26, 2015 Utica, NY- Listen to the Common Sense TV Show, Utica, NY: #NoHospitalDowntown, learn our position and gain insights into a proposed New Downtown Utica Hospital. Our position says "NoHospitalDowntown"! At least not until we learn why we need one, where it's best located, in addition to many other details. Listen and we think you'll quickly come to understand- very little planning has been done, and what little was done and released is WRONG!

Frank Vescera, Richard Kaplan, and Jim Brock talk about a potential downtown Utica hospital.

Brett Truett asks a simple math question, but 4 days later it proves hard for planners to answer! Can't we can do better? First we'll need good info... @uticaOD @MVHealthSystem reported a downtown site of 34 acres, but as shown it's only 12.5 acres! @BrettTruett, September 23, 2015 So what is the "real" Downtown Hospital parcel size and configuration?

On 9/23/15 the Utica Observer Dispatch showed readers a 12.5 acre parcel, see red shaded area in below figure. However, the reported plan states a 34 acre site (the black outline). The Mohawk Valley health System stated that they required 25-40 acres for a new hospital. So if the 34 acres is correct, perhaps as time passes the downtown plan will grow? Maybe it places one parking garage to service; doctors, nurses, and city workers at the south end- near city hall. Then a second parking garage (the story reported two) would be to the north; for hospital guests, patients and AUD attendees.

For a moment, forget parking garages. Imagine a walkable city, or the lack of one... imagine walks to-and-from; the Utica AUD, Bagg’s Square, Ocean Blue, and Downtown Utica to the Brewery District. Hey, can we catch a hospital shuttle?

Tonight! (9/26/15) At the Utica Public Library from 4:30-5:30pm, let's talk this out...
#YesDowntownHospital or #NoHospitalDowntown

Meeting has come and gone. It was a small group, but it suggested that we're on the right track! Two members of Utica's Master Plan Committee showed up. Both confirmed, not only was a downtown hospital never mentioned (in years of ongoing discussions), both feel a downtown hospital is a terrible idea. We distributed over 30 Position Paper that will be copied and shared. We'll also post more from our first public gathering; the dialogue, links to media coverage, as well as pictures (and some secrete video too!). Please look for us next Friday, October 2 from 4:30 to 5:30pm.

September 25, 2015 Utica, NY- As seen today in the Utica Observer Dispatch, our ad asks area residents to meet with us, today at the Utica Public Library from 4:30-5:30pm. Facebook Group #NoHospitalDowntown is looking to hear your ideas for downtown development. Do you want a hospital, or perhaps something else? We are investigating all aspects of the recent news headlines, and seek your help and thoughts. This and every Friday!

September 24, 2015 Utica, NY- Following yesterday's big headline "New Downtown Hospital voted 1st Choice" by the Mohawk Valley Health System, hear from our very own Jim Brock with his reaction to their decision...

A new downtown Utica hospital mentioned, but not so fast says Jim Brock. Brock mentions, “The MVHS Borad of Directors also unanimously approved the Faxton-St Luke's site opposite Utica College for the new hospital as well.” Brock goes on to say some hospital board members feel strongly a downtown Utica hospital is NOT ideal. Listen to the Jim Brock interview.

Consider This! From the web-
"We're not against hospitals. We need the hospital as much as everybody else. It's just that hospitals don't make good neighbors."

September 24, 2015 Utica, NY- The headline "New Downtown Hospital voted 1st Choice" has people talking. Listen to Frank Elias, of Utica Coffee Roasting, with his thoughts on this downtown development idea...

Currently we have three hospital locations that are exempt from paying real estate taxes. In today’s interview, Frank Elias alerts us to the fact, “Building a fourth hospital removes more city real estate from the tax rolls, increasing and shifting a greater burden onto residents and businesses paying taxes.” Making the situation worse, a hospital tower if built will increase the burden on the city’s budget placing pressure to raise taxes if not mitigated. Listen to the Frank Elias interview.

September 23, 2015 Utica, NY- Today the Utica OD reports on a downtown hospital plan. The location is stated to be the 1st choice for a new hospital as announced by the Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS). The new downtown Utica hospital story reports the parcel is 34 acres:

Oddly the report is not correct, this downtown parcel is only 12.5 acres! If the new plan requires 25-40 acres, how does downtown work? How does this site, out of 12 sites considered, land into first place?

Consider This! Why did Utica-area citizens hear about such a major project only after it was planned by government leaders? Consider; the New York Department of Transportation (DOT) posts Projects in Your Neighborhood to their website. The DOT also offers multiple plans for consideration and seeks public input in a variety of ways.

However, this very significant hospital plan was crafted in Albany and written into legislation and called a "HEALTH CARE FACILITY TRANSFORMATION PROGRAM". Yet it was done without local taxpayer discussion or input. Next, citizens are told by their leaders,

"If you don't accept our plan the Utica-area will lose $300M,
you'll be sending the funds to Syracuse or some other city."

Is this fair, is that good representation?

September 22, 2015 Utica, NY- Below, please find Our Group's response to Mohawk Valley Health Systems’s Board of Director’s decision to approve the downtown site as a possible location for the new hospital...

We are respectfully requesting copies of all studies done that allowed the MVHS Board to conclude this downtown location meets the needs of our area’s healthcare.

Additionally, we request that our leaders make the same reports public on their website MV Health System

Our mission is to seek answers and to fully understand the following questions, as well as call on our leaders to address them openly with Utica and Mohawk Valley taxpayers:

1. Will there be a feasibility study done, if so what criteria will be looked at?
2.Can the infrastructure in the downtown location handle a project of this scope? That is; sanitary sewers, storm sewers, water, electricity and gas.
3. What capacities will be left on public utilities for future development?
4. What State and County agencies will be involved in the planning process, what firms have been hired to date?
5. What are tentative start and completion dates for various stages of planning and construction?
6. Will properties be purchased prior to final project approval?
7. Who will be lead local agency?
8. Are there any historical buildings in the planned foot print of the complex? And,
9. How will the public be notified on progress and of public hearings and scoping sessions?

We would like to thank the Mohawk Valley Health System’s Board of Directors for their vision in realizing “if the issues facing a downtown Utica location cannot be resolved, they will look to approve a St Luke’s Campus as the alternative site”.

Let it be further understood, that our group does not seek to generate negative energy and or to throw cold water on what some feel is an exciting plan. To the contrary, #NoHospitalDowntown is a champion for continued downtown Utica development. Our major concern is that we desire professionally-vetted plans and smart development. Our new website and research has only just begun.

In the coming weeks and months we will seek to educate both ourselves and the community as to the best use for downtown real estate. We feel smarter and more innovative development is vitally required to keep our recent successes on track. Such development- even if it is a new hospital- will only come by way of an open dialogue, full public disclosure, and very careful study and planning.

As an example NYS DOT offers numerous public hearings, surveys, alternative plans and open access on their website when major road projects are decided e want the same for this hospital plan and downtowns further development.

Our desire is to be a good friend and citizen to all Utica and Mohawk Valley residents; present, future and to our historic past, so that anyone seeking healthcare, a vibrant downtown (to live, work, and or play) can find it!

Signed on this day September 22, 2015 by: #NoHospitalDowntown Facebook Group

September 18, 2015 Utica, NY- Look for our ad in Mohawk Valley and Utica publications...

No Studies, No Reports, thus we remain #NoHospitalDowntown