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Why Downtown Utica Is Not Right For New Hospital

#NoHospitalDowntown loves the Columbia Lafayette Neighborhood, and the Downtown Utica that has been reemerging over the last 15 years. Below we offer a running list of reasons why placing a hospital in Downtown Utica is wrong.

* * * Proposed site is 1,500 feet from the CSX Mainline! * * * Read number 20 below and... New Regional Hospital Does Not Mix With The Train Derailment Risks!

1. Urban hospitals do not revitalize downtown neighborhoods. There is no evidence that any hospital located in an urban downtown area has resulted in urban revitalization. If fact, one can argue that the opposite was true, just look at the story of Springfield Regional Medical Center. In Downtown Utica the hospital concept proposed is out of scale with the surrounding environment, would create unsafe areas around it, especially at night.

(NOTE: See all The Hospitals We've Reviewed, as people have suggested they'll offer insights for Utica's downtown concept.)

2. Urban hospitals create unsafe areas around them, especially at night. Hospitals are seen as public spaces where one can seek refuge. Some seek warmth, drugs (to buy or sell), some are drunk or under the influence of drugs. Also the high concentration of cars, especially in parking garages, are easy targets for theft and other crimes. As proof, the famed healthcare facility, the Cleveland Clinic has its own police force of 250 officers.

3. If the hospital goes downtown we would lose the Police Station and the City Courts. While the hospital may not take them, the city or county would, as the carve-out around these two buildings leaves them stranded and makes no sense.

4. If we lose the police and courts to a wrecking ball, City of taxpayers would most likely be responsible for relocating and rebuilding them. Even if state money helps to offset some of the cost, when moved even more land would be taken-off the city tax rolls.

5. If the parking garage is built downtown 40% of the cost would be billed to residents on their city tax bill, and 60% billed on their county tax bill. For 30 years!

6. While the city and county taxpayers are paying for the parking garage it would be given to a private hospital or another 3rd party that would seek to make a profit...

7. So, after residents pay to build the parking garage they’ll be charged; $10, $15 or $25 to park there for all hospital visits and events at the AUD.

8. 40+ businesses that pay approximately $300,000.00 in city, county & school taxes would be lost to build a private tax-exempt hospital. If the hospital was to be built over five years, then $1,500,000 would be lost before even one new taxable medical building could be constructed. Utica Common Council President, Michael Galime, stated it all very well here: We Have A Lot To Lose.

9. There is no plan in place for the reuse or re-purpose St. Elizabeth's or St Luke's Hospitals. Vacant hospitals in our slow economy are likely to sit for many years. We've seen it all too often.

10. 34 acres of blocks, a third of our downtown, would be bulldozed to make way for this private hospital. Historical buildings that would be no longer part of Utica, and lost to would be small developers who have steadily purchased old buildings - just look at Varick Street, Bagg's Square, Franklin Square and Genesee Street - old buildings are huge opportunities and have been the key ingredient in Downtown Utica's new come back. Downtown is easily protected, since the proposed new hospital easily fits at the St. Luke's Campus:

11. If you are a renter in Utica, rents would go up due to the hospital. Rent a house, apartment or business space? Your landlord's tax bills go up, so you'll get the letter saying, "Due to increasing taxes, water bills, etc., I regret to have to increase your rent starting in 60 days..."

12. Hospitals are not very permeable and are self-contained. Much of the hospital staff works 10 and 12 hour shifts; they drive to work, park and then go home. They do not create foot traffic. Hospitals have ATM's, cafes, subsidized cafetieres and gift shops. Just look at South Utica where two hospitals bookend the "Uptown" area. They are vacant parcels and vacant store fronts. It is pretty clear, hospitals are not the economic engines they say they are - at least not ones that build "neighborhoods".

13. Private businesses in the targeted area have mortgages and have worked hard to maintain their buildings, some for many generations. Now, just as downtown is on a great upswing with wonderful energy (with ongoing AUD and Hotel Utica expansion and upgrades, and the newly completed 5/8/12 exits and bridges), these companies must find a way to relocate? The offers the hospital reports they will make, would not be enough to cover all the costs. The following article The Big Urban Mistake Building For Tourism Vs. Livability explains these dynamics well.

14. The single "blighted and vacant" block on Columbia Street is half-owned by the city of Utica. They have code violations, their building is not secured nor listed for sale. It is done on purpose and held-out as the false reason the whole neighborhood must be bulldozed. However, these buildings can be re-purposed, yet our government and the hospital are promoting false information - and this is wrong!

15. Corning NY has 11,000 residents. Their hospital was inside the city limits, but in 2011 the hospital was moved outside of the city as it required at least 37 acres. Utica has 60,000 resident, yet the hospital would be stuffed into downtown on only 25-34 acres? Where is the room for expansion? What else would the hospital "eat-into" for future growth? We are told to believe in the coming Danfoss and Nano jobs boom, so where would the hospital expand to if built in downtown?

16. People are returning to urban living; apartments, row houses, lofts and condos. It is a world wide trend. The old historical buildings and several empty lots are prime real estate for development. Carton Avenue is an original Erie-canal era cobblestone street still intact, fronted by three historic row houses, and boarded by various period canal buildings. One is Citation Services, a grouping of connected building where Utica's first boilers were made. Another is a solid and large building on Oriskany Boulevard; Eggers Caryl & Corrigan. Here on the banks of the canal they manufactured rope. There is much, much, more and is all historical treasures. Reuse of these city assets are the type of development Utica should seek, not a sterile and out-of-scale hospital district. Lastly, please realize that "Downtowners" Do Not Want A Hospital District.

17. The proposed downtown hospital would handle 80,000 ER visit each year and house 300-400 sick patients. It would have a 1,200-car surface parking lot and a large 1,500-car parking garage. This is not a setting that attracts downtown dweller. Downtown Utica will make further advances when more people live downtown. It is people who arrive home at 5pm, not those who arrive at 9am and depart at 5pm. A downtown developed for residents brings street and sidewalk activity in the mornings, evenings and on weekends. People seeking stores, restaurants, dry-cleaners, other services and entertainment. This what Downtown Utica needs, not a hospital district.

18. The proposed hospital location is in the "Heart Of Downtown Utica", if built it would divide and split these neighborhoods; Varick Street, the Art's District (MWPAI), the Genesee Street Business District, Franklin Square and Bagg's Square, and the AUD's expanding Sports and Entertainment effort. Pushing-out out 40+ businesses and bulldozing historic buildings, prime to become the next development area, for a Inner City Hospital District would create a separating wall between downtown's neighborhoods in addition to leveling one!

19. Urban centers are not “hospitable” and “healing environments”. Beyond medical expertise, new technology, and advanced procedures, a great effort in hospital design is the introduction of a "spirit of nature". Hospital environments with more natural light, views of nature and direct access to the outdoors has been found to be critical. Downtown Utica In No Way Offers What 64-acres At St. Luke's Offers, a green hilltop just 1.7 miles away.

20. Required hazard mitigation, and efforts to reduce risks to the hospital, makes downtown an undesirable location. The proposed downtown site is just 2,000 feet from the Northeast's busiest fright railroad. These tracks host many CSX trains transport chemicals, gases, and oil tanks - 100 car long trains traveling at 55 mph. The short distant makes the downtown site a "Red Zone". Also more large trucks travel the roads in downtown, and downtown is also part of a flood plain. Recent evidence and weather shows this to be an increasing risk. Furthermore, snow storms in a compact downtown setting can carry greater chance for prolonged traffic gridlock. Oneida County would be building an evacuation "Red Zone" hospital...

More On Red Zone

21. Property transfers are required and make downtown a bad choice. First eminent domain will be required, so there will be court battles. In addition to that, the mayor has personally pledge that he would close streets and give-away city owned properties to the hospital, who owns no property in downtown. These decisions are not the mayor's to make on his own and as such delays and court battles will be waged.

22. The downtown hospital concept is exactly like hundreds of failed urban renewal projects, which ruined cities in the 1960's and 1970's. In fact right here in Utica, it was said that the Oneida County and State Office buildings would save downtown businesses, especially those along Genesee Street. No such thing occurred, but these two large buildings destroyed numerous historic buildings and streets, to be replaced by unproductive surface parking lots.

23. The people of Utica and the entire hospital service area were NEVER a part of the location selection process. It is totally unfair for people to be told where their hospital will be placed, especially since such a great deal of public money is being used.

24. The downtown hospital budget offered to the people was not honest, and a complete scope of all costs have never been shared with residents and taxpayers. Not that we would for all the reasons stated here, without a complete picture, it's been very troubling that the city common council and mayor voted in support. As an example, an electrician who knows the city infrastructure states a downtown hospital would require two electrical substations, but downtown has only one.

25. We believe downtown has many negative environmental issues, and New York mandates an environmental review. The process is called a SEQR Study. An very early SEQR question that the hospital would be required to answer is, "Was an alternative site available?" The answer is, "Yes", AND its fully owned by the hospital today, the 64-acre St. Luke's Campus!

26. The hospital budget plans to utilize funding from many local and state sources. Eventually federal as well? Either way, monies that have been traditionally used for other city needs would be diverted. Not only would revitalization projects of others neighborhoods be compromised, when financial woes hit, the hospital project (so already dependent on taxpayers), will look to taxpayers again. The hospital owns 64-acres at St. Luke's and building there is less expensive. Downtown is wrong for fiscal reasons.

27. The City of Utica has a Master Plan that was created at the expense of $400,000. This plan was created by a large group of citizens working on its development. Their resulting Master Plan called for small scale, and historic redevelopment and reuse. The city hosted an "Upper Floors" symposium, and also commissioned a "loft study". Both efforts promoted downtown as a place for buying old buildings and starting small scale ventures; business, living, and lifestyle amenities - all in keeping with Utica's historic past. There was also the "Gateway Plan", which contained the same themes. The gateway Plan also created the expanded police maintenance and parking facility. The hospital would destroy these assets before they are even fully paid for! The Gateway Plan (a city expense of $200,000) also resulted in the rezoning of the Columbia Lafayette Neighborhood, calling it the "Gateway Historic Canal District". A local law and zoning code, which is being ignored, precludes any large development, especially a massive and destructive hospital.

28. Built in the early 1970, Kennedy Plaza Apartments underwent a $20M Renovation In 2010. These upgrades were touted as a New Beginning For The Buildings & Tenants, housed in two 5-story building and a single 17-story apartment tower. The facility and the neighborhood were said to benefit from new safety and security measures. So how do these residents feel about one side of their neighborhood being bulldozed, and becoming buttressed by a 34-acre hospital district?

29. We have been told that politicians and or MVEDGE forced the hospital downtown. Our politicians say the hospital board picked the downtown location. Set this aside, because either way, none of these people live in Downtown Utica. It is safe to believe most of them don't venture too far of Genesee Street. So what would they really know of the Columbia Lafayette Neighborhood? It is wrong that outsiders have labeled this productive district; "crushing blight" and "functionally obsolete", and condemned it to a would-be destructive urban renewal scheme.

30. The New York State budget, Utica's finances, and Oneida County's budgets are not flush. The healthcare industry and healthcare insurance spending/funding models are in extreme turmoil. The state Hospital Funding is very troubled. Additionally, while Upstate New York is loosing population, New York residents living here in the "Empire State" face the highest tax burden in the nation [Ref.]. Furthermore, Oneida County ranks among the state's highest in sales tax [Ref.]. Why, with three hospital facilities (each have undergone multiple modernization phases), are we looking to build a hugely expensive hospital in addition to a Parking Garage on the backs of taxpayers? Why with all this distressing data, why would Downtown Utica be risking its downtown economic strategy on a tax-exempt hospital district that's already working to kick-out taxpaying businesses? The downtown hospital concept makes no sense at all!

31. ...were still adding, please check back!

We are not against a new hospital, only the location - place the hospital where it is not so damaging. Please read What's So Wrong With St. Luke's?

Furthermore, we would advocate for urgent and primary care in Downtown Utica. Add a drugstore/pharmacy, combined with newest downtown businesses, this is a place people will both want to live and visit. Add a modernized hospital, on city bus routes, less than two miles away, and both Downtown Utica and the entire area is better off... healthcare-wise and fiscally.

This page will be expanded and additional links provided. Until then, please look at BetterUticaDowntown, this is the path to a better Downtown Utica - not a hospital district!

No Studies, No Reports, thus we remain #NoHospitalDowntown