Common Council Override Mayor’s Veto in Arterial Project
December 9th 2011 · 0 Comments
UTICA PHOENIX NEWS
The Utica Common Council met Wednesday, December 8, and once again the major topic of discussion was the North/South Arterial project. 25-30 Utica residents were in attendance, weighing in with concerns that the Common Council was moving too quickly. The project will affect Utica residents, the city and surrounding community for more than 50 years to come. However, proponents asking the Council to override Mayor’s previous veto on the project were pleased with the result: The vote was 7:1 in favor of the override.
What does this mean for Utica residents? For one, it means that deliberation between the City and DOT to determine the best solution for the 5/8/12 Arterial will be reestablished. The Infrastructure and Waterfront Sub-Committee of the Masterplan will be the reinstated for this expressed purpose.
The two conflicting options are 1.) a slightly elevated expressway supported by a retaining wall, or 2.) a multi-way boulevard, similar to the one that runs up Route 5 in New Hartford, past the Sangertown Mall.
Proponents of the expressway cite being able to travel quickly through Utica to surrounding suburbs as cause to proceed, while proponents of the boulevard cite its strength lies in left and right turn access, which would allow traffic to stop in Utica instead of coursing through, and allow the stretch of road to be commercially developed.
25-30 Utica residents were in attendance at the meeting. Here is what some of them had to say on the subject:
President Todd Hutton, Utica College felt that the current plan was incomplete. Although it would improve the aesthetic of the area, he felt it needed more research to address safety concerns and possible street closures (such as portion of Sunset Avenue and Warren Street in West Utica). “The health of Utica College closely tied to this project, as will West Utica’s. The Common Council’s decision will impact city for 50 years. The design should first and foremost be about safety and redevelopment of Utica, not about quickly moving traffic.”
Business owners Jeanette Speciale and Pamela Darman: Jeanette Speciale, who owns Jeanette’s Luncheonette in West Utica felt that Utica should have a boulevard-type road, to develop the area more, and to increase the safety of the road for pedestrians. “Slow down traffic,” she said. “Make it safer.”
Pamela Darman, who owns Darman Manufacturing, felt that more information was needed before Utica could make an informed decision. “I don’t know what is best. I need pictures. I have lived in Utica most of my life, driven the Arterial almost everyday, and it breaks my heart to see the City decay. I ask that you think about what is best for the City. We will still all survive, but I have loved Utica, and am grateful there is even money out there to help us.”
Harmony Speciale, Oneida County Legislator elect, shared these concerns and added that the DOT plan was severely flawed, and that the Common Council needed more information to make an informed decision. “A lot of people have dropped the ball, and there has been a lot of finger pointing and negligence. Do your homework, get the facts, and help us,” she said.
Tim Trent brought up the fact that improving the community was equally as important as improving traffic flow, and that Sunset Ave. should remain open. “Preventing the isolating of West Utica from the rest of the city can be done without halting Arterial traffic. No one wants to stop Arterial improvements…we want ones that are effective.”
John Adams, who was defeated for a First Ward Common Council seat against incumbent Frank Vescera, stated that he felt comfortable with the project the way it was, and was not in support of the veto. “People have to go to the suburbs for different reasons, and want a fast path to these places. Utica is not going to grow from within. You need to bring in people in from suburbs. I enjoy the convenience of the quick path. Commerce needs to flow out from Utica to suburban areas.”
Frank Montecalvo, an avid proponent of taking a harder look at the plans before moving on with the project, rounded out the comments from the floor by drawing attention to procedures that preceded the vote. He stated that proper procedure was not followed by DOT in this matter, as the Common Council is supposed to receive general plans, at which time they have 60 days to question or approve the plan, which has not been done. “No one wants to stop the project,” he said. But the Council should be weighing in as a body. Not as individuals. This project has the potential for impact miles and miles away.”
At the end of the meeting, Mayor David Roefaro stated that he was in favor of the Council overriding his original veto, as the override impacts the West Utica portion of the project, which has not yet begun. He stated vehemently that people should have faith in the whole project, even if all the parts were not currently understood. He stated many people were against the Roundabout Project on paper, but now see the benefit of it, and asked people to look at the Arterial project in the same light. “Disagreeing on parts of the project is fine,” he said, “but if we don’t use this money, [the 62 million] it will go elsewhere.”
The veto means that the City’s Infrastructure and Waterfront Sub-Committee of the Masterplan will get the chance to meet with the Department of Transportation with the intention of developing an equitable resolution that will both help to sustain the City of Utica while making way for traffic flow and safety concerns. Check with the Utica Phoenix for future updates.
By Mark Ziobro