from Bill DeVita
To the Editor:
For more than 30 years, Rehabilitation Support Services has been an
active and committed community partner and service provider in the City of Oneonta and Otsego County.
If you’ve had a bagel and coffee at the Oneonta Bagel Company, received job assistance through Supported Employment, or information through our Community Education Project, you know RSS.
We are proud to have built many longstanding and productive relationships in Oneonta, as well as a proven record of delivering successful programs to address critical community needs. For those reasons, it has been discouraging to read a number of misrepresentations regarding our planned Riverside Apartments project on River Street.
In a spirit of continued partnership and transparency, we welcome the opportunity to set the record straight.
The need for quality, affordable workforce housing in Oneonta is well documented, by both regional and independent entities. In a survey done by Opportunities for Otsego as part of its 2017 Community Needs Assessment, 84 percent of nearly 300 respondents characterized housing as a problem, and 77 percent indicated the cost of rent and housing payments are an issue.
Last year, a housing needs assessment conducted by Novogradac & Co. detailed similar findings, citing ample demand for additional affordable housing, and recommending a development site close to downtown Oneonta.
The Riverside Apartments represent a significant step toward meeting this need. Nearly 80 percent of the 64 apartments to be located in attractive, high-quality buildings are intended for working individuals and families. It is for that reason the site was chosen: It is within walking distance to employment opportunities, public transportation, retail and restaurants, health care and other essential services.
A small percentage, one in every five apartments, would provide safe and secure housing to family, friends and neighbors in our community who are in recovery from a substance-use disorder. People can and do overcome these challenges, and we are privileged to help them rebuild their lives.
And we are far from a newcomer to providing quality housing. From our Elm Street Community Residence to our work with Otsego Supported Housing, we have administered and operated various housing facilities for over three decades without incident.
The proposed housing is allowed as-of-right within the current zoning of the parcel, and would be located adjacent to a mix of single-family, multi-family and commercial uses. It has been redesigned as a boulevard concept, respectful of input by the public and the city officials at a public Planning Commission meeting. The new design ensures that it is integrated appropriately with surrounding properties.
In addition to a conventional bank mortgage, funding for the Riverside Apartments would come from several state agencies, including New York State Homes & Community Renewal, the state Office of Temporary Disability and Assistance, and the state Office of Alcohol & Substance Abuse Services. These monies are currently available through long-established state-funding programs – and if they are not designated for this project in Oneonta, they will still be spent, earmarked instead for other projects in other parts of the state.
Finally, to say that RSS has not been forthcoming about this project is simply not true.
Over the past six months, we have met regularly with a host of elected officials, community leaders and others, and we continue to do so. We have presented plans publicly on multiple occasions before the city Planning Commission, and discussed those plans with the media.
And, we have set up a website, www.riversideoneonta.com, which features comprehensive details about the project, including a site plan and architectural renderings, and contact information for those with questions.
The Riverside Apartments is urgently needed and sensitively designed housing in an appropriate residential neighborhood. It will provide an important asset to the people of Oneonta. We look forward to working in a spirit of camaraderie and partnership to ensure it is developed in the best interests of the community of which we are privileged to be part.
Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc.