HERZIG STATE OF CITY
Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig’s State of The City speech, delivered to Common Council Tuesday, Feb. 4, in City Hall.
Hundreds of people gave of their time during the past three years, to help us map out a vision for the future – and we owe them our thanks.
They worked to provide us with a new Comprehensive Plan, Artspace study (SUNY), Oneonta Theater study (GOHS), parking study, housing study and more. They worked together for more than a year in creating a vision for our future.
…Now it is our responsibility to act on the vision which they have created. We have made a start but we still have a way to go.
• The support we have given to our local businesses and entrepreneurs is unprecedented. More than $1 million is going to more than 40 local businesses to update building facades and signage – and we will begin to see the results this spring. We are looking to provide local property owners with another $1 million plus to help them turn vacant upper floors into quality market-rate housing – and we should be seeing new awards for this purpose very soon.
• It has been very exciting to see new, innovative, and unique businesses sprouting – almost like bright flowers in the spring. Underground Attic, Tribe Yoga, the B Side, the new Autumn Café, Table Rocks Bouldering, Silber Design, Noah’s World, Toonie Moonie Organics, Shakedown Street Café, to name just a few. And you know what they all have in common? – the City of Oneonta helped them to get started with Microenterprise grants of up to $35,000. In the past four years, we have helped 28 small businesses and startups.
• We were successful in securing federal funds to support the restoration of the historic Stevens Hardware building and Oneonta’s iconic Nick’s Diner. Now, I will be the first to acknowledge that we don’t always get it right. There are risks involved and we cannot expect to win every time. One of our losses this year was Bombers’ Burritos. It hurts to lose and I know it makes us look bad – but even the best teams cannot win every game and there are no wins if you chose to take no risks.
• This spring, we will see new attractive Directory Signs throughout our downtown, and Welcome Signs at all five of our city gateways.
• We have a new Marketing Campaign designed to get people’s attention and to communicate all that our unique city has to offer. I thank Destination Oneonta for its work in supporting this campaign. And I have asked Trampoline to make a presentation at the Feb. 18 Council meeting on what has been accomplished and what is yet to come.
• Following the vision laid out for us by the DRI-funded Oneonta Theater Restoration Study, we have begun the process of looking to the reinvention of the Market Street/Chestnut Street area as a potential Arts District anchored by the Foothills Performing Arts Center and a Restored Oneonta Theater. Hats off to Bob Brzozowski, Patrice Macaluso, Elizabeth Dunne, Elaine Bresee, and others who are putting together a real plan to acquire and restore the Oneonta Theater – Thank you.
• This year, we will remove the blight on the corner of
Market and Chestnut streets. Within the next 60-90 days,
we will begin to see designs for a redesigned Municipal Parking Garage, a new transit hub and a more inviting pedestrian-friendly Market Street with walkways to and from our Main Street.
• And creating a new Lettis Highway that respects the safety of those who choose to walk or need to walk will be a top priority.
• With the help of our Senator Seward, we have begun the process of reinventing our historic Damaschke Field. The first phase, this year, will be to remove the old decaying grandstand, install a temporary backstop, new baseline box seats and dugouts, and protect all seats with today’s new technology in protective netting. The following year, we will strive to create a new family-friendly multi-purpose area behind home plate.
• Our Council, this past year, created the foundation for the development of a center for jobs and innovation in our former D&H Railyards. We will create good jobs while, at the same time, respecting our environment. And Mark Davies – former Environmental Board chairman, now a Council member – I know will be our conscience on environmental issues.
• This year, we will begin to create a Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan to take advantage of the fact that we have the beautiful Susquehanna River flowing through our downtown. And that would not be happening without the passion and determination of Judy Pangman, our Community Development Director.
• We will continue to rebuild our aging – old! – infrastructure. After completing the rebuild of both of our reservoir dams, and numerous water mains, we will now start on an $8 million upgrade to our 1970 Wastewater Treatment Plant.
• Dog lovers will get a first-class dog park in Neahwa Park this year.
• We can expect to see progress in rectifying neighborhood blight as we implement new ordinances passed by our Council to give our Code Enforcement Staff more tools and authorities to do so.
And under the leadership of Stephen Yerly, our Codes Office has sent a very clear message that unsafe rental properties will not be tolerated in the City of Oneonta. And that applies equally whether you have a one-unit student house or the largest building on Main Street.
• And all this is being accomplished with an average tax increase below one percent during the past six years.
Let me close with a very short story. Last week, I was walking down Main Street with a friend of mine who does not live in Oneonta. He looked around and said to me, “Oneonta has so much potential.”
All I could think about were the comments made, nearly 60 years ago, by my teachers on my report cards – which generally began with, “Gary has much potential, however. . .” It seems that some things you just never forget! My goal – our goal – is to stop having to hear about our potential. The way we achieve that is to realize our potential.
Thank you to the hundreds of citizens who have contributed, we now have a plan to do just that and it will take all of us – all of us – working together to make it happen.
Thank you – and let’s get to work.