RSS Housing Project Not Right For Oneonta

from Danny Lapin

RSS Housing Project

Not Right For Oneonta

To the Editor:

The proposed housing project by Rehabilitation Support Services (RSS) of Altamont in Oneonta’s Sixth Ward is a flawed development. RSS wants taxpayers to pay for it; they trying to circumvent public input and they’re using strong-arm tactics to get approval to start construction.

Therefore, I oppose it.

RSS wants to build a 64-unit project for low- and moderate-income people that will include 14 apartments reserved for individuals recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. Subsidized rents will range from $520 to $1,067, well below market rates for Oneonta.

RSS is applying for about $23.7 million in government grants to pay for the project. The mental-health and substance-abuse service organization says it is willing to pay property taxes, but would rather get a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes plan. In other words, they don’t really want to pay city and school taxes at the same rate as their home-owner neighbors.

In short, RSS is asking taxpayers to pay twice for the project. First, to cough up construction grant money and second, give RSS a property tax break.

I am all for building more affordable housing in Oneonta that will provide good homes for hard-working families. But, don’t be fooled, that’s not what RSS is planning. The housing they want to build is primarily for folks receiving public assistance of one form or another.

Of particular concern to me is the units set aside for individuals recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40 to 60 percent of people with substance-abuse problems in rehab eventually relapse, returning to a life dominated by drinking and illegal drug use. That behavior potentially brings additional social problems and crime to our community.

There are also environmental concerns related to this proposal. The RSS plan is to clear 6.5 acres of mostly wooded land between River Street and West Broadway. RSS has not said how it will address the impact on our air, water and wildlife.

Another issue is the failure of RSS and the City of Oneonta to seek public input for the project. The Sixth Ward is a strong, tight-knit community whose residents pride themselves on their close connections and willingness to help one another. The RSS development was presented to the city in a way that gave residents and the owners of adjacent property, including Oneonta Christian Academy, only two months to respond. There has been little or no meaningful attempt at sustained public engagement or empowerment.

As the county representative serving the Sixth Ward, I have not been invited to speak with RSS representatives. Rather, in a response to concerns aired by the City of Oneonta in January 2019, RSS elected to label those of us concerned about the project as NIMBYs.

This inflammatory rhetoric by RSS combines a controversial land-use proposal with an applicant who is accustomed to aggressive tactics to get their way. Is this the kind of development we want in the City of Oneonta?

Rather than taxpayer-funded new construction, we should focus on infill development. We should rehabilitate properties that could house populations in need throughout our City. We should explore those opportunities before considering RSS’s divisive project.


County Representative

Wards 5-6, Oneonta

5 thoughts on “RSS Housing Project Not Right For Oneonta

  1. B

    “I am all for building more affordable housing in Oneonta that will provide good homes for hard-working families. But, don’t be fooled, that’s not what RSS is planning. The housing they want to build is primarily for folks receiving public assistance of one form or another.”

    Excuse me? How dare you set up a false dichotomy between “hard-working families” and “folks receiving public assistance”! That Venn diagram is very nearly a circle. Or, I’m sorry, am I not hard-working because my full-time job (for the City of Oneonta, no less!) doesn’t pay enough for me to afford Oneonta’s high rents? I relied on HEAP this year to help my family get through the winter. Does that cancel out the hard work I do to serve the people of Oneonta?

    Further, I find it morally reprehensible to use statistics about relapse rates to argue against one of the things that can best prevent relapse. Stable housing removes one of the pressures that can push people back into using. And, of course, the only difference between the folks living in the 14 apartments RSS will set aside from people in recovery and the neighbor whose substance use you don’t know about is that they’ve admitted they have a problem and are in recovery.

    If you have valid environmental complaints, better ideas, or frustrations about lack of communication, please feel free to air them. But don’t be surprised if you get called a NIMBY when you spend more time on hateful, divisive rhetoric about people on public assistance or who are in recovery than you do on those valid concerns.

    I know this is a month late and you’ll never see it, but my estimation of you has plummeted. I find myself asking, what’s the point of having Democrats on the county board if they’re going to sound like Reagan invoking the imaginary welfare queen?

  2. Brian H

    I’m in agreement with the other reply that the way you frame people in need is frankly sickening (and this is coming from a Conservative Republican — apparently *I’m* supposed to be the one hating people on welfare).

    But I absolutely agree with “Rather than […] new construction, […] we should rehabilitate properties that could house populations in need”. I abhor how much virgin land is cleared to build new developments, while historic buildings rot on main street. (This is a problem affecting many towns in the area, not just Oneonta.)


    For what it’s worth, I am not an Oneonta resident, though I go to work and school there. I found this article by searching “RSS Oneonta” after seeing all of the signs on River St.

  3. Che

    I am sure that all the support services in existance, and those to follow are behind this development and others like it.

    It sicken me to see your explanation and the images you gave for the hard worker versus the welfare worker. And thank you for reminding us of Reagans’ Welfare queen scenario.

    The opiod addiction is a product of the doctors and what “nice” hardworking people due behind doors after a hard day at work…

    So do not get these two separate groups enterwined.

    Think of all the service providers getting federal dollars for services

    Maybe you need to be in talks with them to stop them from getting and extracting monies from the community.

  4. Brian W

    This article left me strongly in favor of the RSS housing project. We need good affordable housing for low and middle income people in Oneonta, including people receiving public assistance.

  5. Greg E.

    Regardless of how he framed parts of his argument against, the fact that RSS is really trying to get taxpayers to fund this project in whole and get out from paying taxes, is itself detrimental to the community. Some people seem to think that “federal dollars” comes out of thin air. These are taxpayer dollars. The treasury isn’t bottomless. Enough is enough.

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