[Editor’s note: This week’s “News from the Noteworthy” column comes from Seth Haight, Chief Operating Officer for Springbrook.]
I hope Springbrook’s plans to renovate Oneonta’s historic Ford Block buildings come as no surprise.
While the COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold, it is near and dear to our hearts here at Springbrook. That is why I was excited when Patricia Kennedy, Springbrook’s CEO, asked me to write this piece and bring the public back up to speed about our plans for the buildings. I am Springbrook’s Chief Operating Officer and leader for this project.
I’ll start with why Springbrook chose to pursue renovating a downtown building. For us, this project is about community. Springbrook is recognized across the state for our innovative, compassionate, and professional approach to supporting people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. We have offices in Oneonta, Norwich, Binghamton, and Ithaca, operate homes in five counties, and offer supports in 14 counties. But Oneonta is home.
Yes, we’ve spread, but always for a purpose. Our approach is to find what works here in Oneonta and Otsego County first, then offer those services across the state. Springbrook’s success is built on this sound strategy and our commitment to the mission. This project is no different. This community has supported our growth and the needs of the people we support for nearly 100 years, and we need to invest back into the community.
The planned $6.5 million project will add vibrancy to Oneonta’s downtown, preserving the beautiful historic character of the buildings while attracting professionals to live downtown and showcasing some of Oneonta’s outstanding small businesses, like the Latte Lounge and the Green Toad Bookstore. We envision “The Ford on Main” as more than a building—we hope it will be a destination, a testament to a community that can change to meet the needs of the people who live here.
The renovations will keep existing retail space on the lower floors while the upper two stories will be converted into 22 affordable, market-rate residential units. Renovations will also revive the pass-through area from the municipal parking lot to Main Street. The corridor has long served as an unofficial introduction to Oneonta for tourists, students, and newcomers to our region. This project also follows in the footsteps of other similar investments in this community, like the Klugo renovations to the former Bresee’s building or the repurposing of the former Christian Life Sciences Center. Each investment builds on the next—all good things for Oneonta.
As “The Ford on Main” project is about community, we are excited to acknowledge our many partners. Springbrook is driving the bus, but many others are along for the ride. These partners include the City of Oneonta, NYS Homes and Community Renewal, Community Preservation Corporation, the Otsego County IDA, NYS Parks & Recreation, the National Parks Service, and the Empire State Development Corporation. They have helped us navigate grants, loans, designs, contracts, and much more. They will also help us with our goal of using local suppliers, contractors, and talent as much as possible.
We intend to start construction in the second quarter of 2022, with a tentative open date in the fourth quarter of 2022 (don’t quote me on that opening date!). A website for the project will launch in April. I encourage you to visit to stay up-to-date on construction, find rental information, and share your perspective about the building or the pass-through space.
Springbrook is here for a lifetime—mine, yours, your children’s, your grandchildren’s, the lifetime of Otsego County, of Oneonta. We all thrive together. And remember, buy local!
As we transition through fall, I’m reminded of the spirit of community that is such a vibrant part of our lives in Otsego County. This sense of connection and shared values that sustains us through good times and challenging times is why “community matters”.
YOUTH ART EXHIBIT – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. CCS students present exhibit ‘Young at Art! Inspired by Community’ sharing their experience of community during the pandemic and how art grew their relationships online and at home. On view through June 26. The Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1400 or visit www.cooperstowncs.org
Many years ago I had surgery. The hospital kept me till the end of the day and then pushed me out the door and into a cab. They stuffed a prescription for pain killers in my hand.
I don’t remember filling the prescription, but I do remember the brutal pain of climbing up two flights of stairs to my apartment. Then collapsing into bed.
After a while, things simmered down and I got up and took the pain killers.
Many hundreds of years ago in Baghdad when you went into the hospital they would take your clothes and you would get a linen gown to wear. The beds had linen sheets!
When you were ready to leave they would give you your clothes back, all clean and fresh. They would also give you some money so you did not have to go back to work for the first week. That would give you some more time to heal.
Recently I was in the hospital for four days. A little while after I got home friends stopped by on two different occasions. They each brought me some food. It was a great thing to do for me. It made me feel connected. It’s nice to taste food that is made by different people.
I remember church suppers in the basement of the church. They were once a month. People would bring different dishes to pass.
Tomorrow, I am making a calamari and tomatoes stew. Pam is making fresh loaf of bread. Bread to dip into the stew to soak up the juices and to excite the taste buds.
We are going to take it to a special friend who has just gotten out of the hospital. I hope it helps her to recover faster. Plus, she won’t have to think about dinner for her family that night. Rest and relax.
Isn’t that why we are here: To help each other in times of need? It certainly helped me that time. I had forgotten how powerful the kindness of sharing food can be.
SIDNEY CENTER – Spiritual leaders, mayors, law-enforcement officers, friends and neighbors gathered Sunday evening at the Sufi Muslim community of Osmanli Dergahi here to express solidarity after the mass shooting in Christ Church, New Zealand.
“You coming here shows you care.” said Junaid Khan, a leader of the community. “Facebook, twitter, they don’t matter. Thank you for taking action and coming here. It means a lot to us.”
A gunman entered Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch during Friday Prayer on March 15 and shot almost 100 worshipers, killing 50, in the worst mass shooting in that nation’s history.
Recently, nearly 100 people crowded the Oneonta Town Hall to respond to a report by Otsego Now head, Jody Zakrevsky, about the controversial gas decompression station proposed for Oneonta.
The backlash was overwhelming. A long series of speakers unanimously condemned the project and demanded instead a full-scale effort to transition to renewables as soon as possible.
As the speakers pointed out, a myriad of solutions exist to the problem of inadequate natural-gas supply affecting some institutions and businesses in Oneonta. We heard about retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, replacing gas and oil furnaces with heat exchange systems, and developing local renewable energy sources, including solar and wind.
This isn’t pie in the sky. The Otsego County Conservation Association, for instance, is currently supporting a NYSERDA-funded program, Heat Smart Otsego, to promote the financial and environmental benefits of currently available non-fossil fuel technologies. Check it out.
The speakers also made clear the gravity of this issue.
We’re not just talking about inconvenience, higher costs, or limits to local economic development. We’re talking about a global crisis increasingly affecting us all.
The inability of our local community to do its part in getting us off fossil fuels is symptomatic of a larger political failure which is dangerous to our future. We have mostly relied on someone else to deal with this problem, usually in Albany or Washington.
They haven’t done the job, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to, at least not unless they’re prodded from below.
Yes, our community continues to be divided over energy policy. The editorial in last week’s edition of this paper characterized speakers at the town of Oneonta meeting as “anti-gas true believers.”
There were a couple of strident speakers, as with any large group, but nearly all were thoughtful people pointing out the very real and harmful consequences of using more gas.
Mike Zagata in last week’s paper also misinforms the public by talking about “clean-burning natural gas,” when in fact there’s no such thing. The combustion of natural gas unavoidably produces CO2, a polluting greenhouse gas. Zagata admits as much by worrying if plant growth will absorb the extra CO2.
Even worse, he ignores the seepage of methane from wells, pipes and compressors, which adds another, more potent greenhouse gas to the mix, making natural gas as bad as any other fossil fuel.
By contrast, Zakrevsky, to his credit, bemoaned his fate at the Town of Oneonta meeting, confessing to the crowd his own confusion and lack of expertise. He was hired to promote local economic development, he noted, not to make energy policy. He’s exactly right. He and Otsego Now are not qualified to make energy policy and should not be tasked with that burden.
What was painfully obvious at the meeting was the lack of coordination among capable parties interested in developing a local energy plan. Currently we have groups too often confined to their respective silos – elected officials, economic development people, the local business community, the colleges, the hospitals, the environmentalists, etc.
Each of them is working on their piece of the elephant. What’s lacking is an effective mechanism for combining their resources and talents to develop a plan for all of us.
In my last column I mentioned the Tompkins County Energy Roadmap (Google it!) as a precedent for what should happen here. That initiative began in 2010 as part of a Tompkins County Energy Strategy for 2020. It was first developed as a project by Cornell graduate students.
In 2014, a steering committee was formed composed of individuals “who represent the breadth of experience, interest and perspectives within the community regarding our energy future.” The draft Energy Roadmap was then presented to numerous community groups and has since become the focus of Tompkins county energy policy.
This Energy Roadmap doesn’t rely on hiring expensive outside consultants, who are often ignorant of local circumstances; nor does it narrow options by handing authority to a single, unprepared agency. Instead it utilizes the expertise already found in a variety of existing organizations and individuals.
We may not have Cornell University, but we have SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College. We have Otsego 2000, OCCA, Citizen Voices, chambers of commerce, the Land Trust, Farm Bureau and Sustainable Otsego, and others. We have individual engineers and scientists and retired executives who’ve worked for multi-national corporations. We have the talent.
Let me suggest, again, that the Otsego County Board of Representatives, in a bi-partisan spirit, is the logical authority to establish an Otsego Energy Task Force. A large, diverse umbrella group is far more likely to develop a comprehensive, viable energy strategy that gets it right, and to do justice to the needs of the community as a whole.
The point is to get key people in the same room and tackle the problem. It’s up to the County Board to make this happen. The time is NOW.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick philosophy professor and Sustainable Otsego moderator, lives in Fly Creek.
COMMUNITY PROGRAM – 5:30 p.m. Panel on “Downtown Renewal: Community Economic Revitalization” featuring panelists Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz, Sociology Chair Dr. Alex Thomas, President/CEO Otsego Co. Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ann Heegan, more. Presentation followed by audience Q&A. Free, open to the public. Otsego Grille, Morris Complex, SUNY Oneonta. Call 607-436-3498.
SENIOR PLAY – 7 – 9:30 p.m. CCS produciton of “Almost. Maine.” Auditorium, Cooperstown High School. Call 607-547-8181 or visit www.cooperstowncs.org
COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS – 8 a.m. Join discussion of the Oneonta Theater’s fate, in light of owner’s failure to sell building. Kathleen Gasperini, a theater expert with summer home in Schenevus, will be present. Greater Oneonta Historical Society, 183 Main St., Oneonta. Info, call 432-0960 or e-mail info@OneontaHistory.org or visit www.oneontahistory.org
IDENTITY DISCUSSION – 7 p.m. Learn about how mental health differs for people from different cultural and physical diasporas. Chesebro room, Hartwick College, Oneonta. Info, Joanne Georges email@example.com or call (203)518-1880 or visit calendar.hartwick.edu:8080/calendar/ViewCal.html
INSPIRATIONAL CABARET – 7:30-10 p.m. “Hope Spring Eternal” cabaret of hopeful and inspirational Broadway songs presented by Orpheus Theater. Admission, $15 and includes a dessert buffet. Oneonta Elks Club, 84 Chestnut St., Oneonta. Info, www.facebook.com/OrpheusTheatre/
MUSIC – 7:30 p.m. The Oneonta Concert Association presents The Todd Williams Quartet. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta. Info, oneontaconcertassociation.org
ART EXHIBIT OPENING – 5 p.m. Reception for opening of CANO members art exhibit. Includes music by Pamela West-Finkle. People’s choice awards announced @7 p.m. Exhibit continues thru March 19. Community Arts Network of Oneonta, Wilber Mansion, 11 Ford Ave., Oneonta. Info, www.canoneonta.org
MUSIC – 7:30 p.m. Join the Oneonta Concert Association for an evening of Indian Classical music with Roop Verma, Naren Budhaker, Arjun Verma, and Tracy Verma. SUNY Oneonta, 108 Ravine Pkwy., Oneonta. Info, oneontaconcertassociation.org
COMMUNITY SING-A-LONG – 7-9 p.m. An evening of spirituals and other songs of the Civil Rights Movement. Hosted by Intercultural affairs and the Music Department. Celebration Room, Hartwick College. Info, Lee Wright firstname.lastname@example.org
ROLLER DERBY PRACTICE – 6 p.m. Sports team practice. Anyone 18 and older of any skill level are welcome. Interskate 88, 5185 St. Hwy. 23, Oneonta. Info, www.facebook.com/hillcityrollers/
DISASTER UNIVERSITY – 4:30-8:30 p.m. The Red Cross holds a training course for disaster relief. House fires to hurricanes, learn how you can aid your community in times of their greatest need. Registration preferred, walk-ins welcome. Alumni Hall, SUNY Oneonta. Info, Taylor Fanelli at (315)733-4666 or email email@example.com.
CLUBHOUSE – 6-8 p.m. Baking night for teens 7-12th grade. Includes free food, give-aways, and, a judgement free zone where teens can relax with their friends. Unadilla Teen Center, 16 Watson St., Unadilla. Info, Blake Stensland @ firstname.lastname@example.org or Jon Ramirez @ email@example.com or call the Family Resource Network @ (607)432-0001
TINY HOME – 7 p.m. Rick and Christine Hulse present “Our Great Big Tiny Life – A Brief Testimonial” about creating a tiny home that has been featured on HGTV, at the Fly Creek Historical Society’s monthly meeting at Fly Creek United Methodist Church, 811 Co. Rte. 26, Fly Creek. Info, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (607)547-2555 ext. 250
FILM SERIES – 5:45 p.m. “Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of St. Brian Wilson.” Includes a vegetarian meal and childcare. No charge. RSVP requested. Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta, 12 Ford St., Oneonta. Info @ uuso.org, (607)432-3491.
READING – 7 p.m. Authors Michelle Burke and April Ford present reading readings and signings of their latest works. The Green Toad Book Store, 198 Main St., Oneonta. Info, greentoadbookstore.com
PICKLEBALL – Noon-2 p.m. Come learn the sport. Gymn floor, Clark Sports Center, 124 Cty. Hwy. 52, Cooperstown. Info, www.clarksportscenter.com
CONSERVATION MEETING – 12:30-3:30 p.m. Discussion of manure spreading strategies to reduce nutrient runoff. A must for farmers spreading or storing manure this winter. Otsego County Meadows Complex, 140 Ct. Hwy. 33W. RSVP by 1/12, (607)547-8337 ext. 4. or email email@example.com
AUDITIONS – 3-6:30 p.m. Catskill Choral Society opens auditions for new members and potential Dox Apprentices. Unitarian Universalist Church, 12 Ford Ave., Oneonta. Call 431-6060 to schedule and appointment.