ONEONTA – Sandra (Sandy) Herzig passed away peacefully, at the age of 97, on August 26, 2021 in Essex, Vermont. Born on July 31, 1924 in New York City, Sandy grew up living with her parents Theodore and Gracia Levy and her siblings Jean, Victor and Murray in the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Both Theodore and Gracia had emigrated to this country as teenagers from the land now known as North Macedonia. As Sephardic Jews, whose ancestors had fled the Spanish Inquisition, Sandy grew up in a family whose primary language was Ladino – a dialect of Spanish influenced by a Turkish environment. Proud of her Sephardic heritage, Sandy loved to cook traditional meals including such favorites as borekas (spinach and feta in phyllo dough), baklava and many more.
ONEONTA — Len Carson, the Fifth Ward Common Council member and Republican mayoral candidate, received some heat at the council’s meeting Tuesday, Aug. 17, for approving billboard ads through his company, DC Marketing, that presented false information about coronavirus vaccines.
Jennifer Hill spoke at the meeting at City Hall, saying the ads were dangerous and strongly condemning Carson for his role in putting up the ads.
“It’s unconscionable that a member of the council and one who wants to lead the city to spread false information,” Hill said. “Mr. Carson did not come across as someone who would want to do that. I don’t know what changed.”
Kathy Hochul, New York’s governor-in-waiting, has made a favorable impression on Otsego County officials the past few years.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said Hochul had visited Oneonta at least a half a dozen times.
“She has been very supportive of Oneonta’s effort to revitalize and restore our economy,” Herzig said. “I think she’s a true friend of Oneonta. I hope to get her to visit Oneonta in the near future.”
Common Councilmember Len Carson, a Republican who is running for mayor this year, also had positive things to say about Hochul, who is a Democrat.
“I’m looking forward to seeing someone representing New York state that’s from Upstate. It would be nice to see the type of leadership she’s going to bring,” Carson said. “I’m very hopeful that Upstate New York will finally have a friendly ear to our concerns, rather than NYC being the one that gets the attention.”
The Otsego County Department of Health released a press release on Wednesday, Aug. 4, that said Otsego County was considered by the CDC to be at a “substantial level of community transmission”, and that they now recommend mask wearing indoors, even for those who have already been vaccinated.
Otsego County is currently at 50.5% vaccinated for adults, which is well below the state and country average of around 70%.
This comes on the heels of Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig warning about the dangers of the delta variant and other future variants.
The Clark Sports Center is now requiring mask wearing indoors for all in response to the CDC recommendations as is the Cooperstown Farmer’s Market.
The Otsego County Department of Health will be holding an additional pop up clinic at the Otsego County fair from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug.4 at the EMS building.
ONEONTA — The Common Council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 3, began with a message from Mayor Gary Herzig regarding the recent updates regarding the delta variant of the coronavirus.
“We’re all concerned about the variant,” Herzig said. “The numbers aren’t alarming but they are going in the wrong direction.”
Herzig likened it to a race between the virus and vaccinations. “Unfortunately, what we didn’t see coming is the large number of people who didn’t want to get the vaccinations.”
Otsego County has a 57% vaccination rate, Herzig said, which is lower than both the state and national average of 70%.
As of Tuesday, there were three reported new cases in Otsego County, bringing the total cases up to 31, according to the Otsego County Department of Health, making it a 2.6% seven day positivity average.
“If it continues this way, it’s not just the delta variant, we give the virus time to create new variants which could be even worse,” Herzig said. “In the meantime, if you’re not vaccinated, wear a mask and if you are vaccinated, feel free to use a mask as a safety precaution.”
ONEONTA — In a two and a half hour meeting, the issue of housing was forefront as the Common Council struggled to come to agree on the choice of an out-of-city resident as part of the housing commission on Tuesday, July 20.
This appointment was narrowly approved, 4-3, with Kaytee Lipari Shue, Len Carson and Scott Harrington being the dissenting votes.
The motion to appoint Audrey Benkenstein, with the addition of Oneonta resident Peter Friedman, was brought up for a second time after being voted down during the last common council meeting, something that Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig told AllOtsego.com last week was “mystifying,” since Lipari Shue had pushed for a non-city resident to be on the Arts Commission.
The main point of contention was that Benkenstein was not a Oneonta resident. However Herzig pointed out her appointment was voted down “only minutes after approving a Cherry Valley artist” for the Arts Commission.
Herzig said the Arts Commission held real power whereas the Housing Commission was an advisory position, and therefore those appointed to the Housing Commission were not considered officials with any kind capacity to approve anything.
ONEONTA — Oneonta native Greg Mattice has begun his new role as Oneonta’s city administrator.
Mattice began his new position July 1, leaving his job as city engineer.
Mattice, who said he enjoys playing basketball and spending time with his family, earned a degree in engineering from Syracuse University in 2009.
“We’re a small city,” Mattice said. “I do a lot of technical work.”
Mattice said that his main priority is going to be increasing communication throughout the various departments.
“The first step is to make sure everyone is on the same page.”
The city administrator’s job will to be to oversee the various operations and coordinate between different departments in the city. The common council voted last year to amend the position following several unsuccessful attempts at fielding a city manager.
The administrator position will have less autonomy than the city manager and will report to the council.
George Korthauer resigned as city manager in January 2020. City officials have said they had not had a good track record with managers and wanted to reform the position.
Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig said Mattice’s “knowledge and knowing people in the city” made him a great candidate. “He has a good vision for where the city needs to go in the years ahead. “It was unanimously felt that he was the person who met the city’s needs at the time,” Herzig said.
Mattice had been the city engineer since 2015.
He said he was comfortable filling this role because he has “built good relationships with a lot of the department heads.”
“We work pretty closely with everyone,” Mattice said.
He said that he didn’t think he would be doing this sort of a job initially.
“I certainly didn’t get out of college thinking I’d be a city administrator or a city engineer for that matter,” Mattice said. “I think it’s just interesting and it keeps me on my toes. There’s something new every day.”
Mattice was a member of the Otsego County’s Energy Task Force and in 2017, Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig gave him the key to the city in appreciation of his efforts in keeping the city safe during winter
ONEONTA — A committee including mayoral candidates Mark Drnek and Len Carson approved final changes to the Community Advisory Board police review document, which will sent back to the original CAB members followed by a public hearing.
The process should take about a month to complete, according to city officials.
The Community Advisory Board met Tuesday, July 13, at City Hall to follow up on the document, which was prepared in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order for police departments to recommend “best practices” that align with community values. That order and a review Herzig had ordered before Cuomo’s order, were in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020. A Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of Floyd’s murder in April.
ONEONTA — The Common Council met in person Tuesday, July 6, with an atmosphere of visible joviality and relief after spending a year meeting via Zoom.
“This is something we haven’t done in a long time,” Mayor Gary Herzig said, which elicited some appreciative chuckles.
Some of the agenda items passed included motions authorizing the acceptance of a state grant for the development of Hartwick College’s Grain Innovation Center, which would be located at the future Lofts on Dietz Street, as well as motions that appointed candidates to the recently formed Public Arts Commission and the Housing Commission.
Start your Independence Day celebrations with the Hometown Heroes kick-off concert dedicated to the essential workers who have given so much during the pandemic. The concert will feature the Michael Christopher country band performing their greatest hits. Free admission. Presented by Hometown 4th at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 2, at Neahwa Park in Oneonta. Visit facebook.com/FNOneonta/ for information.
ONEONTA—The Kings Kakery on Main Street in Oneonta had a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, June 25 in which the community came out in support of the business.
Around 30 people which included community leaders such as Mayor Gary Herzig, councilman Mark Drnek, representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, SUNY Oneonta acting President Dennis Craig and others gathered outside the business.
Kings Kakery makes pastries as well as Caribbean food such as jerk chicken and oxtail, which owner Allison King said is “different from what’s around here.”
“It’s great to know we have such great support from such a great community,” King said. King is originally from Guyana but was living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn before moving to Oneonta.
“You’ve really must have done something right because look at the turnout,” Herzig said. “It’s this type of a business that makes the community feel at home.”
One of King’s son is an alumni of SUNY Oneonta, which Craig said was “another example of Oneonta families and alumni making us proud.”
Kings Kakery was originally operated out of King’s home before becoming a brick and mortar business.
In addition to the opening, Kings Kakery also hosted raffles with proceeds going to the Otsego Pride Alliance.
ONEONTA — The Hometown 4th Festival will return to Oneonta’s Neahwa Park to celebrate the July Fourth holiday next weekend, with a theme of honoring essential workers.
The goal is to honor the workers, including grocery store staff, teachers, police officers, firefighters and healthcare workers, who took risks for the community good during the coronavirus pandemic, according to festival officials.
“We wanted to do everything we could to let them know that the First Night Board and the whole community appreciates them,” First Night Board Chair Carol Mandigo said.
The celebration will kick off at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 2, in Neahwa Park, with a free concert by country artist Michael Christopher.
At noon, Sunday, July 4, the parade will line up at Foothills Performing Arts Center on Market Street.
ONEONTA – Despite the occasional rain and cold weather, hundreds came out for the Memorial Day parade and a wreath laying ceremony Monday, May 31, in Neahwa Park to honor the country’s veterans who died in service.
Participants in the parade included the Oneonta Fire Department, the Oneonta PD, the American Legion, the Rotary Club, the Boy Scouts and the VFW.
Fred Hicken, a WWII veteran, was the grand marshal of the parade.
The parade started on Market Street, adjacent to the Foothills Performing Art Center. It proceeded on Main Street and ended at the veteran’s memorial plaques in the park.
Mayor Gary Herzig gave a personal thank you to the veterans present at Neahwa Park.
“I had family members who lost their lives in the concentration camps,” Herzig said.
Herzig said that Memorial Day was important to “take the time to remember those who fought and particularly those who didn’t come home,” Herzig said. “Their sacrifice and their families’ sacrifice was also our entire communities’ sacrifice … We can only dream of what we could’ve been if we hadn’t lost those who didn’t come home. It’s a true loss not only for them and their families but all of us.”
During the ceremony at Neahwa Park, there was a short invocation to begin the ceremony that said a prayer for stopping the rain and allowing them to honor veterans. The Gettysburg Address was read, along with Gen. John Logan’s orders, which first designated Memorial Day as a time of honoring veterans.
Scouts BSA of Oneonta placed about 3,600 flags across the community.
The ceremony ended with a 21 gun salute and the bagpipes of Michael Woytach, an Iraq War veteran who is part of the VFW in Oneonta.
“It’s just to pay my homage for those who can’t be here with us today,” Woytach said.
Herzig summed up the day with his closing remarks.
“It’s a sad day and also a proud day,” Herzig said.