News of Otsego County

Gary Herzig

Dietz Street preps for artists, families in 2022

Dietz Street preps for artists, families in 2022

Oneonta leaders continue to strategize logistics as the Lofts on Dietz Street take shape on the one-time municipal parking lot and city residents wonder what’s ahead.

“We’re looking at sometime during the summer and fall of this year when people can start moving in,” Onoenta Mayor Mark Drnek said during the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 “State of the State” virtual conference on January 11. “We’ll be talking about parking for the tenants and how they’ll get around. We expect it to be fully occupied as we move through the fall.”

Former Mayor Gary Herzig took Hometown Oneonta /The Freeman’s Journal on a tour of the construction site during his final days in office in 2021 and said applications for apartments at the Lofts should be available in early 2022.

Lofts developers, Kearney Realty Group, say the project features 64 apartments – 50 set aside as one-bedroom units “for those involved in artistic or literary activities,” the remaining 14 as two-bedroom apartments carrying income limits to ensure access to affordable housing.

Greetings, Friends (with apologies to The New Yorker)

Greetings, Friends (with apologies to The New Yorker)

Greetings, Friends! The time is nigh
To bid this Covid Year good-bye.
We’ve had enough, we’ve played our parts
Stayed home alone filling Amazon carts.
And cleaning our closets and working online
Making do with our WiFi that’s not always fine.

We’ve said goodbye to some friends, to some relatives too
Our families we’ve not seen, travel’s been so taboo.
Goodbye ’21, au revoir, off you go 
Adios and kwaheri, arrivederci, adjo. 
Go away ’21! But wait! Not before
TFJ has its way with some thank-yous galore.

ARPA funds will be used for outdoor activities in Oneonta

ARPA funds will be used for outdoor activities in Oneonta

The City of Oneonta plans to use the $1.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund outdoor activities in Oneonta.

Some of the projects include a paved millrace Neahwa Park trail, Neahwa Park permanent stage and amphitheater, Neahwa Park basketball court, playground improvements, electric infrastructure improvements, installation of public art, and Wilber Lake Trail Bridge replacement.

Common Council approves CAB plan and Witzenberg as police chief, discusses county board EMS issue

Common Council approves CAB plan
and Witzenberg as police chief,
discusses county board EMS issue

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

ONEONTA — The Common Council unanimously passed a motion to approve and adopt the Implementation Plan for Police Reform and Reinvention, which was worked on by the Community Advisory Board and the subsequent council led review committee, Tuesday, Oct.5.

Mayor Gary Herzig thanked the CABRC members who worked for six months on creating the plan to implement the CAB’s recommendations, which was a response to a directive given by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Herzig said he was impressed members of CABRC, which included mayoral candidates Len Carson, R-Fifth Ward, and Mark Drnek, D-Eighth Ward, voted unanimously on every single motion.

The motion paves the way for standing Community Police Review board, whose job will be to handle complaints about OPD.

Other business discussed included the recent County Board meeting that approved county-wide ambulance service. Council members were concerned Oneonta would pay double for a service they don’t use, as Oneonta already has its own ambulance service.

Pit Run draws thousands of spectators, runners
Runners begin the Pit Run at Main Street and Neahwa Place on Sunday, Oct. 3. (Kevin Limiti/

Pit Run draws
thousands of spectators, runners

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

ONEONTA — Rain had just started to drizzle in Neahwa Park, Sunday, Oct. 3, as the start of the annual Pit Run was set to begin.

But some of the runners said they were thankful for the rain as it cooled things down, making it easier for them.

There was a diverse group of runners who came from seven states other than New York, including California, Maine, New Hampshire and Virginia.

Brian Reis, 32, a Cooperstown native*, came in first place for the men’s 10K and called it a “dress rehearsal” for the Boston marathon, which he is set to run Monday, Oct. 11.

Women’s reproductive rights rally encourages community involvement
Rebecca Bonker holds up a ‘Trust Women’ sign at the women’s reproductive rights rally at Muller Plaza in Oneonta on Saturday, Oct. 2. (Kevin Limiti/

Women’s reproductive rights
rally encourages
community involvement

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

ONEONTA About 100 people gathered in Muller Plaza at a rally for women’s reproductive rights Saturday, Oct. 2.

The rally coincided with the Women’s March happening across the country as thousands marched in support of Roe v. Wade.

The event featured music and speakers as well as pizza and lemonade.

The looming issue throughout the rally was the harsh Texas anti-abortion laws barring abortions at six weeks and offering bounties to anyone who turns in a person who had an abortion or assisted with one.

Marti Swords-Horrell, a minister at the First United Methodist Church, said she has been a minister for 39 years and came out in support of reproductive health.

“We believe in social principles on every topic you could think of,” Swords-Horrell said on the stance of their church, stating that birth control and abortions “should be available to everyone no matter if you’re rich or poor.”

“It shouldn’t be dependent on anyone else,” Swords-Horrell said.

Fully vaccinated students at SUNY Oneonta at 88%

Fully vaccinated students
at SUNY Oneonta at 88%

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

ONEONTA ⁠— COVID numbers for SUNY Oneonta have steadily improved with more students getting the vaccine.

Danielle McMullen, chief of staff at SUNY Oneonta, reported to the Common Council on Tuesday, Sept. 21, that 94% of students had at least one dose of the vaccine while 88% are fully vaccinated.

McMullen said SUNY Oneonta was doing “really well, when compared to other SUNY schools,” and credited the “strong messaging campaign” with the rising numbers of vaccinated students.

“Students came back to campus really wanting that in-person, robust experience,” McMullen said. There was a “spike (in COVID cases) that we anticipated” McMullen said who spoke of the erroneous notion that the vaccine is a “silver bullet” but they took a look at “a lot of data points including students social activity” and were able to make determinations on how they could improve their response.

McMullen called it a “testament of our campus coming together” and “being honest with the local community.”

Common Council holds public hearing on CABRC report

Common Council holds
public hearing on police report

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

ONEONTA — The Common Council held a public hearing for the long anticipated vote on the Community Advisory Board Review Committee report Tuesday, Sept. 21, created in response to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive that police departments create a document of “best practices” by local law enforcement with input from the community.

Only two people spoke at the public hearing, both of whom were supportive of the council passing the report.

Daniel Driver said the report gave him “confidence in how hard the OPD works with few resources, but also cause for concern” and urged the council to consider more social services for those with mental health issues and addiction. He said that police officers were being put in a “untenable position where they have to arrest or interact with folks” who have some of those issues.

“There is a lot more to be done,” Driver said.

Steve Ludner offered “personal gratitude and thanks” for those who worked on CABRC and suggested the council “modify some of the wording” to make “clear that the Community Police Board will have options for community engagement.”

Sandra Herzig, 97 July 31, 1924 – August 26, 2021

In Memoriam

Sandra (Sandy) Herzig, 97

July 31, 1924 – August 26, 2021

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.

Mayoral candidate Len Carson faces backlash over vaccine billboard ads
Billboards in the town of Oneonta owned by DC Marketing featured anti-vaccination messages last week. (Contributed).

Mayoral candidate
Len Carson faces backlash
over vaccine billboard ads

By Kevin Limiti • Special to

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.

Len Carson

“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.”

Local officials praise New York’s next governor, Hochul
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks in Cooperstown during a 2020 tourism symposium. (Greg Klein/

Local officials
praise New York’s
next governor, Hochul

By Kevin Limiti • Special to

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.”

CDC and Otsego County Department of Health recommend everyone wear masks indoors, including the vaccinated

CDC and Otsego County Department of Health
recommend everyone wear masks indoors,
including the vaccinated

STAFF REPORT • Special to

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.


Mayor Gary Herzig sounds warning about COVID variant at Common Council

Mayor Gary Herzig
sounds warning about
COVID variant
at Common Council

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

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 Common Council has contentious vote on housing commission appointment, confirms new fire chief
New Fire Chief Brian Knapp shakes hands with Len Carson, right, with outgoing Fire Chief J. Michael Mancini, seated, attends the Common Council. (Kevin Limiti/

Oneonta Common Council
has contentious vote
on housing commission appointment,
confirms new fire chief

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

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 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.

AllOtsego people: Mattice excited about new city role
New Oneonta City Administrator Greg Mattice,
center, and Mayor Gary Herzig present Parks
Director Lou Lansing the ‘Employee of the Quarter’ award Tuesday, July 6, at City Hall. (Kevin Limiti/Allotsego)

AllOtsego people: Mattice excited about new city role

By KEVIN LIMITI• Special to

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
storm Stella.

Editor Greg Klein contributed to this report. 

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