News of Otsego County

Serving Otsego County, NY, through the combined reporting of Cooperstown's Freeman's Journal and the Hometown Oneonta newspapers.

MAyor Gary Herzig

Common Council Approves Dietz Street Lot Sale

Common Council Approves

Dietz Street Parking Lot Sale

Al Rubin, A&D Taxi, speaks in favor of the proposed Lots on Dietz. Common Council approved the conditional sale of a piece of the parking lot to The Kearney Realty & Development Group by a vote of 7-1 this evening. (Ian Austin/


ONEONTA – “Energizing.” “A Spark.” “New blood and vitality.”

That was how the audience at Common Council this evening described the proposed Lofts on Dietz, a multi-use project that would include artist’s housing and space for Hartwick College classrooms.

And when Common Council voted 7-1 to approve the sale of a portion of the city-owned lot to The Kearney Realty & Development Group, there was applause.

“This project checks a lot of boxes,” said Al Rubin, A&D Taxi. “We’ve had our failures in this city, but we need that spark. We have an opportunity and we need to seize it.”

Wise Guy Sammy’s Celebrates Grand Opening Of Expansion

Wise Guys Sammy’s Adding

Tavern To Sandwich Shop

Fans of Wise Guys Sammy’s rejoice! The popular eatery celebrated the official launch of their expansion this morning with a ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce at 261-267 Main St. in Oneonta. The expansion has tavern style seating and boasts a wide selection of craft beers and wines to pair with your Sammy’s sandwich. Seen above are Jasmine Martinez, owner Sheryl Joubert, Donna Joubert, Barbara Ann Heegan, Roberta Vesley, Mayor Gary Herzig, Sheena Linebrink, Kayla Joubert, Tiffany Bettinger, Kelly Miller, Taylor Pushkar, Brett Burgin, Fred Vesely, owner Mike Joubert, Robin Bush, Tom Miller and Jacob Joubert.  “This is a terrific Oneonta success story,” said Mayor Herzig, “It is a success built on hard work and quality food.” Mike Joubert, who owns the business with his wife, Sheryl, added, “This all started as a dream. But we continue to grow on a daily basis. This is our hometown, we are happy to be here and we love it!” Wise Guys Sammy’s also expanded to include their ice cream parlor Wise Guys’ Scoops, located across the street at 254 Main St. and run by Mike’s sister Megan Joubert.(Ian Austin/

Five Appointed To City’s Microenterprise Grant Committee

Five Appointed To City’s

Microenterprise Committee

By JENNIFER HILL •Special to

ONEONTA – They all run different businesses in downtown Oneonta, but Theresa Cyzeski,  Elizabeth Raphaelson, Vicki Reiss, Sonia Shultis and Madeline Silber all have two things in common.

Each were recipients of a Microenterprise grant from the state, and all were named to the committee tasked with evaluating applications for the 2019 awards during Common Council this evening.

“My feeling was, who knows better what it takes to be successful in starting a new business?” said Mayor Gary Herzig.

With 4 Slogans, ‘We’re Onta Something’ Campaign Nears Launch

With 4 Distinct Slogans,

‘We’re Onta Something’

Campaign Nears Launch

During the Mayor’s Report, Gary Herzig gave an update on the downtown revitalization grant progress including applications and the upcoming ‘We’re ONTA Something” ad campaign. “We want to make people curious about coming to Oneonta, and not just visiting, maybe to stay.” (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO,com)

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – Oneonta is “onta” adventure. And art. And something delicious and something unique.

“The campaign will let people know that Oneonta exists and what it has to offer,” said Mayor Gary Herzig.

During Common Council this evening, Herzig announced a statewide online marketing campaign Trampoline Ad & Design, the who created the city’s new campaign, “We’re Onta Something,” will launch statewide “soon.”

Herzig explained Trampoline’s marketing campaign will be on social media, with some of it “just on websites,” and show four categories in which Oneonta is “onta something” – artistic, unique, adventurous and delicious.

Woodstock Festgoers Model Citizens Today


Woodstock Festgoers

Model Citizens Today

Stuck In Traffic, Mayor Herzig Didn’t Make It

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Cooperstown Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh and wife Meg recently revisited a scene from their salad days: the site of Woodstock.

Woodstock, baby.

“Meg called me one day and asked if I wanted to go to this concert,” said Cooperstown Village Attorney Martin Tillapaugh.

That concert? The famous Woodstock festival, held Aug. 15-18, 1969, on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel Woods, 50 years ago this week.

“Woodstock was one of the most important cultural and music moments in history,” said Greg Harris, president of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. “It was the pivotal time when young people were questioning their place in the world, and they came together with others feeling the same way in this massive gathering.”

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s “Woodstock at 50” exhibit opened earlier this summer, featuring never-before-seen color film footage, photos and artifacts from the “Summer of Love.”

Art Abounds At City of the Hills Festival

Art, Culture Abound At

City of the Hills Festival

Sporting his “We’re Onta Something” shirt, Mayor Gary Herzig and First Lady Connie did some shopping at the City of the Hills Arts Festival, held this afternoon on Main Street in Oneonta. Warm weather and bright sunshine brought plenty of people downtown to visit the more than two dozen artisans and vendors who lined the streets for the annual festival, which also included music, readings and demonstrations, including Brenda Brooks of Studio BB in Goodyear Lake, right, who was busy painting a landscape next to her booth. “I had a lot on my walls, so I thought I’d sell some to buy more canvases!” she said.




Springbrook Cuts Ribbon On New Oneonta Clinic

Springbrook Cuts Ribbon

On New Oneonta Clinic

Springbrook CEO Patricia Kennedy gets help from one of the organization’s residents, Ken Goodrich in cutting the ribbon, officially opening Springbrook’s new clinic at 438 Main St., Oneonta. State Senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, told the 100-member audience before the ribbon-cutting that Ms. Kennedy convinced Gov. Andrew Cuomo to open a seventh Care Coordination Organization (CCO), an arm of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities that partner with providers of services for individuals with developmental disabilities to help them receive Medicaid support and other efforts. From left to right: Frank Panzerella, COO, Bassett Medical Group, Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, Mayor Gary Herzig, Sen. James Seward, Kennedy, Goodrich, Springbrook COO Seth Haight, Springbrook residents Bryan Holt, Steve Nechis, and Brian Weeks, and Clinical Officer Kathy Ramiza. In back are Derek Jackson and Southern Tier Connect’s Executive Director, Meghann Andrews. (Jennifer Hill/


One Entry To Neahwa? Try It.  Like It? E-mail


One Entry To Neahwa?

Try It.  Like It? E-mail

City Hall has closed off Neahwa Park’s Market Street entrance to traffic this week, to see of city folks are satisfied with a single entrance at River and Main. (Ian Austin/

ONEONTA –  Try it.  See how you like it.

The Market Street entrance to Neahwa Park has been closed for a week, beginning yesterday, a test to see if one vehicular entrance – at Main and River – is sufficient for park users.

“The intent of this temporary, experimental road closure is to observe its effects on traffic entering, exiting, and within Neahwa Park,” City Hall announced in a press release.

Herzig To Salka: Help Upstate Cities


Herzig To Salka:

Help Upstate Cities

Assemblyman John Salka, R-121, fields a questions from the audience as part of a Town Hall held tonight in Council Chambers. (Jennifer Hill/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – Ask and you may receive.

“Cities like mine have maintained taxes at the state-mandated cap of two percent – even at zero percent, but  state aid to municipalities have not increased in 10 years,” said Mayor Gary Herzig during a Town Hall with Oneonta’s Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, in Council chambers this evening. “Why won’t the legislature not step up to and provide aid to cities who are fighting to renew their infrastructure, economic development, maintain services, attract new people and prevent people from leaving?”

Salka began his answer suggesting the lack of state aid increases to cities was because the legislature was controlled by “downstate interests,” legislators did not understand what Upstate New York needed, and the governor thought “there were too many towns and cities” and “wanted things big.”

In Oneonta, 66 Apartments, 4 Stories

In Oneonta, 66 Apartments,

4 Stories To Rise On Dietz


The Lofts On Deitz – 40 artist studios and 26 middle-income apartments – will be on Tuesday’s Common Council agenda. The developers, a father=-son team from the Hudson Valley, will brief Council members July 16.

ONEONTA  – By next summer, Oneonta could see the first major fruits of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative as a 64-unit, four-story Artspace-like complex breaks ground on Dietz Street.

“I’m very excited about this,” Mayor Gary Herzig said of what’s being called the Lofts On Dietz.  “If all goes as planned, it could start transforming downtown Oneonta.”

Meeting Tuesday, July 2, Common Council voted to make Parkview Development & Construction, Inc. the “preferred developer” of the mixed-used building – 44 artists’ lofts and 24 middle-income apartments – to be built on part of the Dietz Parking Lot.

The developer, a father and son team from the Hudson Valley, Ken and Sean Kearney, will go into more detail at Council’s July 16.  The next day, they will go before the Planning Commission.

If the Dietz Street project is ultimately approved and implemented, it would become the first development to use Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) funds, which Herzig said would “partially” pay for it.

The city’s Comprehensive Master Plan envisions downtown as an arts’ hub and sees a need for more housing.  The Dietz Street project, Herzig said, “checks all the boxes.”

Herzig said he began talking with the Kearneys a year ago when he learned of their development projects they had done in Poughkeepsie and Peekskill.

“Both projects are thriving [and] became fully occupied as soon as they opened,” he added.  Both have had an immediate impact on the surrounding downtown neighborhood – more people on the street, more businesses opening.”

Last September, the mayor sent a ten-person delegation of Oneonta developers, Council members, and business owners to tour the Kearneys’ $28 million development, Lofts on Main, in Peekskill and came back raving about it.

“We looked at three apartments there,” said Bob Brzozowski, a member of the group.  “They had 14-16-foot ceilings, with one all-glass wall looking over Main Street.  It was a breathtaking view.”

Brzozowski said they also looked at one building’s commercial space, with some of it designated for an art gallery specially for exhibiting the works of the artists renting the apartments.

Herzig said the Dietz Street building will likely be a mixed use building as well, with commercial space on the first floor “to bring downtown development to retail.”  One possible occupant of the commercial space would be “academic programming” from either SUNY or Hartwick or both to occupy some of the space.

“We’re in conversations about it,” said Herzig.  “The city has wanted the colleges to have a downtown presence for years and years.”  He said would connect the colleges more closely to the city.

Oneonta residents will have a clearer idea in two weeks of what the Kearneys have in mind.  They are scheduled to brief Common Council July 16 on their plans and will appear before the Planning Commission to begin site plan review the next day

Herzig cautioned that the Common Council’s vote, which authorizes the mayor to enter a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the developer is “a preliminary step.”

“There are still many steps ahead of us,” Mayor Gary Herzig said.  “But the MOU starts the process.”

Plus, the Minneapolis-based Artspace national non-profit did a feasibility study and found its concept would work here.  However, City Hall decided to seek a private developer, which means the building will be on the tax rolls.

The project, to be located across Dietz from the Lizard Lick, will use 50 existing parking space.  The developer will also have the opportunity to lease spaces in the downtown parking deck, which would free up further spaces in the Dietz lot.

This had some residents concerned. “When there’s snow and the city calls for people to not be on the street, where will they park?” asked Stanley Mariece.

But Herzig said that on multiple tours of the lot, he has rarely seen it full, counting only 80 cars on the single busiest day.

“This development will bring in so many benefits,” said Council member Melissa Nicosia. “We just keep hearing people complain that there’s no housing, then they complain about parking.”

Sal’s Pizzeria Owner Receives Key To The City

Sal’s Pizzeria Owner

Receives Key To The City

Mayor Gary Herzig presents Sal’s Pizzeria owner Jennifer Grigoli with the key to the city as she receives a standing ovation following the presentation of “A Slice Of Hope” documentary during Common Council this evening. (Ian Austin/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – There wasn’t a dry eye in Common Council chambers this evening.

Mayor Gary Herzig screened Jessica Vecchione’s award-winning short documentary, “A Slice of Hope,” which tells the story of Jennifer Grigoli, owner of Sal’s Pizzeria, and her efforts to employ people in recovery at her restaurant.

“Jennifer set an example to other businesses in Oneonta and made Oneonta an example for other cities,” Herzig said before presenting Grigoli with the Key to the City.

Activists Lambaste Common Council Over Railyard Vote


From Across County, 

Activists Blast City Hall

Over Vote On D&H Yards

Mike Stolzer, West Oneonta, this evening voiced his displeasure at Oneonta Common Council’s vote to accept the GEIS (generic environmental impact statement) on the D&H railyards.  “I am disappointed that input appears to have been ignored and that people didn’t have the ability to speak before the vote,” he said. “There are people who have been following this project for three years and they don’t trust it. A different approach (to this review) is absolutely necessary.” The vote passed 7-1, with Council member Dana Levinson, Fifth Ward, voting no. Mayor Gary Herzig’ said the GEIS is preliminary: Future developers of the D&H yards will not be able to build on the site without further environmental review. (Ian Austin/
Common Council Adopts New Comprehensive Plan


Comp Plan Focuses On

‘Zombies,’ City Arts Scene

Bob Brzozowski, GOHS executive director and a member of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, read from their final report as Common Council voted to adopt the updated Comprehensive Plan. (Ian Austin/

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – An office to market the city as a destination for arts and culture, the reuse of “zombie properties” and continuing the Downtown Revitalization Initiative were all recommended as part of Oneonta’s updated Comprehensive Plan, adopted unanimously by Common Council during their meeting this evening.

“You’ve given us a road map that will use over the years,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “It’s given us a clear vision…an action plan and some real goals.”

The city formed steering committee in 2017 to update its Comprehensive Plan, implemented in 2007, because “Oneonta was at the tipping point,” Herzig said, “where we found ourselves with new opportunities and resources to reinvent Oneonta and thrive in today’s economy.”

Mayor Herzig: ‘Not Surprised’ RSS Project Not Funded

Herzig ‘Not Surprised’

RSS Project Not Funded

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to  

Mayor Herzig

ONEONTA  – Mayor Gary Herzig today said he’s not surprised the state rejected Rehabilitation Support Services’ application for low-income housing funds for an affordable housing development project in the Sixth Ward.

“Oneonta does need affordable funding,” he said, “but, unfortunately, the way RSS went about it was not the right way.”

RSS’ plan sparked controversy last October when Sixth Ward residents and business owners abruptly learned the organization had developed a site plan to build 64 affordable units, with 14 for people in recovery from substance addiction.

Job Corps Honors Fallen Hero Heller

Job Corps Honors

Fallen Hero Heller

Chris Kuhn, Director of the Oneonta Job Corps Academy, addresses family, friends and firefighters gathered in ‘the octagon,’ a hallway interchange on the third floor of Oneonta Job Corps named in honor of the late John D. Heller, who lost his life in December rescuing his fiancee and their nephews from the Walling Street arson. “We love him and we miss him.” said Kuhn. “It is our hope that when people walk through this space they will see his story and be inspired.” Members of the Oneonta Fire Department were present, as well as Mayor Gary Herzig, who remarked “This intersection was always full of life, it is only fitting it should be named after him.” At right, Heller’s fianceé Amber Roe speaks beneath his photo. “This is where we met. We spent a lot of time here talking and it was here fell in love.” Photos and stories of Heller’s life and sacrifice, along with his helmet signed by loved ones, are now on display in the John D. Heller Memorial. (Ian Austin/

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