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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
By JENNIFER HILL & JIM KEVLIN • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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/AllOTSEGO.com)
There’s a lot going on in the City of Oneonta right now, as City Hall’s DRI (the Downtown Revitalization Initiative) begins distributing $10 million in state money, leveraging it in a way that attracts many millions more in private investment.
Certainly, there are time pressures. There are conflicting agendas. There’s not ever going to be enough money to make everybody happy. Lately, environmentalists are ready to swoop down on any development that may require more energy, (which is every project).
So from time to time, it may be hard to remember this is the fun part.
ONEONTA – City Hall revoked OH-Fest’s Neahwa Park permit this morning after Mayor Gary Herzig learned on www.AllOTSEGO.com overnight that large numbers of students might protest concert headliner Sean Kingston after learning last week he and his bodyguard were accused of a gang rape in 2010.
The city’s decision throws into doubt whether the Saturday night OH-fest concert will happen at all.
Herzig said he called SUNY President Barbara Jean Morris after SUNY students’ emotionally charged meeting last night, where they discussed whether Kingston should perform.
ONEONTA –The city is moving toward establishing a Bike Share and Microbility Program, with Mayor Gary Herzig asserting, “A bike share is a good thing.”
“But there are many different models of bike shares,” Herzig said in the Council’s Legislative Committee meeting this evening, “And we want to make sure that we control what model we put in here, how it operates, and that it’s what’s best for the community.”