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

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/

Downtown Revival IS Exciting; Let’s ACT Excited


Downtown Revival IS Exciting;

Let’s ACT Excited About Plans

The March 8 announcement of $2 million in downtown grants took a backseat to protests about D&H-yard redevelopment. Attendees, like Environmental Board chair Mark Davies, picked up the list on
the way out the door.

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.

Herzig Revokes OH-Fest Permit For Park Concert

Herzig Revokes

OH-Fest Permit

For Park Concert

If Protest Breaks Out, OPD Lacks

Resources To Control It, He Says

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

Rapper Sean Kingston’s UCONN concert was cancelled last week after a rape charge surfaced from 2010.

ONEONTA – City Hall revoked OH-Fest’s Neahwa Park permit this morning after Mayor Gary Herzig learned on 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 Considers Bike-Share Program

Oneonta Considers

Bike-Share Program

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

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.”

Downtown Improvement Awards Will Be Announced Tuesday March 5

Downtown Improvement Awards

To Be Announced Tuesday March 5

ONEONTA – Mayor Gary Herzig will announce the recipients of the $2.3 million in Downtown Improvement Funding as part of his State of the City address at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5.

“The grant applications from our business owners far exceeded all expectations,” said Herzig. “That so many demonstrated a willingness to invest their time, energy, and resources into building a better downtown is very exciting. The award announcements, along with the State of the City address will now mark the transition from Downtown Revitalization planning to implementation.”

Oneonta’s Housing Problem Sparks Debate in Council Committee Meeting

Is Additional Affordable

Housing Needed In City?

Council Committee Asks

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

Melissa Nicosia, left, who chairs Common Council’s Community Development Committee, and Council member Michelle Frazier question an OFO proposal for affordable housing. ( photo)

ONEONTA –  A $10,000 Opportunities for Otsego proposal to determine the need for low- and moderate-income housing in the city and how to fill it met skepticism from a Common Council committee last night.

Still, the Community Development Committee forwarded the proposal for discussion by the full Common Council, which next meets at 7 p.m. this coming Tuesday.

OFO Housing Director Audrey Benkenstein said her organization is seeking $5,000 from the city to match the $5,000 OFO would provide.  The idea is to underwrite “a process done by a facilitator” who would examine housing information and analysis done an Otsego County housing study just on Oneonta.

Oneonta Needs to Prepare for State’s Legalization of Marijuana, Mayor Says

Oneonta Must Prepare

For State’s Marijuana

Legalization, Mayor Says

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

Mayor Gary Herzig said Oneonta should start preparing legalization of marijuana. (Jennifer Hill/

ONEONTA – The legalization of marijuana is coming soon to the state and Oneonta should begin preparing for it. Similarly to the montana marijuana laws, then once the use of medical marijuana becomes legal in Oneonta, then there will also be rules to follow, in order to comply with the industry and the law.

That was Mayor Gary Herzig’s big news from the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) in Albany, specifically in the meeting of the Community Development Committee of Mayors. which Herzig co-chairs.

“This is something that is coming,” the mayor told Common Council’s Community Development Committee at its meeting this evening. “It…could impact our future and we should start thinking about it, positively or negatively. I don’t have judgement on it either way.” Soon, anyone who is a user of medical marijuana will be able to look into something like speed greens online, if they do not have time to visit a dispensary. But until then, everyone who live in Oneonta will have to wait until this becomes legalised. This may have been a long time coming.

Potential Buyers Express Interest In Oneonta Hotel

With Tenants Out,

Exit Realty Listing

Hotel For $1.85M

One Tenant Remains, But City

Working To Locate New Home

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

One of 27 photos of former Oneonta Hotel on the Exit Realty web site.

ONEONTA – Within days of the listing, potential investors have already expressed interest in looking at the former Oneonta Hotel, according to realtor Adam Karns.

“We had a camp out towards Stamford that expressed interest, and I know another agent had someone interested,” he said. “But we haven’t taken anyone through yet.”

Following Judge John Lambert’s decision to uphold the City’s Order to Vacate on Tuesday, Feb. 5, owner Melania Pervu put the property up for sale with Exit Realty for $1.85 million.

“I believe that’s what it was appraised at a year ago,” said Karns.



City Perfect For Artspace, Feasibility Study Reports


Feasibility Report:

Oneonta Is Perfect

For Artspace Project

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Artspace today released a positive preliminary report on a site in Oneonta.

ONEONTA – Artspace believes that Oneonta would be an ideal location for a mixed-use, live/work spaces for artists, according to a report from the Minneapolis-based non-profit released today.


“The report speaks clearly,” said Mayor Gary Herzig. “They found a lot of support and a real sense of need for this kind of construction.”

Collaborative workspace/maker space was the most-needed usage, the study found.

“Currently, participants primarily use their homes, garages, and basements for their creative work,” the report read.  “A collaborative space in Oneonta would help artists transition from students to working artists, encourage collaboration, and provide an attainable entry point for individuals exploring a new medium.”



Leads Poured In, Leading To Arrest Of Oneonta Man, 34


Leads Poured In,

Leading To Arrest

Of Oneonta Man, 34

Police, Fire Chiefs Detail What’s Known

Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon, left, and Police Chief Doug Brenner detail what they know at a 5 p.m. press conference in Oneonta City Hall. For a video of the press conference, click here.

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Terrence Truitt

ONEONTA – Within hours of Saturday morning’s fire that claimed the life of former Oneonta firefighter John D. Heller, the leads began to pour in.

“We had more than 70 leads,” said Police Chief Doug Brenner an hour ago at a press conference held jointly with Fire Chief Pat Pidgeon. “And the investigation is continuing.”

The men reported Terrence Truitt, 34, Oneonta, was arrested and charged with first-degree arson, which investigators believe started on the second floor of 5 Walling Ave.

Heller and his fiancee, Amber Roe, lived on the top floor, and had their four nephews staying with them that night. Heller and Roe helped the children escape, but then was unable to get out of the building.



Main Street, Lettis Highway Vision for Oneonta in 2019


This Year, Oneonta

Will Bloom With DRI

Money, Mayor Says

Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig, center, touted plans for a forthcoming re-design of Main Street as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, with work slated to begin this spring. With him on the panel, from right, are Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh and state Senator Jim Seward, R-Milford, speaking at the annual State of the State Breakfast, hosted by the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

Senator Seward said, when downstate gets something, Upstate must as well.

ONEONTA – This will be the year, Mayor Gary Herzig said, that the City of Oneonta begins to see the results of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grants

“In 60 days, we’ll unveil the redesign of our downtown,” he said. “And this redesign is not by City Hall, but by 80 downtown business owners who have submitted proposals for $2.5 million in funding for improvements. This is a downtown made possibly by the energy of our local businesses.”

Herzig, alongside Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch and state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, spoke at the annual State of the State breakfast, hosted by the Otsego County Chamber this morning at SUNY Oneonta’s Morris Hall.

City Hall, Oneonta Firefighters Spar Over Staffing EXCLUSIVE

City Hall, OFD Union

Spar Over Staff Levels

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

The Oneonta Public Safety Building at Main and South Market houses the fire department, as well as police and courts.

ONEONTA – Negotiations between City Hall and the Oneonta Professional Firefighters have spilled out into the open.

The Oneonta Professional Firefighters accused Mayor Gary Herzig of “mischaracterizing” OPF’s “advocacy for maintaining adequate staffing” of the Oneonta Fire Department in a Dec. 17 press release.

OPF President Andrew Turner reiterated the Fire Department’s continuing need for “six trained firefighters…on duty 24/7” in order to keep Oneonta safe.  “This is not an increase in staffing,” he emphasized.

Lt. Governor Hochul In City To Tour Corning

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul

In City To Tour Corning

Aimee Swan, right, chats with Lt Gov. Kathy Hochul, left, during lunch at the Autumn Café earlier this morning. With her are Michelle Catan, left, and Wayne Carrington, owner of the Autumn Cafe and the B-Side Ballroom. Nick Savin, ONC BOCES superintendent, and Mayor Gary Herzig also attended. (Gary Herzig, contributed photo)
Hochul stopped by the Green Toad Bookstore, where she picked up Christmas presents.

ONEONTA – Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul visited Oneonta today to see the Corning plant and tour Main Street, Mayor Gary Herzig reports.

“She was very impressed with Corning’s jobs and the training they give their employees to help them move up in their careers,” said Herzig. “She also spoke with them about the upgrades to the plant.”

Berger, Tiemann named employees of the quarter

Berger, Tiemann Named

Employees Of Quarter

Mayor Gary Herzig stands with Police Sgt. Eric Berger, left, and Police Detective Joseph Tiemann, right, who were awarded the City’s Employees of the Quarter award this evening at Common Council. The pair were recognized thanks to a letter from Dan Maskin, CEO of Opportunities for Otsego, who commended them on their work with his staff during a recent active shooter drill at their facility. “They did an outstanding job working with and training my staff for the unimaginable,” said Maskin. (Ian Austin/
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