News of Otsego County

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


Sixth Ward

Funding Denied, But RSS Says It Will Press Ahead On Riverside Apartments

Funding Denied, But RSS

Says It Will Press Ahead

On Riverside Apartments

Altamont Developer Will Reapply,

Despite Neighborhood Opposition

This is an aerial view of Riverside Apartments. For more details of the plan, click here

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

ONEONTA – RSS didn’t get the state funding for its controversial Riverside Apartments, but that doesn’t mean it’s giving up.

The state Office of Homes & Community Renewal didn’t approve the 64-unit complex for low-income housing, but Altamont-based Rehabilitation Support Services still plans to move forward, said Ed Butz, RSS managing director.

“There are many more applications than there is funding available,” he said. “It’s not un-typical. We plan to meet with HCR and get more advisement, then submit for the next round.”

In the meantime, residents of the Sixth Ward Neighbors United are breathing a sigh of relief.

Signs Say Loud: RSS Not Welcome

Signs Say Loud:

RSS Not Welcome

Mayor Herzig Would Be ‘Surprised’

If State Funds River Street Project

Doleen Vergari hands out signs to her fellow Sixth Ward residents including Rich Gravlin and Carl Miller following tonight’s meeting. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE  • Special to

RSS’s lack of transparency is what bothers him most, Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, tells Sixth Ward Neighbors United.  In the foreground is Fran Colone, the meeting’s moderator.

ONEONTA – Bill Shue doesn’t see the Sixth Ward’s fight against housing developer RSS as a strictly Sixth Ward issue.

Bill Shue

“If this can happen here, it can happen anywhere,” he said. “It can happen in Center City or on the East End.”

The Sixth Ward Neighbors United, which has vocally opposed Rehabilitation Support Services’ proposed 64-unit housing project at River and Duane streets, met tonight at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club, the first meeting since speaking at the Otsego County Board of Representatives’ April 3 meeting.

County Rep Danny Lapin, District 5, was in attendance, as was Assemblyman John Salka, R-Brookfield, and Mayor Gary Herzig.

Dostal: There Are ‘Misconceptions’ About RSS Project

People Who Would Live

In RSS Are Committed

To Recovery, Dostal Says

LEAF Director Responds To Neighbors Organizing

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

Julie Dostal

ONEONTA – In response to the formation of “Sixth Ward Neighbors United,” LEAF Executive Director Julie Dostal said there are “misconceptions” about the proposed Rehabilitation & Support Services housing development and the 14 units set aside for people in addiction recovery.

“Those people get to move into those units because they have engaged in a treatment or recovery provider to qualify for housing,” she said. “They have already made a life decision toward getting better.”

Sixth Ward Will Fight River Street Housing Project


50 Neighbors

Uniting To Fight

Housing Project

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to

Fran Colone convened the meeting of 50 neighbors to organize against the RSS project proposed for the Sixth Ward. “There are multiple bad reasons for the project,” Colone said. (Jennifer Hill/

ONEONTA – Christened “Sixth Ward Neighbors United,” River Street residents and businesspeople met for more than two hours with  city, county and state elected officials at the Sixth Ward Athletic Club Thursday evening  to discuss strategies to oppose RSS’s housing development in their neighborhood.

“There are multiple bad reasons for RSS’s project,” said Fran Colone, a vocal critic of the housing development proposal since last October. “So, we’re turning up the heat and upping our activities.”

“It is bad for Oneonta’s economy, it’s bad in terms of energy services – Oneonta is already energy-strapped; it’s going to increase demand for services here.  Oneonta’s fire department is already understaffed,” Colone said.

Former Reporter Plans To Run From 6th Ward

Former Reporter Plans

To Run From 6th Ward

Mark Boshnack

ONEONTA – Mark Boshnack, retired Daily Star reporter, this afternoon said he plans to run for the Sixth Ward Common Council seat being vacated by Deputy Mayor Russ Southard.

His announcement sets up a contest with Scott Harrington, who announced Friday he is seeking the Ward 6 seat. With Mark Davies announcing this morning he will vie against Seth Clark for the Ward 2 seat, at least two of five vacancies will be contested in November.

Madeline P. Santos, 100; Enjoyed Long Life In Sixth Ward Home

IN MEMORIAM: Madeline Santos, 100;

Enjoyed Long Life In Sixth Ward Home

Madeline “MIckey” Santos

ONEONTA – Madeline P. Santos, 100, said goodbye on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, to the life she treasured. She had been living at Fox Nursing Home since August 2016.

Mickey was born on Love Joy Street, Buffalo, on Oct. 23, 1918 to Paolo and Giulia (Stirpi) Spaziani. Much of her life was spent on the North end of Miller Street in her beloved Sixth Ward, AKA, the Lower Deck.

She was predeceased by her husbands, Ernest (Santodonato) Santos and Clifford Wilson; her stepdaughter, Marie; her daughter, Julianne; her sisters, Jenny and Mary; her brothers, Angelo, Alex and Paul; her sister-in-law, Vita; her special friends, Sadie Nader and Jim Lange, as well as many others.

Developer Briefs Sixth Ward On Plans For 65 Apartments

Developer Briefs Sixth Ward

On Plans For 65 Apartments

By CATHY NARDI • Special to

A Capital District developer is looking to build a 65-apartment complex in the wooded lot at West Broadway and Duane Street in the Sixth Ward. ( photo)

ONEONTA – With so many housing opportunities gobbled-up by college students who pay by the room, Rehabilitation Support Services of Altamont has concluded Oneonta needs more affordable apartments.

Rehabilitation Support Services took the first step toward meeting that need Wednesday night, appearing before the city Planning Commission and Sixth Ward neighbors to outline a plan to eventually bring 64 affordable apartments here.

Let Young Entrepreneur Bring Nick’s Diner Back To Life

Editorial, July 13, 2018

Let Young Entrepreneur

Bring Nick’s Diner Back To Life

Here’s the choice: The nearly complete restoration of Oneonta’s historic Nick’s Diner can go forward, with better than even chances it will succeed. Or, almost complete, it can be allowed to remain vacant, eventually deteriorating to the point it will be razed or removed. It is hoped it will be in much better hands this time around. A failure to keep track of finances and track expenditure has contributed to its demise in the past. There are various ways you can fund a new business but it’s just as important to properly manage its finances throughout its existence.
Hopefully, the assistance of Utility Bidder will make sure no money is wasted when it comes to paying for utilities.
That’s the choice: Something – maybe something good. Or nothing.
Better than even chances because the prospective owner, Rod Thorsland, is from a restaurateur family that has successfully operated the former Pondo’s restaurant in the Sixth Ward and thriving Pondo’s II in Colliersville for many decades.
Given his own experience and the expertise around the Sunday dinner table, would Thorsland – himself, he’s been in the restaurant business since age 16 – assume the significant responsibility of reviving Nick’s and the related debt without confidence he can make it work?

Parker Fish/The Freeman’s Journal – When it meets Tuesday, July 27, Common Council should grant the routine approval of Rod Thorsland’s CDBG grant application, and let the young entrepreneur complete the renovations at Nick’s Diner and reopen the historical Oneonta restaurant.

Under debate in the City of the Hills is whether Common Council should approve an application to the state Office of Community Renewal for a $230,000 CDBG – a federal Community Development Block Grant.
Applicants for CDBGs must submit a “pre-application” to the OCR. Thorsland has, and it’s been approved. So it’s likely the final application will fly right through.
If so, Thorsland will complete the purchase of the diner from Ed May, the local entrepreneur who took on its renovation. Then, within six weeks, the final touches can be done and the venerable Oneonta icon reopened. Drawing in business shouldn’t be hard because of the history of this diner, however, Thorsland will probably want to make sure that he creates an effective website for the restaurant to let people know it’s been renovated and is now open again. There is a number of website building software out there, but one of the most popular is Wix. It only takes one read of a Wix Review to understand why so many people find it so easy to use. Hopefully though, the business will resume as normal. Although, extra marketing isn’t necessarily a bad thing!

“Tour it,” Mayor Herzig advised in an interview, “because it is an absolutely beautiful restoration that keeps the feel of the old railroad car, but at the same time is a state-of-the-art diner, beautifully designed, brand new kitchen, energy efficient.”
Usually, Common Council would simply rubber-stamp a pro-approved application. But a handful of objecting residents showed up at its June 19 meeting, and a few more last Tuesday, July 3, successfully delaying action. Mayor Gary Herzig now hopes for a vote this coming Tuesday, the 17th.

The main objection seems to be: Why should Thorsland get the money? Answer: Why not? CDBGs are designed to help entrepreneurs, close the “gap” between initial cost and possible success.
In Thorsland’s case, he will have to invest $320,000 beyond the CDBG. He has skin in the game. The CDBG simply enables him to shoulder significant risk and provides the prospect of a lot of hard work.
In recent years, the city has directed $1.5 million in state and federal money to promising projects, some which make it, some which don’t. Why not Thorsland, whose prospects don’t seem that daunting? (Among other pluses, Oneonta has been yearning for an old-fashion diner since the beloved Neptune was razed at the end of 2013.)
Further, any entrepreneur who wishes can also seek a CDBG. Call Mispa Haque at City Hall’s Office of Community Development, 607-432-0114, and ask for an application, or email her at
If any of the objectors want money to try something, call her.
The other issue is whether Nick’s can create 15 jobs, as promised.
Thorsland is undeterred: He’s planning a seven-day, 24-hour venture, so he has to fill 21 shifts. Pondo’s II, a daytime operation, has 12 fulltime employees and much shorter hours.

If nothing else, a new Nick’s will improve the western gateway into the downtown, where each summer hundreds of families approaching from Cooperstown All-Star Village get their first impression of the city’s downtown, Herzig said.
When businesspeople ask for help, he continued, Community Development Director Judy Pangman doesn’t decide if the project is worthy; she connects them with the program that might help them.
Until now, Common Council hasn’t decided if applicants are worthy – simply that they qualify to apply.
“If you come to us, no matter who you are, we will identify what assistance you can apply for,” Herzig said, adding: “I don’t want politicians picking or choosing.”

Bagnardi’s Shoe Repair, anyone?

Virginia M. Naples, 91; Raised Amid 6th Ward’s Joys, Hardships

IN MEMORIAM: Virginia M. Naples, 91;

Raised Amid 6th Ward’s Joys, Hardships

Virginia M. Naples

ONEONTA – Virginia Mary Naples,  91, a member of the extended Oneonta family, passed away Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at Bassett Hospital.

She was born Oct. 31, 1925, in Oneonta, the daughter of the late Pasquale and Rose (Perrine) Mongillo.  Virginia graduated from Oneonta High School, Class of 1943.

She married Albert M. Naples on Nov. 9, 1947, at St. Mary’s Church, Oneonta.  Albert predeceased her on July 4, 2012.

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