Mayor Palmieri Reinforces “Only In Utica” Criticism (Opinion)
Utica Mayor Rob Palmieri is being called out on his decision to move forward with the sale of the Kennedy Parking Garage, which is within the new MVHS Wynn Hospital footprint. Both Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and MVHS have a different view of the facts Palmieri claimed during his Friday interview on WIBX.
Palmieri said Thursday that the city had struck a deal with the Pike Company and Bowers Development to purchase and refurbish the Kennedy Parking Garage and develop a new hotel with additional floors on top of it. He claimed his development partners MVHS and Oneida County were aware of the plans. Both County Executive Anthony Picente and MVHS claim that the move came as a surprise and are in contrast with their plans to build the new hospital, adjacent parking garage and an adjacent medial office building.
Picente told WIBX on Monday, Palmieri's claim that he tried to reach the County Executive "but his voicemail was full" is ridiculous. Picente said the Mayor has several ways to reach him and he seemingly chose not to do so.
MVHS claims they were also caught by surprise. "MVHS was surprised to learn on Monday that a press release would be issued by the City relating to the sale of the Kennedy Parking Garage to The Pike Company and Bowers Development for the development of a hotel over the Kennedy Garage. The Kennedy Parking Garage is connected to the former Mohawk Hospital Equipment (Mohawk Building), now owned by MVHS, which is being converted to serve as the new hospital’s Central Utility Plant. To date, $12 million has been invested in improvements to the building. The total investment in the CUP, when completed, will be $27 million. It is concerning that this sale was not discussed with MVHS given that the two buildings are connected and, in fact, when the Mohawk Building was purchased by MVHS, the organization maintained certain air rights over portions of the Kennedy Garage," MVHS stated.
The Mayor never talked about the fact that MVHS owns half of the air space over the Kennedy Parking Garage, and therefore, in order to "build up" which would be required to add a hotel, would require MVHS approval. Furthermore, the move by Palmieri, which still requires Common Council approval, puts into question the 200 parking spaces that were originally promised to MVHS in a previous Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). MVHS would be left to negotiate with the new owners going forward, at a time when they are in the middle of the hospital project, leaving current plans in limbo.
Mayor Palmieri said he spoke with MVHS and he claimed he gave them the chance to purchase the garage. MVHS says that never happened.
"We believe that the proposed development of a hotel in that location will be very complex and costly, and could negatively impact the hospital’s Central Utility Plant. In addition, we are concerned about the impact that the proposed Pike and Bowers development could have on the availability of parking as outlined in a Memorandum of Agreement signed by all parties," MVHS said in a prepared statement on Thursday.
MVHS also announced last week that they have also learned that the City of Utica "was working with Bowers to develop a competing medical office building" right adjacent to the new downtown hospital.
Is the City of Utica and Mayor Rob Palmieri actively working to compete with the new hospital?
Mayor Palmieri told WIBX on Friday that this is a "win-win" for everybody and it will put the Kennedy Parking Garage back on the tax rolls after he claims, a "$13 million investment is made to repair the building." Both the County Executive and MVHS disagree with that statement. Palmieri also told WIBX, after claiming he attempted to inform the county executive of the plan, that he couldn't share the sale information with the county executive because he had signed a non disclosure agreement (NDA). Picente told WIBX that statement is ridiculous.
"I've signed thousands of NDAs," Picente told WIBX. Picente said all Palmieri had to do was ask for him to also sign an NDA, something that would be customary for a government partner in any other situation.
There seems to be many problems with Mayor Palmieri's plan for Kennedy Garage. The issue of the air space alone, seems to be one that will complicate the project going forward. Additionally, placing the city at odds with its 2 biggest investment partners in Oneida County and MVHS, seems foolish and vindictive. The plans also seem a bit fishy and destined to fail.
As the saying goes, Only in Utica.
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