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City officials disagree on expense for demolition of run-down building

By ANDREW DONOVAN

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Demolition began Saturday on the Hulking Building which sits at 208-214 Bleecker Street, across from the Utica School of Commerce, the building that Utica Councilmen Jim Zecca and Frank Vescera say should not be an expense to taxpayers.

The building, now rundown and in disrepair, was once owned by Charles A. Gaetano, owner of Charles A. Gaetano Construction, and was sold to the Urban Renewal Agency for $1 in the final months of the David Roefaro Administration.

Zecca and Vescera both question that transaction. According to them, the building had codes violations cited back since 2006 and wonder why the property was transferred to the City of Utica in 2011.

Demolition was once quoted at up to $300,000, the councilmen say. Vescera and Zecca both feel that money should not come from the City budget and should be reimbursed by the Urban Renewal Agency.

Councilman-at-Large Jim Zecca said, "(The Urban Renewal Agency) has sold properties, there's money going back into their budget. We feel that we need to be reimbursed now from their funds to the City. These are two separate funds, the Urban Renewal has their own budget and their own funds, and the City has its own funds. So we're hoping from the sale of the properties, they can reimburse the city and then we can utilize that money to take down other buildings that the city's responsible for."

Mayor Robert Palmieri spoke with NEWSChannel 2 Saturday afternoon and said, "The building was structurally unsound, unsafe and had to come down for the safety of the public. The members of the Common Council voted and approved the bonding for the building's demolition."

NEWSChannel 2 spoke with Mayor David Roefaro back in April who agreed with the decision to purchase the building. Roefaro said, "it's an initiative by the City of Utica to make downtown vibrant again."

Roefaro also says a proposed parking lot was planned to be put in place of the building to add to the new bus terminal project next door.

On the demolition site Saturday, Councilman Vescera was also concerned that the air quality in the neighborhood was not properly monitored. NEWSChannel 2 spoke with Department of Public Works Commissioner Dave Short who said the city hires a company, called Hygia, who has to comply with New York State law.

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