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Controversy over possible location of vets organization gets ugly

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - A building in downtown Utica's Bagg's Square West area is at the center of controversy.

The "Feed our Vets" organization has a purchase offer in for the current National Distance Running Hall of Fame building.

Some business owners feel that, while a not-for-profit offers services to populations in need, it may not foster the economic development wanted in that area.

A difference of opinions about geography and building re-purposing has turned ugly, with violence against some of those area business owners being encouraged through some social media outlets, where some are interpreting those merchants' concern with the category of tenants eyeing the hall of fame building as a lack of support, even hatred, for veterans.

Restaurant the Tailor and the Cook has joined nearby Utica Coffee Roasting Company in voicing both support for veterans and the organizations that serve them, and concern about a not-for-profit going into a building in an area fighting to foster commerce, when there's another, similar organization serving veterans just a few blocks away.

The head of the veterans organization that is seeking to buy the Running Hall of Fame building for $175,000 says that, while a not-for-profit might not pay taxes, it does stimulate economic development.

"People drop off food at our pantry," said Richard Synek, head of Feed Our Vets. "Many of these people would probably buy a cup of coffee or patronize those businesses."

There is a purchase agreement in place between the Hall and Feed our Vets, but Feed our Vets has not yet secured a commercial loan to buy the building.

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