USA Photo Gallery sparks conversation of "Tough Times in Utica"


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The City of Utica is in a state of damage control following a photo gallery on Monday on titled 'Tough Times in Utica.'

The images show the people and the places of the city in a state of both economic and mental depression. From those unemployed looking for work to buildings boarded up and forgotten, where once stood successful businesses.

Some in the area quickly responded, saying that they felt the 18 picture photo gallery online did not give an accurate portrayal of the city.

The pictures were shot in places like West Utica along Sunset Ave, where an old bar is now boarded up. They also show the old psychiatric center, once busy with activity now a sight of vacancy and loneliness.

Utica's Mayor Robert Palmieri says that it's problem spots like these that the city is attempting to address with weekly "quality of life" sweeps like one along Mohawk Street on Wednesday.

"That's not to say we don't have difficult times in front of us, as does everybody, but I'll put my city to any other city where we are and the work force we have and the giving people we have, it's unequal to any other area in New York State," Mayor Palmieri said.

Like the mayor, local developer and construction company owner Francis Pezzolanella admits that Utica does have problem spots, but is quick to counter that.

"I sometimes find myself being a naysayer. It's easy to get discouraged," Pezzolanella said. "You know, you either gotta' fight or give up, and that's it. I think the people who just complain about it and complain about it are always just going to complain about it and the people who fight are the ones who are succeeding."

Pezzolanella redeveloped an old warehouse in the city's historic Bagg's Square Distict, creating a café on the ground level, and businesses and high-end lofts on the floors above.

"What we did with this building is, stuff that goes on constantly in other cities," Pezzolanella said. "Every little neighborhood that ever fell apart is brought back and made better and that's something we're trying to do here."

Many residents both in and out of Utica have been weighing in online upon seeing the photos.

"It's accurate for the section of the city he chose to photograph. It doesn't depict the entire city," said Phyllis Myers Mills. "Show me a city that doesn't have sections like that."

"I feel that the pictures are an accurate depiction of the economy, but not the heart and spirit of Utica," said Tammy Butcher. "They need to come back for the Boilermaker! Number one in the country because no matter how down and out we are, we always step up to help one another."

Spencer Platt is the photographer who took the photos for Getty Images. He lives in the New York City area and said he was in Utica for about a half an hour, where he spoke with several residents who painted a picture that they are hurting.

Platt said he's not trying to be negative, but in fact, trying to do the opposite and start a conversation that could lead to a change in the images and life in the City of Utica.

"There are many many Utica's out there," he said. "I think Americans need to get together, and I'm not speaking from the right or left, but it's our collective responsibility to try our best to bring jobs back to these cities, because again, these cities, not New York City or Los Angeles, that are the fabric of America. It's these small cities, Utica, Allentown, Toledo, and I'd like to see some life come back into these places."

Some other residents said the gallery left out positive things that are happening in a city the size of Utica. However, they admitted that if the photo gallery is doing anything, it's certainly forcing resident to take a hard look at the good, the bad and the ugly in the City of Utica.

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