Housing project in South Utica? Residents calling it unfair they weren't notified

South Utica residents attended the common council meeting Wednesday night to voice their concerns.

Posted: Jun 6, 2019 12:24 AM
Updated: Jun 6, 2019 10:09 AM

UTICA, N.Y. -- South Utica residents attended the common council meeting Wednesday night to voice their concerns about a project to build an apartment complex in their neighborhood.

The project calls for demolition of the former Sunset School at 2507-2513 Sunset Avenue, and construction of a new four-story, 60-unit apartment building.

One of the top concerns from residents is that they are just hearing about it.

"Not knowing anything about it is what hurts me the most," Mark Thompson, a South Utica resident, said.

Another South Utica resident, Marie Welch voiced the same concerns, as well as many others.

"It's not fair, we didn't even know about it," Welch said. "South Utica is good, and you want to take the last bit of Utica, you want all these cars, all this traffic, all these people."

Some say 60 units in that part of the city isn't the right fit.

"Some of our concerns include, the number of people that this four story complex with add to our extremely small city block, 60 units is huge," Lindsay Bonanza, a South Utica resident said.

Noise is another concern.

"Increased noise, simply due to the size of this complex is a big concern of ours," Bonanza said. "The only noise you hear, is the occasional traffic that drives by, and the occasional family outdoors enjoying their own residence."

Council President Mike Galime says the decision to place the apartments there was not the decision of the common council, but in November, they did sign legislation related to the project.

"The council passed a resolution endorsing an application from the Kelberman Center to apply for monies to create a facility that will allow people with disabilities, such as autism, to be active parts of the community as they mature into adulthood," Galime said.

The Kelberman Center, a nonprofit that provides support those with autism spectrum disorders, currently owns the building. They say their plan is to make at least 12 of the 60 unit specifically for those with special needs.

Residents say they are not opposed to that.

"We are not in opposition for them to use the space, we welcome them and the population they serve and represent," Bonanza said.

Galime addressed the reasons why people may have not heard about this.

"Part of the reason this was not notified as far as public notice via the planning board was that there were no variances necessary and they were within code for the current property that they purchased, they weren't purchasing any additional properties and they weren't doing anything  outside the current scope that was zoned," Galime said. "I asked Commissioner Thomas if there was final site approval, and there was."

In May, Governor Cuomo announced that he is making a nearly $11 million investment to build and preserve 123 affordable apartments in the Mohawk Valley. A total of $5.2 million is going to fund the demolition of the vacant Sunset School, and construct the new apartment building.

A few council members are supporting the residents who are against this project.

"I feel for you, 60 units is an awful lot," Frank DiBrango, council at large said. "If it's 60 units or more and you're not happy, you'll have my support, I can tell you that right now."

Fourth ward council member, Joseph Marino, also stood behind the residents. He says he thinks this project doesn't move the mission of the Kelberman Center.

"It sounds like their going to have a profit making fraction of their business, and I'm really concerned that the Kelberman Center would come into a neighborhood unannounced," Marino said.

Robert DeSanctis, who represents Ward 3 where the property is, is in favor of this project.

"If the project can be scaled back, that's a possibility, I think its going to be a good project," DeSanctis said. "It wasn't like anyone was trying to hide anything, they put a lot of money and effort into this project, and it may or may not fly but that's where we're at right now. They didn't do anything illegal or underminded."

The plans for this project are not final yet.

Next Monday, there will be a South Utica Neighborhood Association meeting at 6 p.m. at the Notre Dame Eementary School. The Kelberman Center's executive director, Dr. Robery Myers, will be there to discuss the plans for this project.

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