Friday, February 09, 2018

"It's Not Uncommon Sense"

(C) 2018 Luke T. Bush

Strong Towns Plattsburgh coordinator Jeremiah Ward (2nd from left)
covers the main points on the meeting agenda.


10 million dollars.

Two options.

#1   Spend most of the money on the Durkee Street parking lot, adding a riverside public area, mixed use building, and a parking garage to replace some of the existing spaces that would be lost to redevelopment.

#2   Don't spend the money on the Durkee Street proposal but instead spread out the funding to fix downtown buildings as needed.

Plattsburgh City was happy to win a major New York State DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) grant but not all of its citizens are happy with the plan Mayor Colin Read is pushing, i.e., Option #1.

Thursday evening community activist Jeremiah Ward coordinated another meeting of Strong Towns Plattsburgh group in the second floor meeting room at the North Country Co-Op.  Around 25 people attended, business owners and concerned citizens, seated in a large circle that made seeing and hearing other participants easy. All of them were against the Durkee Street grand project.

Jeremiah explained the Strong City philosophy: Don't put most of your money in one big basket but instead use it on smaller projects to renovate all of downtown.

He pointed out that smaller buildings are better because they can be easily repurposed or upgraded unlike giant ones.  He cited the example of the Crete Center at the city beach.  That building is too big for what money it generates through events.

Jermiah said the city had set aside $1 million of the DRI funds so that existing businesses could make improvements up to $100,000.  But applications for the funds totaled $2.3 million, showing there was a great interest in the Strong Towns approach.

One person suggested Clinton Street buildings should be repaired and refurbished.  That one street could become a thriving retail area as in was in the past.

Another problem with the Durkee Street grand plan is the loss of parking spots.  Jeremiah said the lot operates at 85% occupancy, proving it is meeting the needs of the public.

Others in the group complained about how the city was responding to their input.  They favored the Strong Towns philosophy but the city for the most part wasn't listening.  

Another criticism was the city at times lacked transparency when information was requested.  One example Jeremiah gave after the meeting via online messaging was trying to find out how DRI committee members voted on the slate of projects.

In a recent Press-Republican article, "City group unhappy about DRI process," Mayor Read said there has been ample opportunity for the public to participate in the process.  And he added as the process continues the public can still share its input.

 Making a list of suggestions for further action by Strong Towns Plattsburgh.

The Strong Towns Plattsburgh group made plans to promote the their viewpoints and raise awareness of the issues regarding the DRI process through public relations, surveys, and news releases.  The main point: If the city gives the go-ahead to the Durkee Street parking lot development there will be serious problems for downtown businesses.  Generally the impact will be negative, causing businesses to close or move away.

As one participant observed:  "It's not uncommon sense."

The next meeting will be held at the same location on February 22 at 6:30 PM.


Christopher Velsey said...

Thank you Luke. I will continue reading your blog. Good luck on the 22nd but will some one video the event?
Chris Velsey

@DebraWarrior4Justice said...

Great article, Luke! I like the initiative shown by the people that have organized and are working hard on the "Strong Towns Plattsburgh" work. However, as way too often happens, the meeting that was held on the second floor at the coop was not accessible to many people with disabilities. So, my question to all of our community, including the organizers of the "Strong Towns Plattsburgh" work is: WHEN will the people of this community WORK to INCLUDE all of the people in this community? And, for "Strong Towns Plattsburgh", why not hold your next meeting in one of the very few places where ALL people can participate. One place is the county government center meeting rooms, the North Country Center for Independence, the Stafford school on Broad Street, SUNY Plattsburgh or Clinton Community College (late afternoons for users of public transit or Saturday). The Methodist Church and St. Peters are also accessible.

Many people with disabilities also oppose the DRI Plan as it exists DUE TO lack of accessibility in mixed use upper floor housing. Why not invite us in to help by meeting in places where we can participate? Debra Buell, Plattsburgh