Updated 06/11/2012 10:33 PM
City denies council members' claims against demolition
When two Utica Common Council members showed up to protest a planned building demolition Saturday afternoon, they made some serious allegations of mismanagement and improper asbestos monitoring. Our Andrew Sorensen tells us how the city feels about their claims and what could come about as a result in the days ahead.
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UTICA, N.Y. -- Council members James Zecca and Frank Vescera made sure their issues with the demolition of 208 Bleecker Street were known as the building came down Saturday.
"The money that was used demo this was property taxpayer money. And again, that is something that was not necessary to do," Vescera said.
The property was purchased last year by the Urban Renewal Agency for one dollar. Zecca and Vescera feel the agency should pay for the demolition costs.
Urban Renewal officials say the building was purchased by the previous agency commissioner, Randy Soggs, and approved by the previous board with the intent to demolish it.
"The property, in Randy's view, was to be part of an overall parking project for Downtown Utica," Acting Commissioner Brian Thomas said.
That plan, funded by grant money, is still being reworked by Mayor Robert Palmieri.
City officials are saying that, all money aside, it was just in the public interest to take down that building.
"There was certainly a need from a public safety perspective to demolish the building," Thomas said.
Crews working on the city's new Multi-Modal Transportation Center reported bricks falling into the areas they were working and where the two buildings were supposed to overlap.
Coincidentally, the council members' other concern is safety. They are concerned about asbestos testing on the site.
"The air monitoring devices are only on the north side, nothing on the east, nothing on the west, nothing on the south," Vescera said.
Both the contracting company, HNY Environmental Services, and the Department of Public Works say they are following all Department of Labor codes on the project.
Department of Public Works Commissioner Dave Short explained, "That's why the air monitoring is here and that's why, before we take down anything, it's being sprayed with water to keep the dust down."
Because of policy, the Department of Labor only responded by saying they were beginning an investigation into the claims and couldn't comment further.
Councilman Vescera says he still plans to create legislation to make the Urban Renewal Agency pay the city back for the work.
The City of Utica Engineering Department says they had to demolish the building this past weekend before the Multi-Modal Center was too far along and in the way of demolition.