News Article Details

Residents express concern about South Utica housing project

Observer-Dispatch - 6/6/2019

June 06-- Jun. 6--UTICA -- Residents of South Utica flocked to Wednesday's Common Council meeting to express their frustration that they had only just heard about an apartment complex being built in their neighborhood.

The Kelberman Center, a nonprofit that provides support services to those with autism spectrum disorders, is building a new 60-unit apartment building at the site of the former Sunset School at 2507-2513 Sunset Ave.

Of the roughly 48 people who came to Wednesday's meeting, most were there about the project.

"We are not against the Kelberman Center and their purchase of the Sunset School, we are not in opposition for them to use this space," said South Utica resident Lindsay Bonanza. "We welcome them and the population that they serve and represent. We are against this building being 60 units. It's being placed on such a small lot and that 48 of those units are market-rate housing. This term is too broad and leaves much to be open to interpretation. We have seen how revolutionary housing units have turned out in the past in the city of Utica."

The city's Planning Board issued site-plan approval for the project during its May 17, 2018, meeting.

Last month, the project was in the news when Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced nearly $5.2 million in state funding for the project.

Fourth Ward Councilman Joe Marino said he understands the frustration because it is their job as members of council to inform the residents of what is happening in the city, not make them rely on reading or watching the news.

Besides their concern about not hearing about the project when it was in the planning stages, residents of South Utica said they don't like how big it will be, the increased noise in the neighborhood, how many parking spots will be necessary for the building and that all except 12 units will be for workforce or market-rate housing. Those 12 units will be for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Dr. Robert Myers, the Kelberman Center's executive director, has previously told the O-D that the goal is to create an inclusive living community for individuals with autism while still providing access to any services they might need.

The project's plan calls for 50 one-bedroom apartments and 10 two-bedroom units, according to O-D archives.

The Kelberman Center plans to implement a subsidy program that could cover at least some of a tenant's rent if they are willing to be on call at times to provide certain support services for their neighbors with autism. These services, he said, would be for residents in need of certain care so they can live independently, such as help with getting up on time or getting to appointments.

In addition to the housing units, there will be 7,500 square feet of office space for Kelberman Center staff, while the building also will have a fitness center, community rooms and rooftop gardens.

Third Ward Councilman Robert DeSanctis, who represents and lives in South Utica, recommended that residents with concerns about the project come to city government meetings and also attend a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Notre Dame Elementary School about the project.

"We talked about it here in caucus, we passed a resolution last year -- all these meetings are televised," DeSanctis said. "Maybe be aware of what's going on. You don't expect that building to stay like it is forever, I don't think. I don't know if the project can be scaled back, that's a possibility. I think it's going to be a good project."

Contact reporter Samantha Madison at 315-792-5015 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Madison).

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