OSWEGO, NY – A couple of speakers Monday night took the city to task regarding the potential redevelopment of the Midtown Plaza Parking Garage.
During the public session prior to the council meeting, John Enwright, a First Ward resident, and attorney Kimberly Steele questioned the city’s dealing with the property.
Enwright said he found it “troubling that the community development block grant was going to finance” the plaza redevelopment project.
With the financial problems the city is facing, he asked why the city would sell the property for $1,000 when there were higher bids.
The city is looking to attract young professionals, but this project won’t do that, he said, adding, “We want to make this place a better place to live. This is not how you do that.”
Steele told the council she was speaking for herself, not any clients or anyone else.
The taxpayers have paid a lot of money defending the city from her lawsuits, she pointed out.
“I am here to tell you, do your research, do your due diligence, read what’s in front of you, read it fairly,” she said of the multi-page correspondence she presented to the council and other city officials.
It is now more than just a parking garage, she said.
“It has morphed into something a little bit more severe and detrimental to our community,” she said. “This does not bring in businesses. This does not continue the forward movement of our city. This is not smart planning. It’s not smart development. It’s not fiscally sound development.”
She begged the council to reconsider the plan.
There is a lot of misinformation about things and the plaza is one of them, Mayor Tom Gillen said. Instead of just getting information from hearsay, he urged people to contact members of the council or his office.
Councilor Ron Kaplewicz pointed out that two cases were brought against the city regarding the Midtown Plaza situation.
“Two cases were brought, and lost. Two cases were appealed and lost. I just think it’s important for all of us here to keep our eye on what we’re trying to do here,” he said. “There are at least two sides to every story. There are a lot of facts that still need to be told. We are looking to improve our city.”
He described Midtown was “a potential jewel” in the redevelopment of eastside downtown.
Twice now they have appealed the judge’s decision (dismissing the lawsuit against the city) and both times it has been dismissed, the mayor agreed.
“We’re moving forward. We still have a developer in Sutton Property. They’re not locked into affordable housing. In fact, they’re probably going to change the whole design. That was part of a tentative proposal a couple of years ago. It’s a big part of the city’s future,” he told Oswego County Today.
The plans will be totally transparent, he said.
“All those people saying there are backroom deals going on, they’re wrong. Everything is going to be right up front, above board,” the mayor said.