by Natalie Williams
On December 12, 2019, the City of Utica Urban Renewal Department Committee announced that they would take actions to ‘Revert the Property’ which I had purchased from them a little more than a year ago. I will be compiling affidavits and evidence for a legal challenge to the City of Utica’s various manipulations of the Urban Renewal department’s processes and policies. There are clear moral and ethical violations expressed here. They have not as yet put anything in writing.
But, verbally, they have been demanding every element needed for the take-over of the building. Thus far, they have continually demanded different things from me. I had simply requested a 6 month extension of time in order to complete the renovations for an urban renewal building which was officially ‘granted’ to me on November 1, 2018. Generally speaking, the home – owner has one year to finish renovations; but time extensions are characteristically granted on first request.
These time extensions are commonly granted for home owners who have shown that they have made strides in improving the property. As I have presented them with evidence that had the house exterior was painted; and that I had – with the help of community laborers – removed a lot of junk which was inside the house at the point of purchase; as well as having insulated and sheet rocked two rooms, replaced windows and covered with plastic empty window spaces, and installed door locks – this would certainly indicate that I have been earnest in my efforts to renovate the property. Yet, after repeated requests, they still insist on denying me a time extension. The minutes for Urban Renewal over the past few years show that others have been granted more time in similar circumstances; yet they continue to refuse me. I have written to them asserting that now that I have beat back the crackheads and made the building look presentable; it has caught the eye of ‘someone’ who ‘wants it’ for themselves.
Near the one year mark, in November 2019; the City of Utica Urban Renewal Committee demanded Electric, Plumbing and Building permits from me; then created all manner of road blocks for my obtainment of said permits. As of yet, only the electric permit ‘has been pulled’ by a ‘City certified’ electrician. [ This whole system of ‘favored in house electrical and plumbing contractors’ represents yet another level of corruption, which is merits of it’s own investigation… Let’s just say that the corruption is rife at every level of this process, in my astute observation.]
Obtaining a City Electrical permit first necessitated that I repair the roof and remove mold which was present in the attic at the time of purchase. I have not yet been able to get a plumbing permit ‘pulled’. This is due to the fact that no plumber is willing to do work on it in the winter months due given that the water lines would freeze in the house; which does not have any heating system. I also observe that it appears that the City of Utica has been using it’s influence to tell potential contractors to ‘stay away’ from my renovation project – or else… It all was set-up, in which they orchestrated for me to to do lots of work; yet kept their option for ‘reverting the property back to their control’ so as to essentially steal a year of my efforts, money and labor; blood, sweat & tears – in the renovation project. These dictates by ‘Urban Renewal’ have unfairly forced me to rush the project management of the renovation. The demands for me to make expensive improvements on the property are designed to ‘break my back and my bank’. We all know that in the game of monopoly, once your are bankrupt, the game is over…
The City of Utica is seeking for me to bear the burden of expenses such as recent architecturally validated floor plans, [ to a house built in the 1870’s; which I had no plans on making any structural changes to, and from which I had bought from them – as such, they should have the blueprints already; shouldn’t they?]. As of yesterday; Mr. Dan Cozza of the City Building Codes department, now insists that floor plans are not enough for me to obtain a building permit… } The latest demand is for mechanical engineer to approve structural integrity as described in inspection reports which I had already paid for.
Architect plans and Mechanical engineers assessments will cost considerable amounts of money; and these should be the city’s burden to provide – especially if the documents are to be delivered to what I believe will be their ‘potential future buyer’ – not mine.
I had suspected that they had thought that they were sticking me with ‘a lemon’; but that with hard work; I could turn it into ‘a jewel’.
The revelation that the City of Utica has announced that funding is available through the ‘Downtown ReVitalization Initiative’ – a 10 million dollar grant which was brought about by a New York State donation for the Revitalization of New York State city downtown areas; and the presence of Frank DeVoss at the December 12, 2019 Urban Renewal committee meeting – makes it clear to me that the City of Utica intends to steal the property away from me by surreptitious means – because 18 Steuben Park is within the footprint of the downtown revitalization district.
Whether the City of Utica’s motivation is to gain profit from:
1. Seizing the building to support their planned downtown hospital effort, or
2. To use in a future gentrification scheme impacting the Downtown and Corn Hill neighborhoods, or
3. In illegally capturing the property so that they can use it for the application of grants on their behalf to the Downtown Revitalization Initiative – The citizens of Utica are always the ones who lose when corrupted City Departments; motivated by greed and self interest, attempt to remove our input and rights to property in these processes. If this can happen to me; it can happen to anyone. I will challenge this matter in every forum available.
Let us hope that they have not removed our ability to voice our concerns; and protest what is clearly demonstrated to be corrupt governmental actions to manipulate the fair policies and process which were designed benefit the public.