Utica

Gino Geruntino/WRVO file photo

Over the years, as businesses in Utica left or closed, the city has faced a problem of what to do with the empty buildings. In recent years, Utica has ramped up its efforts to sell these vacant commercial properties in an attempt to generate sales and property tax revenues for the city.

Since 2012, the city has sold at least eight vacant commercial properties to private developers, including a former Superfund site that was dormant for more than a decade. The buildings, which must be empty for at least three years before the city can foreclose on them, are scattered throughout Utica. Fourteen properties are currently being marketed by the city's Urban Renewal Agency.

Mike Mozart

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) is blaming what he calls the state's weak gas zone pricing laws for the Mohawk Valley's higher-than-average gas prices.

According to a recent report by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, gas in the Utica-Rome area was selling for an average of $3.24 a gallon, which was the third highest price in the state. By contrast, gas in the Syracuse area was going for twenty cents less.

Brindisi says higher gas prices effect the area's economy.

J J / via Flickr

The Utica Police Department is closing in on its 100th arrest made with evidence gathered on social media.

Four years ago, Utica police decided to post a video of a crime on Facebook. They hoped someone on the social media site would recognize the suspect or provide other clues.

It worked, says Lieutenant Steve Hauck, and they’ve been using Facebook more and more since.

Joe Marino

The city of Utica is showing its appreciation to the nation's veterans, not only on Veterans Day, but every day of the year. The city recently unveiled specially designated parking spaces near the disabled parking spots for veterans and their widowed spouses.
 

Fourth Ward Councilman Joe Marino says he came up with the idea while he was talking with his brother-in-law, who had returned from serving overseas a couple years ago. Since then, Marino says the city has rallied behind the plan.

Senate Democrats / Flickr

Before returning  to Washington for the next session of Congress, Sen. Kirsten Gllibrand (D-NY) made a stop yesterday in Utica to talk about cybersecurity.

Gillibrand came to Utica College to tour the Northeast Cyber Forensic Center. She said the region has long been fundamental to the nation’s national security.

"Utica and Rome nearby have been at the heart of our national defense, particularly in areas concerning cyber," Gillibrand explained. "So we almost have a corridor of expertise in this region which is very powerful."

Wikipedia Commons

ACR Health has expanded its needle exchange program in Utica.  

In the Syracuse area, the organization’s three-year-old needle exchange program has reached almost 1,000 injection drug users. ACR health prevention director Erin Bortel says one of the reason it’s so successful is that it goes to where the injection users are.

"We’re able to infiltrate the community in a little bit more practical way, than expecting people who continually experience stigma and discrimination from having to come to us. So our mobility is our huge asset in our ability to reach individuals.”

woodleywonderworks / Flickr

Students in the Utica City School District headed back to the classroom Thursday. In recent years, the city's school district has made several decisions to help close budget gaps, including cutting about 200 staff positions. The result has been an incremental increase of the number of students in each classroom, which has now reached an all-time high.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

This summer, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is hosting an exhibition featuring some of the world's greatest European painters, from Rembrandt to Rubens, called The "Golden Age of European Painting."

It isn't long after stepping foot into the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute that one sees why the city of Utica is excited to show off its most recent art exhibit, including the "Portrait of Madame Adelaide."
 

Aiden / Flickr

In January, all of New York state will be involved with the 211 call service. The plan is to reduce the number of calls to 911, while helping those who need assistance get help.

Brenda Episcopo, executive director of the United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area, says the service is a mix of 911 and 411.

At least one member of Utica's Common Council is calling for the city's public safety commissioner to perform a top-down review of the city's safety policies, saying a rise in gun crime and the heroic actions of two residents are a call for change.

Councilman Joe Marino presented his request during a meeting last week and is calling on Mayor Robert Palmieri, who also serves as the city's public safety commissioner, to provide the council with a full review.

In an attempt to increase the number of New York high school graduates who are work ready, one state assemblyman is pushing for the approval of a new high-tech and manufacturing-based diploma. The goal is to help employers fill jobs with qualified graduates.

Although the state legislature won't return to Albany until January, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is getting an early start by promoting his bill to create a Career and Technical Education, or CTE, diploma.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The bourbon being produced at a Utica distillery is being described as the first legal bourbon produced in central New York. It's proof that the craft liquor industry is growing in New York state.

The Adirondack Distilling Company started out by crafting vodka. Then they moved to gin and, most recently, white whiskey. Now, master distiller Jordan Karp says the company is moving on to that quintessential American drink.

"Bourbon is an American spirit made with at least 51 percent corn, and stored and aged in a charred, new, oak American barrel,” Karp explained.

As the use of heroin surges, many people arrested for drug-related crimes are ending up in drug court, one of the so-called "problem solving courts" that have been started in recent years.

Every Thursday afternoon in the Oneida County Courthouse, the Judge John Balzano seems to be equal parts judge, guidance counselor and the leader of a support group.

This is drug court. Balzano dispenses justice here with an emphasis on rehabilitation.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Utica's Union Station has been a mainstay in the city's historic Bagg's Square neighborhood since 1914. In that time, the train station went from a bustling transit hub, to nearly being demolished in the 1970s, to a recent resurgence as a public gathering place. This weekend, Utica is celebrating the station's 100th anniversary and some of the things that make it unique.

James F Clay / Flickr

Concern is once again rising in the cash-strapped Utica City School District as the state mulls over the possibility of allowing another charter school to open.

A group led by Christina Johnson, an educator and local resident, applied to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute earlier this year to establish the Mohawk Valley Community Charter School within the Utica School District to serve elementary-aged children.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Registration for a job fair to work at the new nano technology facility in Utica had to be cut off several days early because there was too much demand for the 300 open positions.

The job fair for the QUAD-C computer chip center on the campus of the SUNY Institute of Technology is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. But after 1,500 people had registered by Thursday, organizers cut it off.

Utica considers launching freedom trail

Apr 16, 2014
Doug Kerr / Flickr

Almost 200 years ago, Utica was home to a passionate abolitionist community determined to rid the young nation of slavery. Now a local group is trying to remind the public of the significance of the city’s role in the anti-slavery movement.

Nearly sixty people came out recently on a typically chilly winter morning to walk downtown Utica streets, each of which had a story to tell from the days of the Underground Railroad.

NYS Department of Transportation

In the city of Utica, the north-south arterial, which connects three major state routes, has divided the west side from the rest of the city. But after years of debate, the state Department of Transportation is now rebuilding the road, with the goal to make the arterial safer and allow people and cars to move more freely between the two sections of Utica. The city says the project will also help its revitalization effort.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

Syracuse has salt potatoes, Rochester has the garbage plate and Buffalo has the chicken wing. And for the Mohawk Valley, the iconic food has to be chicken riggies. The central New York pasta dish has become so popular it commands its own festival. Now, one Utica resident has entered the unique flavor of peppers, chicken, rigatoni and pink tomato sauce into a national contest.

Gino Geruntino / WRVO

For the fourth straight year, the Utica City School District is facing a deficit, causing the school board to consider layoffs. School Business Official Maureen Albanese says right now the district, which is among the state's poorest, is having trouble balancing its nearly $146 million budget.

"We had a $3.8 million deficit in the general fund, and we're looking at a $2.6 [million] deficit in our federal grants, which brought our total budget deficit to $6.4 million," Albanese said.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

There was no federal funding attached to the Federal Aviation Administration’s designation of upstate New York as a drone research site, but the coalition that will run the testing needs money to begin operations itself.

The coalition that won the bid just before the New Year, known as NUAIR, will be based at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome. The research lab there is upgrading a former hanger to house drones and equipment.

RichardHannaforCongress.com

Rep. Richard Hanna says he's seeking a third term in Congress because there's more work to be done.

The Republican announced his re-election intentions late last week. He was first elected to serve what's now New York's 22nd Congressional District in 2010. Hanna is from Barneveld, just north of Utica, and represents that city as well as Binghamton and areas in between.

He says there's a lot of opportunities in Congress right now.

Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce

The city of Utica is showing signs of growth, whether it's the introduction of the Utica Comets hockey team, the massive investments into Nano Utica, or the recent completion of the Utica tower. To match the spirit of the city around them, the former Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce has also made a change, rebranding itself as the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce in 2014.

Although its reach will still include Madison, Herkimer and Oneida counties, executive director Pamela Matt says the city of Utica is showing a resiliency that will help propel it into the future.

Nano Utica provides spark in Rust Belt city

Jan 29, 2014
Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

In the Utica area, there’s been a lot of buzz lately about nanotechnology, and the possibility that a major nanotech manufacturing facility will soon locate  there. But what exactly is Nano Utica?

On a chilly November morning, contractors are giving public tours of a construction site at the SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica. But it’s not a classroom building or new dorm they’re walking around. The public is getting a sneak peak at something known here as Quad-C, the Computer Chip Commercialization Center.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is proposing new federal legislation that would create paid family and medical leave. She says the idea is to establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, that would allow anyone who needs time off for a family emergency, to be able to take this time off while still getting paid.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Since 2004, upstate New York has taken 90 percent of all refugee resettlements in the state. This is the first part of the Innovation Trail reporting series looking at how upstate New York's refugee population is influencing the region's economy.

Utica has long seen itself as a city of immigrants. The arrival of Italians, Germans and Irish drove the city’s population to peak at around 100,000. During the mid 1970s in the wake of major changes to the city's industrial base and dwindling employment opportunities, the population fell by nearly half.

The comptroller race in the city of Utica has taken an odd turn. At an event last week, the city's Democrat Mayor Robert Palmieri endorsed Independence Party candidate William Morehouse, rather than fellow Democrat Jim Zecca.

In a written statement, Palmieri explained that he believes says the city needs to elect people who “believe in working together and have the city of Utica's best interest at heart.”

Zecca says even though he doesn't have the support of most of Utica's elected Democrats, it hasn’t derailed his campaign.

News Briefs: Tuesday, Oct. 29

Oct 29, 2013

Oneida nation to discuss Redskins controversy with NFL

The Oneida Indian Nation will meet Wednesday with National Football League officials to discuss its desire to have the Washington Redskins team change its name.

The Oneida say the name is a racial slur to Native Americans. They've been putting pressure on the league and team in recent weeks to change it. The team's owner has defended the name, saying it's a badge of honor.

Utica welcomes new hockey team, investments to city

Oct 11, 2013
Gino Geruntino/WRVO

The Mohawk Valley has had a hockey team for most of the last 90 years, but 1993 was the last time a professional hockey team took to the ice in Utica. Earlier this year, the city landed a new American Hockey League team, called the Utica Comets, and a chance to bring more than just hockey back to the city.

Frank DuRoss is co-owner of the new Utica Comets, a Vancouver Canucks affiliate. He says the new AHL team is one of many things giving the region a reason to cheer.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Utica finally looks ready to become New York state's second major hub of nanotechnology with the announcement of a six-company investment in the city on Thursday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on the campus of the State University of New York's Institute of Technology in Utica to announce a $1.5 billion investment. He predicted 1,000 new jobs would come to the computer chip facility under construction at the school.

"And the industry is just starting," Cuomo said.

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