In July of 2016, Plattsburgh NY was selected as one of 10 cities across the state to receive $10 million in funding as part of Governor Cuomo's Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Strong Towns Plattsburgh supports many of the projects receiving funding from the DRI Grant; however, we are opposed to the Durkee Street Parking Lot Development as it currently stands. The proposed large-scale mixed-use development at this site is fundamentally at odds with Strong Town principals.
The Durkee Street Development has been awarded nearly half of all DRI funds - $4.3 million dollars, although the plan has demonstrated a clear lack of public support. Strong Towns Plattsburgh's opposition is based upon a lack of public input, transparency in process, and complicated parking issues that have arisen. The DRI Grant process is innately deigned to move quickly, which does not allow for city residents or businesses to adjust and favors developers interests over local pre-existing, small businesses.
Strong Towns Plattsburgh would like to see the Durkee Street Lot redeveloped over a longer period of time and split up into smaller lot sizes - resulting in structures that are more cohesive with existing buildings in the downtown area. Therefore, parking issues can then be dealt with in smaller increments with less upheaval and disruption for local anchor businesses.
The success or failure of community development projects depends heavily on adequate community buy-in and support. As of yet, the Local Planning Committee has not shown demonstrable evidence that this support exists.
Furthermore, in their report to the state, the LPC claimed that there was moderate public support for this project without providing any results from their community engagement events. We would like the Committee or the State to provide the evidence for this claim.
We are currently working to gather data collected during the DRI planning process, and have thus far seen no evidence of public support for the Durkee Street Project - You can sign the petition here.
Strong Towns Plattsburgh opposes the Durkee Street Development, because it threatens the architectural integrity of the downtown area by proposing up to a 45,000 square foot structure, which is out of scale with what currently exists in the downtown area.
Smaller buildings that fit in with the characteristics of existing buildings will provide consistency in the visual aesthetics of the downtown area that vibrant, charming, and bustling downtowns across the country demonstrate.
Strong Towns Plattsburgh supports the designation of the downtown area as a historic district, which could then provide restrictions on new developments to maintain the architectural consistency and historical integrity of the downtown area. Polling showed this was a popular item with the public as well.
transparency and data
A FOIL request was submitted to the City of Plattsburgh on February 15th, 2018, requesting disclosure of the following information: Results of all public polling, surveys, voter response forms, and data collected during the DRI process.
Additionally, our FOIL request asks for disclosure of all conference calls, emails, agendas, and meeting minutes which took place outside of public view. The City of Plattsburgh responded on March 6th, 2018 to our request and Strong Towns Plattsburgh has completed a comprehensive report on the raw data provided. You can view this report here.
Strong Towns Plattsburgh saw no evidence of demonstrated community support of the planned Durkee Street project in the data provided by the City. We therefore submitted an identical FOIL request to the New York State entity overseeing the Plattsburgh DRI grant, Empire State Development (ESD), on March 8th, 2018, to be sure that we were not missing any information that would show positive proof of public support. The agency responded on May 18th, 2018 that they did not have any information responsive to the requests made. They also failed to provide any communications requested, stating that this would require "...herculean efforts."
Strong Towns Plattsburgh then asked that ESD provide guidance as to where such information can be found (as was requested in the FOIL), and the agency refused to answer this question. We also attempted to narrow the scope of the requested communications to those which specifically refer to the selection of specific projects. The agency refused, and informed us that we would have to submit a new FOIL request. A new FOIL was submitted on June 14th, 2018.
Strong Towns Plattsburgh also submitted a FOIL to the New York State Department of State on June 12th, 2018 to be sure that we are not missing any data that was collected during the DRI planning process.