Sunday, October 9, 2011

Plundering Utica

My fellow blogger "Strikeslip" has a concern that he voiced after my articles on the destruction of 294 Genesee St. at the hands of the self-proclaimed Princess Diana Lenska. He refered to it as "plundering Utica."

Our once magnificent city has been a victim of this type of abuse for many years now. The culmination of the systematic looting of our precious architectural history has reached a peak with the dismantling of the magnificent French Renaissance interiors of the Mattisson Mansion at 294 Genesee St.

The plunder of Utica has taken many forms throughout the years. The destruction of the home of Vice-President James Sherman in the 1940's for a cheesy strip center. The demolition of the park-like campus of The House of the Good Shepherd in the 1950's for a motel and bowling alley.

In the 1960's we looted our precious Upjohn designed City Hall before we smashed it into oblivion. Oil portraits of the former Mayors of Utica, Maps and original furnishings were discarded or stolen by political insiders. We even demolished the  original home of the Oneida Historical Society on the triangle island on Park Ave. and replaced it with a gas station!

Whole neighborhoods were wiped out in the 1970's and 80's. People travel to the streets they grew up on and find nothing but weed choked empty lots and garbage and despair.

When does it stop? When is enough enough? Do we care so little for our history and the things that give us our identity that we will systematically destroy, loot, and demolish anything for profit and greed?

We have allowed our buildings to become foreclosed on by a city government that is not willing or able to protect them. They sit empty and abandoned and are soon stripped of their copper plumbing, fixtures and anything of value. Only then does the city step in, declares them unsalvageable and proceeds to demolish the remaining shell.

This scenereo has happend repeatedly over the years. Elected officials think they have the exclusive right to make every decision about the future of our city without any imput or direction from the citizens. Groups like Landmarks have to fight tooth and nail to save every endangered building from destruction.

We get little or no help from our elected representatives. And the destruction marches on.

The Scenic and Historic Comission was implemented in response to the unnecessary destruction of #2 Rutger park in the early 1990's. Even with those controls in place, the destruction continues. Someone "forgets" to check, and a demo permit is issued by mistake. A landlord neglects his property for so many years without any Codes Department intervention that, on the verge of collapse, it becomes an "emergency demolition."

The city that we all know and love will cease to be if we do not stop this systematic looting and destruction. We must demand that city hall listen and act.

If they refuse, we need to make sure they hear us-loud and clear!

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