Save Durkee Street Parking!
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The fate of our downtown is in jeopardy! The City and State are proceeding with plans to turn the Durkee Street parking lot into a mixed-use development even though there has been little to no evidence of public support for the project all along.
The $10 million State-run Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) was awarded to the City in 2016 on the basis of an application which included the idea for this project, which was developed with very little public input. When concerns about this plan were raised, members of the community were assured that they would have the opportunity to decide for themselves where the money would actually be spent. During the DRI planning process, this project polled at about 1-2% in the only public voting session offered during the planning process. As it turns out, the results of this poll were disregarded and NEVER REPORTED TO THE STATE. The final report to the state, however, FALSELY claimed that this project did have community support - even siting this poll date as evidence! - resulting in this project being awarded nearly HALF of the DRI grant, even though the public had clearly expressed the desire to invest the money in our existing buildings and infrastructure and/or development of the lake front area. Click here to see a comparison of public votes to funding decisions.
The plan to replace parking at the Durkee Street lot with a privately owned mixed-use development poses a serious threat to small businesses that rely on the city’s largest parking lot for convenient access to their stores. A business petition with signatures from nearly 60 downtown businesses was delivered to the City of Plattsburgh Common Council last year with little response so far. Students, residents, county employees, welfare recipients, and others who live and work downtown also rely on the free and accessible parking currently available there. When the roads need to be plowed in the winter, it is often the only place to park - at it includes 80% of our off-street parking downtown. As it stands, the plans to replace the lot’s 298 spaces remain foggy at best, and deceptive at worst. Replacement of the parking spaces at Durkee Street could end up costing the City far more than the $4.3 million dollars in grant funding allotted to its development. This would effectively make the DRI program a tax on our already struggling community!!!
Furthermore, large-scale developments like what is proposed on Durkee Street have a history of failure and of not living up to their promises. We need only look to Dock Street in our city where a $14M hotel and conference center only resulted in a $1.3M parking lot to nowhere. The public has understood this all along and has repeatedly expressed the desire to either diversify the DRI investment into many smaller bets that directly benefit the community, rather than benefiting a large developer recruited from outside of our region, or else invest the money in development of the waterfront, where city tax payers have ALREADY spent over a million dollars building a parking lot with over 300 parking spaces that have NO CURRENT USE! The proposed development for the Durkee Street Lot submitted by Prime Companies would make MUCH more sense on the lakefront, and they could invest more money into other aspects of their development, because they would not have to build ANY parking at all...it's already there! Representatives from Prime Companies even PUBLICLY EXPRESSED THEIR INTEREST IN THE LAKEFRONT PROPERTY! There is NO excuse for politicians and bureaucrats to allow their own interests to supersede the will of the people - especially for funding from a grant program which claims to support grass-roots, community-driven projects!
Public support for any development is crucial. Members of the public live in our community, have a vested interest in how the city grows, and have a deep understanding of what works and does not in our city because they experience it every day. By contrast, consultants and developers from outside our region do not possess this local knowledge and don’t have to live with the consequences of their actions if their plans fall through or go awry.
Public support is also essential because development grants such as the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) are public tax dollars being put to work to develop public land for the benefit of the public—shouldn’t we, the public, control how we use our money in our city?
By signing the following, we petition the city and the state to stop the Durkee Street mixed-use development and either reallocate $4.3M in DRI funding into projects the public actually wants, to be determined by a properly participatory planning process, or else relocate the proposed development by Prime Companies to the Lakefront on Dock Street.
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