Emails reveal Utica officials pushed downtown location for new hospital
Some Oneida County public officials are doing damage control after a trove of their emails surfaced, revealing a long-running bias on a downtown hospital project in Utica.
The No Hospital Downtown group obtained the emails, which show a thread of conversations between Utica-area assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Steve DiMeo, director of the economic development organization Mohawk Valley Edge. They discuss a concerted effort to get state money and support behind building a new Mohawk Valley Health System hospital in downtown Utica before seeking public input.
"They had already determined that it was going downtown and then they go ahead and perpetrate the fraud on the public by having these meetings after the fact merely to discuss the colors of the drapes," said Jim Brock, one of the co-founders of No Hospital Downtown. "[Brindisi] goes on to say I don’t want public opinion derailing this."
Brindisi said that in an email where he was referencing Brock's No Hospital Downtown group. The Democratic assemblyman is defending his comments, saying he was afraid that group would spread false information about the hospital, which he claims they have.
Brindisi is also defending another email in which he says he feels like saying if the Mohawk Valley Health System and community don't want this hospital downtown, "don't come see me for an ounce of state support." But Brindisi says it's never been a secret that he was in favor of the downtown location.
"The legislation that authorizes the $300 million for a new health care facility is very clear that this facility has to be built within the largest population center within the county, which is the city of Utica," Brindisi said.
Brindisi helped author that legislation. But he says he and other public officials are simply representing what many in the community want - a state of the art health care campus that supports economic development.
The No Hospital Downtown group says these emails are further proof that the downtown location has been forced down the community's throat. They say more revealing emails will be released soon.