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Oneida County officials push Hochul to keep SUNY Poly in Utica

Office of the Governor

The SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica is in a bit of limbo, after Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a proposal earlier this year to fold the school's College of Nanoscale and Engineering back into the University of Albany campus.

But local leaders are pushing back.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente has been in politics for a while. Big changes like this, he said, usually follow a pattern.

"There’s dialogue, there’s a plan, there’s understanding. There’s also a complete and sincere discussion,” Picente said. “We’re not seeing that and that’s very frustrating and very disturbing.”

First word of this came in Hochul’s State of the State speech in January. She announced plans to revitalize campuses in Albany and Binghamton into leading research and teaching universities. For Albany, it meant bringing the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering back to that campus. It had moved to Utica in 2014, and Picente said it’s been successful since.

“Everything has been working. The companies attest to it, the enrollment attests to it, the overall activity attests to it, and investment attests to it,” he said. “There’s so many factors that unless this thing had fallen apart back in 2014 and 2015 when it began, it doesn’t make any sense about why this is being broken apart.”

Local leaders have sent letters to Albany, and recently started a petition drive to show community support for the facility.

“The petition piece became an important piece to say ’this is a regional asset,’ that the will of the people understand,” Picente said. “And when we start to tell our story about what it means, they understand it.”

But so far, Picente said all they’ve gotten from Albany is “radio silence.” He said the most frustrating thing is this comes at a time when the region is trying to attract semiconductor facilities.

"As in the case of White Pines, they are in heavy negotiations with someone. We’re also looking for someone else in Marcy,” he said. “That becomes a big factor because of the research aspect and the collaboration between universities.”

Picente is referring to the White Pine Commerce Park in the Town of Clay, which Onondaga County officials say is a finalist for a major semiconductor manufacturing plant.

Ultimately, Picente said the community will keep pressing for answers about SUNY Poly, and for reversal.

"No one has given us one valid argument to say why it should go. But we can give them a thousand why it needs to stay,” he said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.