PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Residents concerned about the city of Plattsburgh’s handling of a $10 million grant to revitalize downtown say they are raising money to mount a legal challenge.
At an informational session Wednesday, members of the Plattsburgh Citizens Coalition said city officials haven’t listened to residents and business owners opposed to a project to transform a Durkee Street parking lot into 114 residential units and 10,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.
The project is funded by $4.3 million from a $10 million grant from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Sylvie Beaudreau, a SUNY Plattsburgh professor involved with the Citizens Coalition, said she once supported the plan. But, she said, there was not enough public input before the city reached an agreement with Prime Companies — the only developer to submit a response to the city’s Request for Proposal.
“What you get depends on what you ask for, so the RFP is a key moment in how we got here,” Beaudreau said. “We tried to find out more about it and couldn’t get any more information from the city.”
“If you look at what people voted for during the public consultations, developing he Durkee Street parking lot was one of the least popular initiatives,” said Sylvie Beaudreau. “Clearly the public wasn’t in favor of this, but something happened whereby the least popular option was the one the state and city endorsed.”
State guidelines for DRI grants say a group of community representatives, including government officials, homeowners, business owners, local non-profits, should “oversee the development of a strategic plan for revitalization of their downtown.”
Boudreau said documents the coalition obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request show that a Burlington consultant, White & Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors, helped a three-member committee of local officials draw up the city’s RFP. She said the community’s agreed-upon vision for the $10 million grant was not included.
“It was left to outside experts to come and tell us what we needed to do in that space,” Beaudreau said. “So if you want to know what happened and why it matters, it was that moment that left us where we are now.”
The coalition is also concerned that, while White & Burke’s assessment found the Durkee Street project to be viable, Prime Companies was the sole respondent to the RFP.
“Somebody is benefiting, and it’s clearly not the residents of this town, and certainly not the businesses downtown,” said Luis Sierra, a resident at the meeting.
Mayor Colin Read did not respond to a request for comment in the coalition’s concerns. In August, he defended the Durkee Street development as “an opportunity to solidify our economic base and lower taxes for everybody else.”