Working Together Works

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News Release

 

Contact: Gene A. Allen                                                                                                   For Release:  Immediately

                Office: 315-792-0112

                Email: gallen@cityofutica.com

 

Working Together Works

Grand Opening – Kemble Park

 

Mayor Robert M. Palmieri officially opened the newly created Kemble Park today (October 5, 2018) to the public.

 

“The opening of Kemble Park marks the culmination of over a decade of residents working cooperatively with the City, the Utica City School District, the County, the State and numerous partners to bring this park back to life,” said Mayor Palmieri. “Kemble Park represents a shining example of Community Development 101,” he continued.

 

The story behind the restoration of Kemble Park goes back to the mid 90’s when the Utica City School District demolished the old Kemble School as part of its consolidation plan.  They replaced the school with a basketball court and soccer field to provide recreational facilities for the neighborhood.  Both were used consistently by the area youth.

 

Then in 2000, the School District allowed the soccer field to be used as a staging area for the repaving of the Parkway, with the agreement that it would be restored once the work was complete.  A second agreement was made to use the soccer field while paving was done on Herkimer Road.  This went on until 2004 when the School District started to use the site to park storage containers.

 

This started the ball rolling with neighbors contacting the City and School District to remediate the soccer field.  In 2008 the Cornhill Neighborhood Association formed the Cornhill Master Plan committee with the primary focus to restore Kemble Park.

 

From that point on the initiative grew a life of its own.  Neighbors attended a myriad of School District and Common Council meetings, partnered with the HomeOwnership Center and Cornell University to develop a cohesive redevelopment plan.  Focus groups were held in the neighborhood so the plan would include grassroots input and support.

 

Members of the Cornhill Master Plan Committee served on the City of Utica’s Master Plan Committee and Kemble Park was added to the City’s initiatives.  The City committed to providing in-kind services to grade the field to prepare it for restoration.  As plans progressed, the City land banked adjacent properties to expand the foot print of the lot.

 

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Kemble Park – 2

 

Cornell conducted visioning sessions and focus groups with residents and stakeholders to get ideas regarding the design of the park.  Cornell University provided landscape architectural plans for Kemble Park. 

 

In November of 2012, Oneida County announced the site of the former Kemble Street School in the City of Utica’s Cornhill would be a key feature of a new two-year $200,000 grant secured by the New York State Department of Health’s (NYS DOH) Center for Environmental Health.  NYS DOH received the award from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Key activities in the two-year project included; assisting with the development of Kemble Street Community Park, reviewing the past land use of the former school property and nearby lots, and, soil testing/sampling.

 

In addition, the Homeownership Center applied to New York State for a Consolidated Funding Award as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Awards.  In July of 2014, the city received $500,000 through NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to help transform the site with the remainder of the park being paid for through in-kind services by the City Parks Department and funding from the CDBG program. The total cost of the park was approximately $875,000.

 

New York State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, “New York State has a proud tradition of supporting local and municipal park development through the Environmental Protection Fund.  Public parks are an integral and vital part of communities, and I congratulate the city of Utica on the opening of Kemble Park.” 

Mayor Robert Palmieri praised the work done by the neighborhood association and others involved with the project. “They worked diligently on this consistently for years and years and years,” he said. “This is a framework of a close-knit neighborhood group that had a vision and implanted that vision to fruition.”