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October 15, 2012

Plans made for 1960s Oneonta expansions

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The Daily Star

---- — When Dr. Royal F. Netzer, president of the State University College at Oneonta had announced a major expansion of the college over the next several years in October 1962, the city of Oneonta needed to prepare for the expansion as well. 

Albert “Sam” Nader was a new mayor that year. Basic needs in the city such as water, sewers and streets needed expansion or repair to meet the growing needs of both SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College, as well as the planned new high school on upper East Street.

For these upcoming changes, Oneonta planned a $1 million capital improvement program and requested that the federal government pay half. For Oneonta to pay its half, Common Council repealed a local law Tuesday, Oct. 30, requiring a mandatory public referendum on any bond issue of more than $100,000.

A few of the streets planned for widening and improvements included West Street, Bugbee Road, and sections of Dietz Street and Ford Avenue near downtown, among others. 

Oneonta had been declared a distressed area at the time and became eligible for federal aid under the Public Works Acceleration Program, a bill signed into law by President John F. Kennedy earlier that fall. 

There was limited time in which to apply for the aid, so Nader got busy in a hurry.

“When I heard about the program,” Nader said, “we needed a Capital Planning and Budget Commission, which was on my agenda to put together. We had Royal Netzer, Fred Binder, Al Farone, Dr. (Alexander) Carson, Harold deGraw, Sterling Harrington, Dan Bolton and Sid Levine. Those were pretty much the powers in the community. Dr. Carson told me that he’d work to get any resolution through on the needed projects in the city, which he did.”

Binder was then president of Hartwick College, and other commission members were business leaders.

“When the program was announced,” Nader continued, “I took my city chamberlain, Tom Natoli, and we went down to New York, to meet with those in charge of the Accelerated Public Works Program.”

Nader and Natoli were apparently surprise visitors to the officials at the Federal Building in New York. According to The Oneonta Star, the Oneonta contingent made the trip to the Federal Housing and Home Finance Agency on Thursday, Nov. 15. 

“They asked if we had any resolutions,” Nader recalled. “I responded, ‘If you have a typewriter, I’ll type them. I have my city seal and my city chamberlain with me.’ So we put our applications in.”

The plans for Oneonta were sent to Washington and Nader was told he’d get a response before the end of the month. Nader told The Star that month how he was encouraged by the reception of the federal authorities.

“As a result of being aggressive, the City of Oneonta got more funds from the program than any other city in New York state, except for Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers,” Nader said.

In addition to all the basic infrastructure improvements, Nader said the city parks were also expanded. New industries came in with the improvements, such as Gladding, Custom Electronics and others.

While there was plenty of noise from construction on the two college hillsides in the next few years, there was plenty more of the same in the city limits as well.

This weekend: Excitement over a new road opening in October 1932.

City Historian Mark Simonson’s column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or email him at simmark@stny.rr.com.