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May 12, 2014

Changes to landscape, local media made news in May 1974

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The Daily Star

---- — Construction projects, a notable land acquisition and some changes in local media were topics making news during the month of May 1974.

“A Binghamton construction firm will build Oneonta’s low income housing project in the Fifth Ward,” it was reported in The Oneonta Star of Friday, May 3. The Oneonta Housing Authority designated Sarkisian Brothers Inc. of Binghamton as the developer at a special meeting that week.

The project, which we know today as the Mayrose Apartments, was set to be built in the near future on a two-acre site at the corner of Lewis and Thorn streets in the West End. Housing Director William McManus was hopeful construction could begin in the summer, and when it did the project would take about six months to complete.

Over in the Sixth Ward, Common Council had voted on Tuesday, May 22, to purchase the Wilcox property near the Riverside Elementary School. The price tag was $130,000 for the land and what was then a deteriorating old home, vacated within the previous five years. We know it today as the Swart Wilcox House.

“An option the city secured from owner Van Smith was due to expire on May 31 and it was reported private interests wanted to buy the 18 acres for a housing development,” the Star reported.

“I think it will be a wise decision,” said Alderman Peter Clark. “In two or three years we won’t be able to afford any land in the city.” Restoring the old house was still several months away from being considered.

In the heart of downtown Oneonta, an urban renewal project was facing a delay, as the Star reported on Thursday, May 23.

“Motorists who have had trouble finding parking places in the city and were looking toward the end of the summer when the three tier parking structure would provide relief, should forget it.”

A delay in the production of steel was preventing further progress on the garage, at the corner of Market Street and Chestnut Street Extension. “Sarkisian Brothers Construction … told City Engineer John Buck Wednesday they were not expecting deliveries of necessary small steel pieces until the beginning of August.” The garage wasn’t completed until the late months of 1975.

Delays had also been plaguing the construction of Interstate 88 in the Oneonta area since November 1973. It was reported on Saturday, May 25, that a legal path had been cleared for work to resume on two sections in Oneonta. A lawsuit in 1973 had charged that the Federal Highway Administration had failed to perform the proper environmental impact studies on the highway, and a judge’s injunction had put a halt to construction. Work resumed immediately and the local portion of the road was opened to traffic in the late fall.

That story of “Oneonta I-88 sections get green light” became the final front page headline in the newspaper that had been called The Oneonta Star for decades. Come Tuesday, May 28, the newspaper had a new look and a new name, The Daily Star.

On another media front, five prominent Oneontans joined together to begin another attempt at regular local television programming in the city.

Lawyer Joseph P. Molinari, James Lettis, Mel Farmer, Bill Bright and Gerald VanDusen became major stockholders in a new operation called OKTV. The Star reported on Friday, May 10, that OKTV would start programming over cable channel 5 the following Monday, with local programs on weekday evenings.

Farmer, whose previous attempt at local programming on an operation called CV-5, went off the air earlier in the year.

Early local shows included a nightly 10 p.m. newscast with Ron Shapley, then a sports director at WDOS radio. Friday night Little League games were shown, as well as other locally hosted shows, in addition to reruns of popular 1950s TV series and popular movies of the 1930s and ‘40s.

OKTV didn’t last long, as it was reported on Dec. 19 that financial problems forced the station to “temporarily” suspend operations, as the economic climate at the time made it difficult to sell advertising. There were hopes the operation could be revived in the spring.

This weekend: A local “economic summit” in 1919 with a somewhat familiar sound to the present day.

Oneonta 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. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.