January 11, 2008


Pendleton St. housing development in works

Conifer Realty has requested a loan from city to fund project

Pendleton St Field

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
A field on Pendelton Street where a proposed housing project will go.

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A real estate development company with about 130 properties across the northeast is interested in constructing about 50 low-to-moderate-income apartments on Pendleton Street.
Conifer Realty — with offices in New York, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania — has requested a development loan from the city to make the project happen, Mayor Tom Gallagher said this morning.
The property is located at 111-115 Pendleton St. and is owned by Howard F. Brown.
The property is 6.9 acres and contains a metal pre-fabricated warehouse-type building. The property’s assessed value, including the value of the building, is $131,800, according to Cortland County Real Property Tax Services. The value of the land is $103,000.
Details of the project will be brought before the Common Council at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The company has also requested a loan from the Cortland County Business Development Corp./Industrial Development Agency, Gallagher said, adding that the two loans would be predicated on one another.
Conifer Realty has apartment complexes in Groton, Ithaca and Syracuse.
Representatives with the company were unavailable for comment late this morning.
Gallagher made the announcement at the Cortland Counts Community Forum late Thursday afternoon. The forum — made up of public officials, nonprofit service providers, educators and business people — tracks the county’s progress in the areas of health, housing, youth and economic development.
It was through this forum and the spin-off Housing Confab meetings that another affordable housing developer, Housing Visions Inc., was brought into Cortland to develop the Cortland Crown Homes project on and around south Main Street in 2006.
The project would likely consist of seven residential buildings of about eight apartments each, in addition to a centrally located community building. It would be funded through federal tax credits, similar to the Cortland Crown Homes project.
Although that project is primarily intended for use by low-income tenants, Gallagher said Conifer Realty’s development would be low-to-moderate income housing.
Brookside Apartments, a Conifer development in Canandaigua, includes a community building, a nature trail, a playground and a computer room. The buildings feature peaked roofs with balconies and terraces attached to the individual units.
According to information provided to the mayor, Conifer stated that the Canandaigua apartments were affordable to tenants at 60 percent of the state median income level.
Gallagher said the development would also help bolster the city’s tax base.
According to the city’s Administration and Finance Department, the property has delinquent taxes in the amount of $107,185, plus an undetermined amount of interest and penalties that increases with each day the taxes remain unpaid.




Kiplinger’s: SUNY Cortland among the best values in public education

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — SUNY Cortland improved its position on a national finance magazine’s annual rankings of the top 100 best values for public education in the country.
The college, which moved up to 89th from 97th in the ranking by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, was among 11 New York state colleges and universities on the list.
SUNY Geneseo ranked sixth and SUNY Binghamton ranked eighth. Other SUNY campuses on the list were: Purchase at 55, Fredonia at 56, Albany at 66, New Paltz at 74, Oneonta at 75, Buffalo at 76, Brockport at 78, and Plattsburgh at 97.
For out-of-state students, Cortland repeated its ranking of 64th in the nation.
“Our exceptional academic profile and our competitive tuition and fees are certainly no secret to New York’s students,” said SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum, in a release.
SUNY Cortland Admissions Director Mark Yacavone said this year 9,879 applications have been received for freshman admission in the fall compared to 9,332 at this time last year.
“More came to Cortland last year,” Yacavone noted. Of the 47 percent admitted, 25.5 percent of them, or more than 1,100 showed up. The number who actually attend is usually around 23 percent, he said.
“Our largest population is in teacher education programs,” said Yacavone. He said while this program is steady, other programs are growing including physical education, speech and language disabilities, criminology, biology and sports management.
“Students continually tell me that we are a ‘hot campus,’” Bitterbaum said.
Geneseo, near Rochester, is also named the best value for out-of-state students. The University at Buffalo was ranked second.
The magazine’s rankings are based on data from more than 500 public four-year colleges and universities. The list is narrowed to about 120 schools based on a combination of top academics and affordable costs.



Water fountains at Appleby to turn on

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Appleby Elementary School is returning to municipal drinking water Monday, more than a year after water fountains at the school were shut off due to high levels of lead in the school’s water supply.
The latest round of water testing, which took place Dec. 14, resulted in just one location with a higher than acceptable level of lead,  said Superintendent of Schools Tim Turecek.
Water in the school’s office measured 0.016 milligrams per liter, slightly above the acceptable level of 0.015 milligrams per liter, but subsequent flushing of the site showed a reduced level of 0.0020 milligrams per liter.
The office does not have a water fountain, just a sink, Turecek said.
He attributed the reduction to a series of measures the school has taken, including flushing out pipes daily, cleaning water tanks and installing new fixtures.
Since November 2006, when the district notified the public about high lead levels, people in the school have been drinking water out of portable water coolers.
Turecek said the water coolers cost the district about $15,000 more than municipal water would have cost.
With the removal of the portable water coolers the district will continue to flush water at the school on a daily basis, Turecek said, and test Appleby’s water every three months.
Those results will be reported publicly, he said.
People can get a list of the Dec. 14 lead level readings at, as well as a message from Turecek.
That page also includes lead level readings from tests conducted in October and August. One classroom — Room 108 — tested positive for lead above the acceptable level in October, whereas nine sites tested positive for lead above the acceptable level in August.
Turecek attributed the high levels to water at the school not running regularly over the summer.




Seward lays out 2008 legislative priorities

State senator focuses on property tax relief, economic growth and energy policy

Staff Reporter

Outlining his plans for 2008, state Sen. Jim Seward expanded and added to the ideas Gov. Eliot Spitzer delivered in his State of the State address, seeking solutions to major problems families, businesses and local governments face in upstate New York.
“We need action in 2008. I would describe the governor’s first year as a disappointment. But he has come into 2008 with some great ideas,” Seward (R-Milford) said during a news conference Thursday morning in Cortland. “Jan. 22 is going to be a key day. That’s when his budget is going to come out and ideas will have to be transformed.”
During his speech at his district office on Church Street, Seward outlined a plan he dubbed “Focus 1-2-3,” stating that the state Legislature and governor must focus on property tax relief, economic growth and renewable and alternative energy cost relief.
“We need real solutions to problems faced every day by families in our area,” Seward said.
In terms of property tax relief, Seward is looking for immediate help to families in the upstate area by doubling the property tax rebate program for most taxpayers and tripling it for seniors.
“The governor is calling for a commission to look at property taxes. Let’s not just study it, we need immediate help,” he said.
Spitzer’s planned bipartisan commission, which will study the root of property tax problems, plans to look at unfunded mandates on school districts and municipalities and propose ideas on making tax relief fairer to middle class taxpayers.
For long-term improvements on property tax, Seward had many proposals including limiting state spending.
“State spending adds to the need for higher taxes in New York,” he said.
However, Spitzer’s address called for spending on a variety of things, including a $4 billion investment into the SUNY system, which brings up the question of how it will all be paid for.
“We want to see the Legislature have some input on what projects are funded,” Seward said. “We have local needs and some assistance from the state can help improve the economy.”
Seward, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, will advance his plans during the budget process and try to include them into the senate’s budget, said Duncan Davie, spokesperson for the senator.




Homer students develop business plans

Class project creates ideas for businesses in Cortland’s downtown with help of area professionals 

Staff Reporter

HOMER — A clothing store with comfortable seating and a fun center with such attractions as laser tag were among business ideas for Cortland’s downtown that Homer High School students presented Thursday to local young professionals.
“I was expecting your typical doughnut and coffee shops,” said Kimberly McRae Friedman, one of the professionals and director of membership services for the Cortland County Chamber of Commerce. “There are really creative ideas.”
Friedman and six other members of 40 Below, a networking organization for young professionals, are working with the high school students to develop downtown Cortland business ideas.
The dialogue, which took place between Joe Cortese’s senior economics students at two different points during the school day, represents part of a business plan project that links the students with several Homer High School teachers, other Homer High students, SUNY Cortland strategic management students and other community residents.
“It can help kids find their way in the real world,” said John Steedle, a Homer High School architecture teacher whose junior and senior students are designing buildings for Cortese’s students’ proposed businesses.
While Cortese’s students have been coming up with business plans for a number of years, collaborating with Steedle, art teacher Paul Andre and their respective classes, this is the first year they have conceived businesses for downtown Cortland and worked with Downtown Manager Lloyd Purdy, in addition to SUNY Cortland students and 40 Below members.
The students are working on business plans for downtown Cortland because Purdy approached Cortese about the idea before the start of the school year, and Cortese thought it was a good one.
It is also the first year students have recorded mock radio segments advertising their products on the Homer station WXHC.