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Gloversville eyed as pilot city for program

January 29, 2009

GLOVERSVILLE - Officials from a New York City-based public spaces planning group will visit the city in February to determine if Gloversville could be a pilot location for a national program to revitalize small cities.

City Court Judge Vincent DeSantis said he learned of the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit organization, about a year ago. DeSantis said he received an e-mail from PPS a few months ago broadcasting the group's services, and he sent an e-mail back about Gloversville. He received a call from PPS Vice President Phil Myrick, who said he would be interested in visiting Gloversville to determine if the city could be part of a program to reinvigorate the downtowns of small cities.

"I told him about the possibilities in a city like Gloversville, with its traditional layout and small city infrastructure," DeSantis said. "[PPS] is in the process of ... marketing some new techniques and strategies nationally and are interested in Gloversville as possibly being one of the first places where they would try to make inroads."

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According to its Web site, PPS is "dedicated to creating and sustaining public places that build communities."

According to the Web site, PPS has worked in more than 1,000 communities, including areas of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore and New York City, and in Australia, the Czech Republic and Germany. There, it has developed parks, plazas and markets, and redesigned roads and public transportation, among other projects.

DeSantis said Myrick may be joined by Rod Howe of Cornell University. Howe, an assistant director for Cornell Cooperative Extension, said he may attend to offer support to the local Cornell Cooperative Extension office.

"My understanding is [DeSantis and PPS] are interested in taking the next step," Howe said. "They are thinking more broadly [about revitalization], and it has a strong parallel with what Cornell Cooperative Extension does."

DeSantis said Myrick will meet with members of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry and other local leaders for a public forum to discuss what options PPS envisions for Gloversville.

Myrick said he hopes to bring PPS' extensive experience in communities of all sizes to Gloversville.

"I'm a passionate fan of upstate New York towns and the potential they have for being wonderful places to live," he said. "We are really just exploring what some of the opportunities might be in Gloversville, and how PPS could work with other participating groups from the community if there is willingness there."

DeSantis said he believes the willingness will be there.

"The people I have told about this said they would definitely be there," DeSantis said. "I hope [city government] would be centrally involved. That is what this is for, to bring them up to speed on what PPS does and how they approach revitalization."

DeSantis said he is unsure how any developments or changes would be paid for. He said it is early in the planning stages of the possible project.

According to the PPS Web site, past projects have been funded by the cities in which the projects take place, by private economic development groups, and by state and federal organizations. The Web site states Myrick is a professional urban planner with experience in projects across the world.

City Planning Board member and Troy city planner Tim Mattice said he is encouraged by PPS impending presence in the city, but cautioned that any impetus for change is in the hands of city officials.

"You can get 100 different people or agencies that are well known and have gotten results doing revitalization, but it boils down to one thing, and that is that the local administration has to act," he said. "You can talk until you are blue in the face, but it's our leaders that have to pull the trigger."

Mattice, who also is a member of the Gloversville2020 group, a group of city business owners and residents with strategies to reinvigorate the downtown through overlay districts and other incentives, said he believes PPS' plans could dovetail well with Gloversville2020's plans.

"I think we are on to something, and this will only support our efforts," he said. "It could create some momentum and awareness, but you have to convince the administration to jump on board and create policies that can actually change things."

DeSantis said he is encouraged by PPS' visit and is hoping it will light a fire underneath business owners and government officials to make some positive changes.

"PPS feels they can really do something here, and hopefully the people of Gloversville will be receptive to that," he said.

Myrick is scheduled to visit the city Feb. 17. An informational public meeting following the visit will be held at the First Presbyterian Church at 6:30 p.m., DeSantis said.

Mayor Tim Hughes did not return calls seeking comment.

Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at



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