The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce, Mohawk Valley EDGE and The Genesis Group condemn the continuing divisive, hateful, and racist tactics and statements employed by the “no hospital” Facebook group that opposes Downtown Utica’s regional healthcare campus.
In the group’s latest use of baseless and incendiary rhetoric, one of its most vocal members posted the following, along with photos of two African American men charged with crimes:
“Imagine going outside in downtown Utica where MVHS is publicly opening it’s [sic] doors to the felons, shooters, homeless, and where the poor always hang out . . .”
“With the up tick [sic] in drug deaths, criminal gangs, and violent muggings and shootings in and around where MVHS downtown rigged location is, MVHS to place ALL DOCTORS NURSES, PATIENTS AND VISITORS RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF A VERY DANGEROUS AND GROWING PROBLEMS.”
“I bet MVHS doctors, nurses, employee’s [sic], patients and visitors can’t wait to go a congested dangerous downtown Utica location opening up for public access in high crime area . . . “
This thinly veiled racist tactic based on fear and stereotyping is what political analysts call a “Willie Horton ad.” And it’s only the latest instance of rhetoric some of the group’s leaders and members have used for more than three years, like “no hospital’s” website statement: “Urban hospitals create unsafe areas around them, especially at night. Hospitals are seen as public spaces where one can seek refuge. Some seek warmth, drugs (to buy or sell), some are drunk or under the influence of drugs.”
- Explicit and implicit racist messaging has no place in any dialogue concerning the new hospital. Such behavior has no place in our community. We reject and condemn such messaging.
- Demonizing the poor, homeless, and those struggling with substance abuse is unacceptable and unworthy of a group whose only issue is the location of Downtown Utica’s new hospital.
- Those who sincerely disagree with the project location but do not support racist, divisive statements and tactics should reject them.
No documented, peer-reviewed, published research supports the claim that city hospitals create “unsafe areas.” In fact, more than a century of research has shown the opposite: informed urban design reduces crime and improves safety. We submit that a modern, well-lighted, 24/7-staffed facility will offer a welcome enhancement to an area that is now, at night, inactive, poorly lit, and little frequented by city residents and visitors, especially pedestrians.
“No hospital” leaders have said their only concern is the project’s location but continue to post and encourage online attacks on elected officials, private citizens, and community institutions; and many of these attacks are unrelated to location. Group leaders justify some objectionable posts, citing “passionate” feelings about the new medical center campus’s “destruction of the city.” They may, as they did when a “no hospital” member posted death threats last year, delete these latest posts and say they only represented one member’s “passion.” But countless other objectionable posts remain.
Fortunately, our area’s bright future will be realized—regardless of behavior that will someday be barely remembered as a small, insignificant bump in the road to community progress.