UTICA, N.Y. -- A group opposing the construction of a downtown Utica hospital has what it claims is the "smoking gun" to shut down the project.
"No Hospital Downtown" members are releasing emails exchanged between Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Mohawk Valley Edge President Steve DiMeo. The emails were obtained through a FOIL request by No Hospital Downtown.
One of the emails they're sharing was sent from Brindisi about the No Downtown Hospital's Facebook group. It includes a line reading: "Eventually, this will hit mainstream media so we should discuss how to combat this. I know Ray wants us to be low key on location but I don't want public opinion derailing this."
No Hospital Downtown members say the statement shows area politicians didn't want the public to share their thoughts on the project. Brindisi disagrees and says the group is spreading misinformation. He and Picente said this statement, along with the other shared emails, are being taken out of context.
"The bottom line is, I think when you look at all the emails in totality, you'll say, 'This is how government should work. You have elected officials communicating with each other about securing money for this area, about building a new hospital, making sure the information is put out to the public," Brindisi said.
"If you were to say, 'Well, show us more of the emails and then people will see that it wasn't this nasty' ... No. You're gonna see exactly what we see," said No Hospital Downtown Co-Founder Brett Truett. "They haven't really had a plan, and they really were orchestrating to put the hospital downtown."
Hospital officials hope to start construction in downtown Utica in 2019.