The Little Falls Historical Society received a provisional charter from the University of the State of New York Education Department. This capped a multi-year battle with the Urban Renewal Agency to prevent the 1833 historic Herkimer County Bank building from being torn down.
Urban Renewal Presentation
by Louis Baum
It was about fifty-five years ago that Little Falls began its urban renewal program in earnest.
Elderly people living in the city at that time would have a hard time recognizing their community today. The accepted practice at that time was to outline a “blighted” area, usually the downtown section of the community, and tear everything down, and build anew. Little, or no, consideration was given to buildings of merit.
That is not the case today. Before an urban renewal project is initiated, a study must be undertaken of all structures to be included, and present plans to remediate and preserve historical and other important buildings. Only one building in Little Falls was saved, that being the old 1833 bank building, the current home of the Little Falls Historical Society. A judge ordered the building not be razed since it was on the National Historical Register. The city’s plan was to have an extra fifteen parking spaces for the bank.
So, there is a way to do things right. Little Falls got some things right, but, in retrospect, it could have been done a lot better.
Click on the right and left blue arrows on the images to view the slides in the presentation.
“Little Falls Urban Renewal – Good, Bad, or Both”
Presentation: Little Falls Historical Society – April 24, 2018
Louis W. Baum, Jr.
- December, 1967 . . . . Comments From The Public Hearing
- “These people are concerned about one thing . . . they are concerned where they can relocate and still stay in the City of Little Falls . . . We are only expressing our feelings and when it is our private homes, we fight. It is our families and our homes.”
- “Will the city be able to absorb all these families that are involved? We don’t want to leave. Is there enough vacant housing?”
- “. . . I’d like to know if the City of Little Falls has a place for all these people that have to move? You are going to tear down so many buildings, but what about all of the people in these buildings? Where are you going to put them?”
- In October of 1969 the New York Department of Transportation began a major acquisition and relocation project for an arterial highway in the City of Little Falls. Twenty (20) months later, all of the 552 people in the 277 residential dwelling units and 34 businesses had been relocated. (LWB note: Assessed Valuation in the City of Little Falls decreased $500,000.)
- Little Falls was a small community of 7600 population with a limited housing market. The relocation of such a large number of people had an obvious impact on this small community. But, it is in the human terms of the relocatees themselves that the final impact was most poignantly and directly evidenced. (From a New York State DOT, Real Estate Division report)
- Phase 2 of Urban Renewal in Little Falls saw the demolition of another 48 housing units and 39 businesses with a reduction of Assessed Valuation of $276,000. (LWB note: Phase 2 encompassed the area between East Main and Albany Streets and South Ann and South William Streets. The total reduction of the Assessed Valuation in the City of Little Falls for these two projects was $ 776,000 or 9% of the overall Assessed Valuation for the city.)
- December, 1972 . . . . Comments From The People Who Relocated
- “There just wasn’t any housing, and what was there was too high.”
- “I didn’t want to move, but it may help the City.”
- “All the men were okay, but what could you do? It was tough to move.”
- ”I liked the old house. I can’t get anyplace anymore. I’m lonely; there aren’t and neighbors around during the day.”
- New York State Report – 1973
- There is a very high attachment and identification factor between the residents of Little Falls and their community and neighborhood. Almost without exception , the people being relocated wanted to stay in Little Falls – they liked their community, they liked their neighbors, they were happy in their environment. Even if some of the residents had to commute to work outside of the City, they did not look to relocate as an opportunity to move closer to their place of employment.
Occupants fell into three distinct categories:
1) Occupants who relocated prior to May, 1970 – No benefits.
2) Occupants who relocated between May, 1970 and July 1, 1971 . . . up to $5,000 for owners; $1,500 for tenants.
3) Occupants who relocated after July 1, 1971 . . . up to $15,000 for owners; $4,000 for tenants.
(LWB note: The above relocation benefits did not include an offer for the home. Discussions with people initially involved (prior to May 1970) indicated the offers for their homes were low and “Take it or leave it.” Home owners in Category 2 (May 1970 – July 1, 1971) and Category 3 (after July 1, 1971) received increasingly higher offers for their homes. As one might expect, considerable animosity developed between the homeowners in the various categories, and also between the homeowners and the City and State.)
Urban Renewal Museum Exhibit
Visit the Little Falls Historical Society Museum to see how Main Street, and the city, has changed during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Urban Renewal Timeline
April 23, 1963
July 11, 1964
One of the city’s oldest houses is the victim of Urban Renewal. A pile of rubble is all that is left of the brick home at the corner of Albany and Mary streets which was built in 1830 by Dr. Milton Gray.
July 18, 1964
The former Arkay Hall is being torn down as a part of the Urban Renewal program. The building, at the rear of the McCauley block on Main Street, was built after the big fire in 1893. Used for a variety of purposes, it was the meeting place for the “Independent Order of Red Men,” home of basketball games, boxing and wrestling matches, a rifle range, and a bowling alley.
January 19, 1965
Cale Developers of Herkimer have been chosen to develop the two-block Urban Renewal area known as the “Downtown Project” bounded by Main, Second, Albany, and William streets at an estimated cost of $1,300,000. They are to develop the property and to sign up tenants. Local cost is $195,000.
April 12, 1965
A wrecking crane was brought in to begin razing old structures in the “Downtown Urban Renewal” project. The first buildings to go will be the former Jay Smith Garage and the Grange Store at the corner of Albany and Second streets.
March 26, 1993
The former Andy’s Grill on Loomis Street, a long-time bar and meeting place in the Manheim section of Little Falls, is no more. As a part of Urban Renewal, the property has been turned into a residence for which applications are being made from first-time home owners.