Binghamton City Council Business Meeting Report – 6.26.24 & 6.27.24

This is a (very long) summary of public comment and legislation voted on at the 6/26/24 Binghamton City Council Business Meeting and the 6/27/24 Special Business Meeting. There was an error at the Wednesday meeting where only one piece of legislation was “signed out,” so a special meeting was held Thursday at 3:00 pm. I included both meetings in this article.

6/26 Agenda

6/26 Packet

6/26 Video

6/27 Agenda

6/27 Packet

6/27 Video

6/26 Business Meeting


1. Public Hearing regarding RL 24-116: A Resolution authorizing the City to apply for and accept entitlement grants from HUD in the amount of $2,872,045.

  • Summary: CDAC submitted a budget for CDBG and ESG funds that come from HUD. Bureaucracy is beautiful! Most of the money is going to nonprofits for service projects. I included the proposed funding numbers in my May 6th recap.
  • Kristen Gordon-Pier from Literacy Volunteers said their organization requested $40k but received nothing. She said she spoke with Mayor Kraham, who promised he would review their proposal but never followed up.
  • Tonya Brown from Catholic Charities said their Teen Transitional Living Program (“Long-term transitional housing for runaway or unhoused youth ages 16 – 20”) usually receives $15k – $40k but was only budgeted to receive $1500 this year. She said this would mean laying off staff. Brown was joined by a former program client named McKayla who spoke highly of the program and is now a MSW student at BU. There was some confusion as to whether Catholic Charities was correct in applying for both ESG and CDBG funding.
  • Bryce Reynolds is the Treasurer for NOMA and Makerspace. He wasn’t speaking specifically about the HUD funding (they both received $20k in CDBG funds) but said NOMA only received $5k from other funding sources, so he was promoting their fundraising website: 
  • Jen Hill from the ACA talked about their ESL program which is run through the Binghamton Central School District. She spoke in support of Literacy Volunteers.
  • Tarik Abdelazim took issue with the language of RL 24-116, which says “to apply for and accept,” even though this money is simply given to the city every year via HUD. I assume this was a Kraham touch, since he and Rich David are very good at taking credit for projects and funding that only require their signature. Abdelazim also talked about the $3 billion in federal CDBG funding which he said would be $15 billion if adjusted for inflation from what was spent on CDBG in the 1970s. He compared that to the $719 billion Pentagon budget. 

2. Hearing regarding RL 24-91: A Local Law to amend Charter Chapter 45 to include unhoused status as a protected class. 

  • Summary: Resolution designed to prevent discrimination against unhoused people simply based on their status of being unhoused. Would not protect unhoused people who violate other laws, rules, ordinances, etc. The resolution would not give unrestrained right for a person to camp wherever they choose but it would require advanced notice of encampment removal. It would also be intended to prevent illegal search and seizure. Broome County Supreme Court would hear complaints made by those whose rights were violated under the law.
  • Mayor Jared Kraham made a Facebook post the day of the meeting calling this a “deeply problematic law” that gives unhoused people a “special protection” against search and seizure.
  • Kenny Brown said that unhoused people deserve dignity and equality under the law. He quibbled with Kraham’s warning to “residents,” saying that unhoused people are residents too and suggested Councilmember Kosty (who opposes this legislation) try speaking to local unhoused residents.
    • Councilmember Middleton interjected to talk about Kraham’s facebook post, saying that encampments are already illegal and won’t become legal under the new law. She also spoke about how every person can become unhoused.
    • Councilmember Dundon interjected to complain that residents should be calling Kraham’s phone to complain about city policies, not just Councilmembers’.
  • Al Paniccia, a lawyer, spoke on behalf of his client Justin Marchuska (pictured above), who sat silently next to him. Justin is co-owner of Marchuska Brothers Construction and son of Justin Marchuska Senior, owner of Just-In-Time Auto. Remember his commercials that played non-stop during Yankees games back in the day? The Marchuskas bought the Metrocenter in 2019, so Justin was at the meeting to voice concerns (well, his lawyer was) about unhoused people camping on his property and then suing him for violating their rights after he calls the cops on them. Paniccia said the language of the legislation is too vague and that an insurance company wouldn’t cover Marchuska’s legal fees if he were sued.
    • My Take: This fear mongering over frivolous lawsuits mirrors the long-running Republican attempts at “TORT Reform,” which is just a campaign to shut down one of the only avenues left for ordinary citizens to hold corporations (and the State) accountable. The idea that an unhoused person will camp at the Metrocenter and then sue him is a ridiculous fantasy. Marchuska is a minor member of the Broome County business elite backing the Kraham/David/Akshar/Battisti cabal. The Marchuska types (like Adam Weitsman, the Matthews, et al) usually support from the shadows, only surfacing in public via motivational selfie or photo op. It was fascinating to see one of them squirming under the lights at city hall. He looked like a mole seeing sunlight for the first time and was shaking like a leaf. It was notable that no one who voiced opposition to the legislation (except Kosty and Marchuska) actually attended the meeting. Even Kraham was absent. I can’t imagine what satanic ritual was conducted in the basement of the Binghamton Club to decide Marchuska would be the public face of Kraham’s encampment panic. Maybe he’s just angling for another PILOT tax break. 
    • Councilmember Dundon questioned Paniccia about whether Marchuska was “commenting” to set up a lawsuit against the city, which Paniccia denied.
  • Rebecca Rathmell, who proposed the legislation, clarified that the new law would simply add unhoused status to this list in Chapter 45 of the City Charter. You can’t legally refuse service to a person in Binghamton because they’re Black. If this law passes, it will also be illegal to refuse service because they are (or have been) unhoused.
  • Rathmell also told the story of how she got involved in advocating for the unhoused after attending a community meal. She met a man named Gary there who was evicted to make room for student housing and died 6 months later in the Dixie 2000 hotel. She said there are currently about 450 emergency shelter beds in Broome County and all of them are filled. Since housing everyone is not currently an option, she said, we can at least offer “the dignity of acknowledging that we see them.”
  • Councilmember Hotchkiss replied that Kraham’s post about an imminent wave of encampments was an unfair political attack, pointing out that homelessness has increased under Kraham’s administration.
  • Rathmell replied with some statistics: a 20% increase in homelessness since 2021, 2700 people (450 families with children) experiencing homelessness in Broome County each year, a 72% increase in families experiencing homelessness since 2021, and a 542% increase in unsheltered homelessness since the Downtown Center was opened a decade ago.

All other in-person comments were in favor of the legislation:

  • Salka Valerio spoke about being unhoused in NYC and talked about how essential bus stations are for sheltering from extreme weather. She also pointed out that Broome DSS will only pay up to $400 in rent, which makes it impossible to find a place in Binghamton if you don’t have other income.
  • Jessica Steele spoke about being unhoused. She is now a substance abuse nurse working on a Doctorate at BU and talked about a patient who lost their food stamps because they didn’t have a mailing address. She also said the city keeps the electricity off at the MLK promenade so unhoused people can’t charge their phones and pointed out that when BPD trashes an encampment, unhoused people will often lose their medication.
  • Amari Pavati talked about the negative effects of a tent ban passed in Austin, TX. 
  • Jacob Weber talked about doing street outreach and said that the new law is an opportunity for Binghamton to set an example and prevent abuse.
  • KT also talked about doing street outreach, saying the city refuses to acknowledge its unhoused population and actively erases them. They called Kraham a bootlicker and said that unhoused people are not criminals, that homelessness itself is a crime.
  • Chase Dufresne talked about doing street outreach and having a client go missing for weeks because of Jason Garnar’s emergency order at the bus station, which booted people based on their appearance of being unhoused.
  • Carmela Pirich, Executive Director of ACBC, spoke about the org’s failed attempt to establish a warming/cooling center for unhoused people on Jarvis Street in the First Ward. The project was rejected by the city’s Planning Commission after an outcry from local residents and businesses. ACBC was forced to return $450k in funding they had secured from a private donor.
  • Tarik Abdelazim talked about the law as a simple safeguarding of rights that are familiar and common sense to the general public in the case of other protected classes. 
  • Carinne talked about doing street outreach. They pointed out that unhoused people are our neighbors and an encampment is their home and should be treated with respect.
  • Efraim Rosario does street outreach for the YWCA and talked about the struggle of being unhoused.

Most email comments were from the Kraham administration and downtown business owners who are against the legislation:

  • Cody Reed (Anti) – Multiple property owner. “These unhealthy living conditions (encampments) lead to the further spread of diseases and ultimately affect all classes of citizens.”
  • Julianne Lee (Pro)  
  • Amber Brown (Pro)
  • Dan Gowen (Anti)  
  • Cathleen Heslin (Anti)  
  • David Whalen (Anti)  – Owner of Binghamton Hots. Was also a strong supporter of forcing the Salvation Army out of downtown.
  • Heidi Weeks (Anti) – Owner of Mabel D. Orr. Another business owner who was vocal in getting the Salvation Army out of downtown.
  • Jared Kraham (Anti) – Former public address announcer for the Binghamton Mets.
  • Joseph Zikuski (Anti) – Binghamton Police Chief.
  • Josh Paludi (Anti) – Commissioner of Public Works.
  • Sarah Glose (Anti) – Director of Economic Development. 
  • Nick Ballard (Anti)  – Director of Parks and Recreation.
  • My Take: The Supreme Court just took away constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment for unhoused people. The US clearly has no plan to address the housing crisis so it will do what it always does to solve problems of its own making: criminalize and incarcerate. It would be much cheaper to build affordable housing than it is to maintain (let alone, expand) the current system of mass incarceration, but the political will is not there, so we’re heading down a dark path toward expanded prisons, more border camps, forced labor, and the criminalization of poverty. There’s a Deep Space Nine episode I always think about when people are trying to predict the future of the United States. This legislation is obviously common sense but I also think we all need to be fighting harder against the future that’s forming around us.


Residents wishing to submit public comment may do so electronically by emailing their comments prior to 1:00PM on the day of the meeting to or in-person during the meeting.

  • Salka Valerio reminded Councilman Dundon that the reason people blow up the phones of City Council members is because we expect them to fight for us. She also made the point that encampments are usually hidden away from public view and not bothering anyone, that public parks should never lock their bathrooms during open hours, and that the student-less West Side is currently a ghost town while people are sleeping in the streets.
  • Caleb DeShaw questioned the need for more surveillance cameras in the city.
  • Kenny Brown questioned the need for more surveillance cameras when the cameras at the bus station didn’t prevent multiple assaults of unhoused people.
  • Francesca Ham complained about the delay in city council minutes being published.


Introductory Resolution R24-39. A Resolution to accept funding from the District Attorney for the installation of cameras. Passed 5-1 (Porter Dissenting, Cavanaugh Absent)

  • Summary: Funding would be coming from the District Attorney’s traffic diversion program. BPD said there are currently twenty active cameras in the city and these new ones will be placed in NOMA and the North Side. The DA wanted the cameras in these areas because they’re “high crime areas.” Battisti, Akshar, and Kraham held a press conference last week to shame the City Council for not immediately passing the resolution.
  • My Take: This vote was disappointing. Commenters submitted a bunch of great reasons to resist privately managed surveillance tech being installed in low-income neighborhoods. City Council Dems seemed receptive throughout the whole discussion. They tabled the vote at the last business meeting and I got my hopes up that they might vote No. I thought the Battisti shame campaign might have even pushed some of them into voting No. In the end, it seems the Yes voters erred on the side of political calculation: “People love cops and cameras. Politicians need the love of the people to get stuff done. I guess we’ll have to vote against our principles and in favor of Mass Incarceration again… aw shucks!” Councilmember Mativetsky brought up the lack of input from constituents who live in the neighborhoods where cameras would be installed and justified her decision to vote YES based on this lack of input, as if it’s the fault of people on North Street for not speaking up. Councilmember Hotchkiss brought up conversations he had at Town & Country where residents who can’t even lock their front doors wanted cameras installed, and he used this as justification for his YES vote. The problem with basing your vote on this scattershot polling of constituencies is that the people who will be most impacted by policies like this are not speaking to the City Council. I don’t need to do a straw poll of Black teenagers on Chenango Street to know that more cameras will increase their chances of having run-ins with police. If all the Dems besides Councilmember Porter (who has been on the right side of this resolution since it was introduced) think ruining the lives of a few Black teenagers is worth saving some political points for the next fight over housing or whatever, maybe they’ll be proven correct, but I’d rather see them do what’s right every time and then deal with the consequences. They’re clearly not going to find a middle ground or outmaneuver the Republicans on this issue, so why not just vote against Mass Incarceration in all its forms, take the heat, and keep it moving?

6/27 Special Business Meeting

* Cavanaugh and Porter absent

** Dundon arrived late


Introductory Ordinance O24-35. An Ordinance authorizing sale of 41 Clinton to Trout Brook Housing Development Fund Corporation. 

  • Held over until the next Business Meeting (4-0). 
  • Summary: I believe this was added as part of the O24-52 ordinance rezoning parts of Clinton and Mygatt Streets. Since it transfers property from the city to a private developer, the ordinance requires ¾ of the City Council to approve it.

Introductory Ordinance O24-45.  An Ordinance to amend 2024 Fire budget for gear costs. 

  • Passed 4-0 
  • Summary: $44k requested. Money being transferred is budgeted to vacant positions. “Costs about $5k to outfit a firefighter and it should be replaced every ten years.”

Introductory Ordinance O24-46. An Ordinance to amend 2024 IT budget for IT Manager.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: $18,726 for back pay to the IT Manager who has been filling in for a retiring employee. “Fund the IT manager position back to March 2, 2024, change the salary to $82k effective to the same date, and account for payout to the retiring employee.” 

Introductory Ordinance O24-47. An Ordinance to amend the 2024 General Fund budget to account for vacancies.

  • Held over until the next Business Meeting (3-1, Kosty Dissenting).
  • Summary: Former Comptroller said this money was intentionally over-budgeted, so these vacancies won’t actually open up any money in the budget. He accomplished this by adding a negative “Salary Adjustment” line item to the budget anticipating the number of vacant positions.

Introductory Ordinance O24-48. An Ordinance to amend the 2024 Capital budget to close serial bond accounts no longer active.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: Dealing with ~ $2 million that went unspent on bonded projects.

Introductory Ordinance O24-49. An Ordinance amending the 2024 General Fund budget for the demolition of fire damaged properties at 124 and 126 Henry Street.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: $49k paid to Gorick Construction and Keystone Environmental Associates.

Introductory Ordinance O24-50. An Ordinance to amend 2024 Finance budget for Assistant Comptroller salary increase.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: Chuck Robinson is taking over as City Comptroller from Chuck Shager. Robinson’s new assistant made this pay raise a condition of her taking the job.

Introductory Ordinance O24-51. An Ordinance to amend the Code Chapter 307 size requirements.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: So apparently as retribution for overriding his veto, the Mayor and BPD took a tape measurer and started enforcing old regulations about the size of food carts in Binghamton. According to Councilman Hotchkiss, this legislation would update the standards to reflect more modern food carts: 6’ x 10’ with no height restriction. 

Introductory Ordinance O24-52. An Ordinance to amend the official zoning map to rezone a portion of Clinton and Mygatt Streets.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary:  Rezoning to open up spaces for mixed-use/residential housing. Rezoning 2 Titchener so it can be used for light industrial use. 41 Clinton street is being rezoned for the FWAC project, which initiated this broader rezoning. According to Martinez: “We should do a citywide rezoning at some point.”

Introductory Resolution R24-45. A Resolution demanding the Mayor enact the Attorney General’s recommendations regarding January 2023 incident.

  • Held over until next Business Meeting (4-0)
  • Summary: The Mayor still has ninety days to respond to the Attorney General’s report. This legislation would not have any legal power. Hotchkiss made his case for encouraging the mayor to follow the recommendations of the AG but no one else voiced explicit support of the legislation.

Introductory Resolution R24-46. A Resolution authorizing the COPS Hiring grant.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: $250k in federal money over three years to fund two cop hires. Captain Bidwell runs the Southern Tier Crime Analysis Center and says this money would lead to more foot and bike patrols and “community policing.” City would need to match these funds with $237k. Councilwoman Mativetsky asked if a waiver against matching funds was possible but Bidwell couldn’t answer. Councilman Porter asked if money already budgeted for new hires could be redirected and Bidwell said probably not. Grant has been received previously. Bidwell said there are 30 BPD vacancies and 15 recruits in the academy. 

Introductory Resolution R24-47. A Resolution authorizing agreement with WPD.

  • Held over until next Business Meeting (3-1, Kosty Dissenting)
  • Summary: Improvements at Columbus Park. Initiated by Astor D. Rice Foundation. Continuing work from Rich David’s failed attempt at building a Youth Center there.

Introductory Resolution R24-48. A Resolution authorizing Rod Sterling statue donation.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: Will be placed at Rec Park at the corner of Seminary and Laurel.

Introductory Resolution R24-49. A Resolution authorizing free parking for July Fest 2024.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: Has happened every year for forty years.

Introductory Resolution R24-50. A Resolution authorizing Mayor to submit FY50 to HUD and accept funds.

  • Passed 4-0
  • Summary: As discussed in the public hearing on Wednesday, CDAC submitted a budget for CDBG and ESG funds that come from HUD. Most of the money is going to nonprofits for service projects. According to the Council, this needed to be passed by July 15th.

Introductory Resolution R24-52. A Resolution amending the Complete Streets Policy.

  • Passed 5-0 (**Dundon arrived)
  • Summary: Creating a checklist for the Complete Streets Policy to consider pedestrians and people with disabilities in street construction. Having the checklist is a prerequisite for getting certain grants.

Introductory Resolution R24-53. A Resolution establishing an internship program for City Hall.

  • Passed 5-0
  • Summary: Councilmember Hotchkiss was approached by students who want to intern for the city.

Local Law LL24-02. A Local Law to amend City of Binghamton Charter Chapter 45A, Binghamton Human Rights Commission. 

  • Passed 4-1 (Kosty Dissenting) – Will be added to November Ballot as a referendum
  • Summary: Legislation to bring back the HRC, which was dissolved/disused in 2016 by Rich David. Corporation Counsel said this would need to go through a referendum in November. Would be a local body to receive claims of human rights abuses to be passed up to the NY State Commission. New law establishes that four member would be appointed by the City Council and three by the Mayor. 

Thanks for reading! See you all on Monday at 6:00 for the next City Council Work Session.

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