Downtown Utica businesses don't want veteran's food pantry to move next door

Businesses in Bragg Square West say food pantry will hurt revitalization of area.

Rich Synek knows it can be difficult for veterans to provide for themselves and their families.

"People have this misconception that the government takes care of veterans. I'm a veteran, I served, and I don't get any benefits because I wasn't in combat or wounded, there's criteria," said Synek, a Navy veteran.

Synek started Feed Our Vets, a nonprofit that provides veterans with groceries, to ease the struggle of his military brothers and sisters. He wants to expand the food pantry and move into the Boilermaker building just two blocks down the street. Synek wants to utilize the buildings three floors, making one into a recreation room and the other a military museum.

But there's been backlash amongst nearby business owners. Some feel that a food pantry in Bagg'


Square West, an up and coming neighborhood, would counteract the area's revitalization efforts.

"This is the only historic block within the city of utica and we expect there to be a certain level of expectations for development so we can re-grow what was here," said Frank Elias, owner of Utica Coffee Roasting Company.

Though Elias supports Feed Our Vets and is grateful for America's veterans, he thinks the businesses along Bagg


Square West should contribute to the city's culture and spark economic development.

"You have the potential of a food bank going in next to us and there are those of use within in the city that are trying to revitalize it that don't believe thats the right fit for our district," said Elias.

Both Synek and Elias say thay want what's best to help Utica contiune to thrive.