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Schenectady leaders hope Cuomo visit brings good news in form of $10M grant

Schenectady leaders hope Cuomo visit brings good news in form of $10M grant

Officials buzzing about economic development grant
Schenectady leaders hope Cuomo visit brings good news in form of $10M grant
State Street in downtown Schenectady is pictured on Aug. 15.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY —  City brass are buzzing about an anticipated visit to Schenectady on Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that they hope is an announcement of a $10 million grant award to the city. 

The governor’s office did not send out the routine advisory announcing his daily schedule for Tuesday, nor did they respond to a request late Monday to provide that information.

But city officials chattered about the pending visit following a City Council meeting on Monday, and several Democratic sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said they have received invitations to a gubernatorial event Tuesday at Proctors.

And the governor’s office then confirmed the 11 a.m. visit in an email Tuesday morning. He will be “making an announcement,” the email read.

Asked Monday if Tuesday’s event related to a $10 million grant the city is seeking under the the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), a top-ranking city official said, “You never know.” 

“It’ll be an economic development announcement,” said City Councilman Vince Riggi. 

City officials said they couldn't speak to the exact nature of the event. But despite the shroud of mystery, the visit comes when Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul have been traveling the state announcing regional winners of the $10 million grants for downtown economic development. A DRI was announced for Staten Island on Monday. 

Since 2016, the effort has allocated $100 million annually statewide, awarding one locality in each of the state’s 10 economic development regions $10 million for downtown improvements. 

Seven awards have been announced this year to date, and the yet-to-be announced regions include the Capital Region, Mohawk Valley and Finger Lakes.

Amsterdam was awarded $10 million last year and is  using the funds for a new recreation center, business incubator and STEM education center at the Amsterdam Free Library alongside numerous streetscape improvements.

Schenectady previously put in for the award, but watched as Albany, Hudson and Glens Falls have taken the top honors in Capital Region.

Albany was awarded the funds last year, and Clinton Square has been flagged as a main hub for affordable housing and pedestrian safety improvements. 

Local officials have said the city’s application combines riverfront and downtown projects, including those linking Little Italy to Mohawk Harbor. 

The city is also eyeing reopening a pedestrian tunnel and constructing bike paths connecting Jay Street to Erie Boulevard.

"It is one of the city's top priorities for securing funding,” said city Engineer Chris Wallin in September. "It does all of the things the DRI is looking to do: connecting Mohawk Harbor to downtown, creating a path and bringing traffic into Little Italy.”

DRI is a central part of the state’s strategy to revitalize downtown neighborhoods and spur economic development. Funds are designed to bankroll high-profile projects that will ideally spur broader private investment in those neighborhoods and surrounding areas.

“The DRI is part of our ongoing strategy to create a brighter economic future across all of New York state and transform our communities into even better places to live, work and do business,” said Hochul on Staten Island Monday.

Schenectady has seen a number of development projects in the past half-decade. Mohawk Harbor and Rivers Casino & Resort have transformed a slice of moribund industrial waterfront into a vibrant area with housing and businesses, while 900 new apartment units have been created downtown, not including 74 units at the Mill Artisan District project, which previously received $2.3 million in state funding for the $14.1 million project.

If awarded the funds on Tuesday, the city will begin the process of winnowing down specific projects as part of a “strategic investment plan” designed to guide the investment process and leverage outside investments. 

That plan, according to Empire State Development, will “examine local assets and opportunities and identify economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with the community's vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation.”

A local planning committee made up of municipal representatives, community leaders and others will lead the effort, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners.

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