Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the approval of five applications from municipalities seeking to create land banks to redevelop vacant or abandoned properties to better serve the public interest in their communities. The Governor signed New York State's Land Bank Program into law in July 2011, and the first round of applications were approved today by Empire State Development (ESD) after months of thorough review.
"The Land Bank program empowers local entities to transform urban blight into a source of economic development that will strengthen communities across New York," Governor Cuomo said. "The Land Bank program is a central part of my administration's urban agenda to help transform our struggling urban communities. With these applications being approved, municipalities will be able to return vacant, abandoned and tax delinquent properties to productive use."
The Round 1 approved applicants are:
Cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna, Tonawanda and Erie County
City of Syracuse and Onondaga County
City of Schenectady, County of Schenectady and City of Amsterdam
City of Newburgh
"These applicants made a strong case that the land bank will be successful in their communities and we fully expect them to make a difference," said ESD President, CEO & Commissioner Kenneth Adams. "Thanks to Governor Cuomo's Land Bank program, local entities now have the tools to rebuild long-neglected urban neighborhoods through economic development and restore the character and economic vitality of our communities."
Under the Land Bank program ten land banks were permitted to be created with ESD having the authority to approve applications. Following the approval of the first five land banks in Round 1, ESD will be selecting an additional five land banks in Round 2 and municipalities not chosen in the first round are encouraged to reapply.
For the Buffalo, Syracuse and Schenectady applications, intergovernmental cooperation agreements have been executed detailing significant collaborative efforts in implementing, staffing and supporting the land banks. While Chautauqua County and Newburgh did not join with any other municipalities in their applications, each provided various letters of support and indicated a willingness to expand their geographical area at a later date. Based on the implementation plan, funding and in-kind services presented in the applications, the applicants have made a strong case that the land bank will be successful in their communities.
Empire State Development Regional President Sam Hoyt, who as a former Assemblyman sponsored legislation to create the Land Bank Program, said, "Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo, these communities will be able to take control and redevelop vacant properties to where they can better serve the public interest. This critical first step will lead to new economic development projects and improve neighborhoods across the state."
State Senator David J. Valesky, who sponsored legislation to create the Land Bank Program in the Senate, said, "This is excellent news for Syracuse and Onondaga County. The creation of the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation will give us another tool in our arsenal to revitalize our neighborhoods, increase the tax base and spur economic development with the ultimate goal of strengthening the Central New York economy. I commend Governor Cuomo and ESD President Adams for recognizing the important role land banks will play in our overall economic development efforts statewide."
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, "The problem of vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties affects municipalities all across our region. Now, thanks to Governor Cuomo, Erie County will be one of the first counties in New York State to apply a landbanking solution to this problem. I look forward to working with partners in the cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna and Tonawanda, as well as other municipalities across the county, in applying a comprehensive, regional approach to the issue."
City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "With the announcement today the Governor has added a significant weapon to Buffalo's arsenal for ridding the City of vacant and abandoned property. Further, the City of Buffalo looks forward to working with Erie County, the cities of Lackawanna and Tonawanda, as well as all of the towns and villages in Erie County on what is a problem facing the region, not just the City of Buffalo."
City of Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski said, "I'd like to thank the Governor for giving us the tools to help us help ourselves. Landbanking is going to transform Lackawanna's landscape allowing us to fight blight on a two-front battle. Landbanking will catch properties that have just fallen into foreclosure and that will stop blight from spreading. The city will also be using demolition to fight blight that can't be saved by landbanking. This is really such a commonsense way to fix the blight problems and should have started in the 1980s."
City of Tonawanda Mayor Ronald Pilozzi said, "The City of Tonawanda is pleased to participate in the Erie County Land Bank initiative. This program will provide Erie County municipalities an additional and effective financing, management and planning tool in addressing distressed properties. Governor Cuomo and local elected officials should be commended for working together in making this program and entity a reality."
Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said, "The approval of this land bank is great news for Onondaga County. Our land bank will work with the private sector to redevelop abandoned and vacant properties in the city and the suburbs."
City of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner said, "Our region has shown once again that we are putting progress ahead of parochial interests. The designation of the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation as one of the first land banks in New York State is a testament to the innovative public-private partnership forged in recent years to proactively address the challenge of vacant and tax delinquent properties throughout Onondaga County."
Schenectady County Legislator Jeff McDonald said, "Thank you Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development for providing us with this valuable tool to produce real change in our neighborhoods. In my mind neighborhood redevelopment is the most important issue that our community is facing and this is a big victory for the taxpayers and residents of the City of Schenectady and County."
City of Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said, "The City welcomes this important designation by Governor Cuomo and the Empire State Development Corporation. This new Land Bank allows us to expand our Home Ownership initiative, create quality housing in the City of Schenectady and begin to remove the blight which burdens our residents, our neighborhoods and the city's finances."
City of Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane said, "I'm extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for offering this opportunity to our communities. This partnership bodes well for our constituents and marks a new beginning of progress for this region. Thanks to the City of Schenectady's Department of Development for the tremendous vision and effort put into launching this initiative."
Chautauqua County Executive Greg Edwards said, "I would like to recognize the leadership demonstrated by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and by Empire State Development for their creation of the Land Bank Program. This program empowers local municipalities to address one of our most significant challenges created by vacant and abandoned properties. We in Chautauqua County are pleased to be one of the first five land banks to be created in New York State. The concept of Land Banking was in our award winning Comprehensive Plan - Chautauqua 20/20 - as a 'high priority' action step, so our being selected is an important milestone for us as a County."
City of Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy said, "I want to express my appreciation to Governor Cuomo and Empire State Development for their support and faith in our effort to revitalize and rebuild our neighborhoods and thereby improve the quality of life for our citizens. With this new structure, the Newburgh Community Land Bank is poised and ready to aggressively tackle the abandoned buildings and empty lots that have plagued this city for years."
For more information on the New York State Land Bank Program, visit www.esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/NYSLBP.html.