For the fourth year in a row, communities all over the state of New York have been submitting applications for grants through a program helmed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, aimed at updating and improving downtown areas to boost local economies. While sources report that applications are down from the previous year (dropping to 94 from 105), among those applicants are 17 downtown areas on Long Island, down from a record 23 applications the year before. That’s 30 communities so far that have benefitted from a much-needed economic boost, with another 10 soon to join them, with promising projects for those in the construction business to follow.
What Is the Downtown Revitalization Initiative?
Cuomo unveiled the DRI in 2016, proposing a program that would stimulate downtown areas across the state. Its aim would ultimately be to invest in grants (this year, $100 million) that are split between each of New York’s ten regions. This year, the total in grants to be offered is $100 million, adding up to $10 million per recommended application. Recommendations will come down from each of the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs). This year, the due date for final recommendation is July 12.
All 10 of New York’s REDCs have nominated their applicants based on several factors that determine the downtown area’s “potential for transformation” including:
- How compact the downtown area is;
- Potential for future job growth;
- Location with regard to housing areas; and
- Their proposed strategy for development.
What Does Downtown Revitalization Mean for Jobs?
Part of Gov. Cuomo’s aim in the initiative is to reawaken urban centers that need it. It means taking disused, historic buildings and repurposing them for both residential and commercial use—even a mix of the two, in some cases. It’s about turning these places into bustling city centers where people want to live, work, and entertain themselves. Depending upon the community, this could call for:
- Updating pavement, walking areas, and green spaces;
- Updating roads to improve the flow of traffic; and
- Renovating existing structures for active use by businesses and residents.
The possibility of building wholly new structures might not be in the cards. However, in a community chosen for one of these grants, every job that a tradesperson could fill may be called for—in the next year. These projects are ongoing; for instance, Downtown Central Islip, the LI recipient of a 2018 DRI grant, only held their final community workshop on their plan of action back in March.
What Are Communities Doing with Their Grants?
Each community that seeks a nomination must include in their application what they plan to do with the grant. In this way, we can see where that money goes and what potential projects this could create in their proposals and what recipients have done since the DRI’s inception in 2016. For example:
- The village of Westbury was the first Long Island community to receive the grant. Among their proposed projects included transit-oriented, rezoning near the LIRR Station, improving and updating their recreation center, updates to their roadways and pedestrian areas, and installing a permanent space for arts and events.
- New Rochelle, Westchester County recipient in round three, included plans to create accessible improvements on existing park spaces, bolster mixed-income residential areas to provide housing at multiple levels of affordability, and develop more mixed-use spaces to seamlessly blend residential, commercial, and community spaces for easy access.
- Rockville Centre, one of this year’s applicants, is proposing the installation of a new bike path (including lockers for storing bikes and gear), new green spaces, a teen recreation center, and needed updates and improvements on local infrastructure.
Statewide grants help improve the quality of life for its residents. From infrastructure improvements to more streetlights, the small changes to each part of the state help. Receiving a grant helps offset the costs for the community as well, and enables construction companies to help more communities improve.