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'What keeps the community going': NY hits $1 billion mark in funding downtown communities

Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at a forum in Syracuse about Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward Programs.
Ava Pukatch
Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks at a forum in Syracuse about Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward Programs.

New York has hit the $1 billion mark in funding available for its Downtown Revitalization Initiative and NY Forward programs. Gov. Kathy Hochul convened a forum on the future of those programs in Syracuse Wednesday, as the next wave of applications opens up.

Hochul said the programs are not about individual community or region but the state as a whole.

"This is about making sure the state of New York reaches its full potential because, at the heart of it all, you're New Yorkers," Hochul said. "Let's go with that same spirit of camaraderie, not a zero-sum game if another community is doing well, because that lifts all of us up."

Hochul said the programs are transformational noting they are catalysts for investment from other developers and businesses. Her office estimates that for every dollar invested, DRI generates $3 in additional investments.

"That is the wow factor where you all of a sudden get people's attention," Hochul said. "Companies like Micron are paying attention to the wow factor that is going on in our state and certainly in central New York."

The NY Forward Program provides smaller investments than DRI but allows up to three awards per region.

N.Y. Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez said the projects vary in size to transform a community downtown into a place where people want to live, work and play. He mentioned investments in public parks or improvements to pedestrian walkways as an example.

"Some of these smaller things may not seem like a big deal and it may not be as flashy as a large housing development or a brand new mixed-use building, but they're what keeps the community going," Rodriguez said.

Earlier in the day, Hochul and Rodriguez were in Oswego for a ribbon cutting of the Splash Indoor Water Park, the city's final DRI project. Oswego is the first DRI community to complete all of its projects.

"In 2016, the economic tide was against us," said Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow. "But now, thanks to the DRI, in 2023 the tide is with us and because of the DRI and several other achievements along the way these last eight years, the future of Oswego is brighter than it has ever been."

93 communities across the state have received funding so far.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.