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Cuomo administration stresses waterfront development in Downtown Revitalization Initiative

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
SUNY Oswego President Deborah Stanley (left), New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian Stratton (center), Director of Policy John Maggiore for the Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right).

New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative is in its third year of awarding communities $10 million to fund projects that improve city centers. The strategy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is also to emphasize the importance of waterfront development. 

Speaking at a DRI and Erie Canal bicentennial discussion at SUNY Oswego, John Maggiore, Cuomo’s director of policy, stressed one major point.

“It’s a scientific fact, people like water," Maggiore said. "It’s a huge asset. Communities that use that asset for the benefit of the people that live there and work there and play there, they really show success.”

Maggiore referenced the development of Buffalo’s Canalside neighborhood, Rochecter’s Roc the Riverway along the Genesee River, and Syracuse’s amphitheater on Onondaga Lake as thriving communities that have enhanced their waterfronts.

"They're bringing young people back in," Maggiore said. "The housing markets are increasing. We're finding that businesses follow the people."

Maggiore said the challenge is to capture young people by creating more interesting and desirable places to live and work. 

Brian Stratton, the director of the New York State Canal Corporation, said tourism along the Erie Canal generates $1.5 billion statewide.

“The canal is a quiet but very important economic engine for upstate New York," Stratton said. "It’s really helping these DRI communities execute a successful downtown revitalization strategy by being close to the water. People want to live and be near the water.”

Stratton said a lot of cities and towns came to be because of the canal system, and DRI funding can help them become thriving urban environments again.

Officials from the cities of Oswego, Rome, Geneva and the Village of Watkins Glen also highlighted the impact of the state's DRI funding at the panel discussion.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.