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Politics and Government

Syracuse nonprofits call for $100 million infrastructure investment from state

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Tom Magnarelli
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WRVO Public Media
Randi Bregman, the executive director of Vera House.

Central New York nonprofits, focused on human services, are calling for $100 million in funding for nonprofit infrastructure improvements, to be included in New York State’s budget. Some nonprofits are faced with the challenges of being located in older buildings.

The North Side Learning Center, which teaches literacy to adults and children, including many immigrants and refugees, operates out of the former Holy Trinity church and school, which was built 60 years ago. Yusuf Soule, a board member with the learning center, said the building still needs work to make it safe and accessible. 

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Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media
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WRVO Public Media
Yusuf Soule shows an example of patched flooring that needs to be fixed at the North Side Learning Center.

“The parking lot, the roof, the elevator, replacing all the tiles would be about $750,000, which is what we already put into the property since we got it,” Soule said.

Soule joined a group of representatives from local nonprofits focused on human services, advocating for infrastructure funding. Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter (D-Syracuse) called it a crisis.  

“They run very tight ships and so we want to make sure the roof literally doesn’t have to fall, in order for something to be fixed,” Hunter said.

Hunter admitted it’s a big ask. The state is facing, what she described as, a huge budget deficit. Another concern, she said, is a lot of state funding comes in the form of reimbursable grants, and many nonprofits don’t have the money to pay for improvements up front.

But Randi Bregman, the executive director of Vera House, a program that serves survivors of domestic violence, said the half-million dollar grant they were able to get from the state, leveraged more in private funding and allowed them to move from a location with a waiting room that was too small, into a new facility in 2017.

“We came to realize what it means to have a space that can feel like a home, that can feel like you’re welcomed here, that feels like we can make you comfortable and meet your needs," Bregman said. "I think we didn’t fully realize how limited we were in being able to offer that in our previous space.”

Currently, the funding is not in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget. Assemblyman Al Stirpe (D-Cicero) said nonprofit representatives should contact Cuomo's office and make their voices heard, which could help in budget negotiations.