Guess which state just made $22 million available for the revitalization of brownfields, waterfronts and communities?

On may 24, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced that an additional $22 million is available for three Department of State community planning and development programs.

These programs are the cornerstone for revitalization projects throughout the state. They include the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Brownfield Opportunity Area Program and the Smart Growth Planning and Zoning Program.

Governor Hochul increased the State’s Environmental Protection Fund’s budget by $100 million in the Enacted Budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which has provided direct funding for these initiatives.

Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “Successful community revitalization starts with sound community planning, development and public engagement. Governor Hochul’s commitment to sustainable and equitable community development is fostering a renaissance in community revitalization throughout the State, making New York a top-notched state for families, businesses and tourists of all ages, backgrounds and incomes.

The three development programs are administered by the Department of State (DOS) Office of Planning, Development and Community Infrastructure.

Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) ($16.3 million)

The LWRP provides grants to communities to develop a community-driven plan with a vision for their waterfront, guided by several environmental policies that ensure that projects work in harmony with waterfront natural resources and ecosystems. Once an LWRP is approved by the Secretary of State and adopted by a local community, or is substantially complete, the community can apply for implement funds for projects that support the plan. There are currently 113 approved LWRPs in New York State.

Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program ($4 million)

The BOA program transforms brownfield sites—i.e. areas with significant contamination—from liabilities to community assets, which in turn generate and support new businesses, jobs, housing and public amenities. The program provides grants for BOA plans which, once completed, are submitted to the New York State Secretary of State for approval, or “designation.” Such designated BOA plans then entitle projects that are consistent with the plan to priority funding among certain state programs and an additional 5 percent brownfield developer tax credit.

The BOA program also provides grants for pre-development activities in State-designated BOAs, such as environmental, housing and economic studies, infrastructure analyses, marketing strategies, public engagement and zoning and regulatory updates, among others. This year, the program also provides funding for Phase II Environmental Site Assessments within a State-designated BOA, made possible by a new statute advanced by Governor Hochul in the Enacted Budget for Fiscal Year 2023 and the $400 million Environmental Protection Fund, the highest-ever level of funding in the program’s history.

Smart Growth Planning and Zoning Grant Program ($2 Million)

The Smart Growth Planning and Zoning Grant Program is offering $2 million for communities to develop comprehensive municipal-wide plans and zoning ordinances, as well as targeted area plans and zoning, such as downtowns, central business districts and transit-orient development districts. Communities must commit to incorporating the principles of Smart Growth into their planning and zoning.

Smart Growth principles include walkable, bikable, transit-friendly streetscapes; compact, mixed-use community design; vibrant downtowns and other municipal centers; a diversity of housing options for all incomes, ages and abilities; safe, accessible public spaces; ample parks and outdoor recreational opportunities; green buildings; and infrastructure, among others.

Last year, the DOS awarded Smart Growth grants totaling $1.5 million to 24 communities through the State to develop comprehensive plans, which are the legal and policy basis for future growth and development decisions. Eligibility for this year’s program was expanded to include zoning ordinances that implement comprehensive and area plans.

Sustainable and equitable community-driven programs are key to New York’s economic comeback,” Governor Hochul said. “As we work to recover from the pandemic, it is critical that we work with individual communities to turn their liabilities into unique assets. These development programs will put us on a path to creating a greener, more business-friendly New York.

The DOS also administers the Governor’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). The DRI launched in 2016 to accelerate and bolster the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for increased local investments. Led by the DOS, the DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative “plan-then-act” strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation.

Most DRI communities have received funding in the past from the BOA and LWRP programs, which in turn has helped them develop and implement their successful DRI applications. The DRI has awarded a total of $600 million to 59 communities in its first five rounds.

This year, the Governor created an innovative offshoot of the DRI called NY Forward, which will support a more equitable downtown recovery for New York’s smaller and rural communities, with a focus on hamlets and villages. The DOS will work with communities through a planning process and provide needed technical assistance to develop a slate of readily implementable projects. NY Forward is funded at $100 million in this year’s Enacted State Budget.

Photo of the Rochester, New York waterfront via Pixabay.

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