Programs aim to promote equitable development and attract jobs and businesses
√ $100 million ‘NY Forward’ initiative to help smaller, rural communities
Gov. Kathy Hochul announced available funding for three Department of State community planning and development programs. Her team said, “These programs are the cornerstone for revitalization projects aimed at fostering innovative growth throughout the state. The fiscal year 2023 enacted state budget includes substantial funding for programs such as Smart Growth Planning and Zoning Programs, the Brownfield Opportunity Area, and the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program.
"Sustainable and equitable community-driven programs are key to New York's economic comeback," 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."
Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, "Successful community revitalization starts with sound community planning, development and public engagement. Gov. 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."
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. The three development programs are administered by the Department of State (DOS) Office of Planning, Development and Community Infrastructure.
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, municipalwide 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, bikeable, 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.
Brownfield Opportunity Area 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% 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 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.
Local Waterfront Revitalization Program ($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.
The DOS also administers the governor's Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The DRI launched in 2016 to accelerate and bolster the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all 10 regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for increased local investments.
Hochul’s team said, “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.
The governor created an 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.
More information on these programs can be found in the consolidated funding application (CFA) available resources booklet at https://regionalcouncils.ny.gov/.
Information on the Smart Growth program can be found at https://cfaresources.ny.gov/standalone-cfa-programs.