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Cuomo proposes $50 million in aid for East Side

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget includes $50 million in targeted aid to help revitalize parts of Buffalo's East Side.

The funding, which would be spread out over three years, would include funds to promote mixed-use development and walkable commercial corridors. The state would also spend money on cultural and historical sites.

The proposal offered no details, but it acknowledged that the sprawling section of Buffalo has not kept pace with improvements in other parts of the city.

The governor's $50 million proposal comes at a time when the East Side has drawn more attention from developers and businesses. Current redevelopment projects totaling more than $250 million include the Northland Workforce Training Center, a residential community at the former Buffalo Forge site and projects on Jefferson Avenue. Northwest Bank this month opened a branch on Jefferson, and KeyBank is preparing to open a location this spring in the Delavan-Grider neighborhood.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, called it "extremely important" to invest more on the East Side. The $50 million announced by Cuomo would come from the state's Buffalo Billion II program, Kennedy said.

"The East Side historically has, over the course of the last several decades, lagged behind the rest of the city as it pertains to the revitalization," Kennedy said.

Kennedy called it "imperative" to put a "unique, focused effort" on ensuring that the East Side sees the economic revitalization like other areas of the city.

Cuomo also proposed an additional $750 million for the state's regional economic development councils. The councils identify economic development priorities for their respective regions, and then they are awarded funds for projects through a competitive process.

Additionally, Cuomo proposed another $100 million for the state's downtown revitalization initiative.

"It's been marvelous all across the state, especially in upstate New York," Cuomo said in his Tuesday address.

Dottie Gallagher, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, issued a statement supporting some of Cuomo's proposals and criticizing others.

The region's largest business group has "long called for the state to make the property tax cap permanent and we applaud the governor for prioritizing this critical legislation," Gallagher said.

The Partnership also supported Cuomo's call to reduce middle-class tax rates and "fund needed infrastructure projects throughout the state."

But Gallagher called Cuomo's push to expand the state's prevailing wage mandate to private-sector projects "extremely troubling."

"Driving up the cost of private projects in the Buffalo Niagara area by 20 percent will put our region's renaissance in serious jeopardy and further erode the economic competitiveness of upstate New York," she said.

News Albany Bureau Chief Tom Precious contributed to this report.

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