After Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday detailed specifics of a $50 million state fund earmarked for a host of East Side projects, Mayor Byron W. Brown explained his vision of what it all means.
“The East Side is going to be transformed,” he told reporters following the morning event at the Northland Workforce Training Center. “You will not recognize parts of the East Side,” he added, “because the transformation will be quite evident.”
Cuomo’s pot of $50 million for the one of the city’s most depressed areas has loomed as part of his budget plan for the past two months. On Tuesday, he gathered several hundred supporters to the gleaming new training center in the heart of the targeted neighborhood to spell out projects aimed at spurring private investment similar to what has already occurred along Niagara Street and in other targeted areas.
“The greatest success says not only some of us are doing well,” Cuomo said. “Not only the top of us are doing well, but we are all doing well. We are doing so well and we’re so smart that we said until we all are participating in success, it’s not true success.”
Proposed projects include:
• Investments in the neighborhood’s four main commercial corridors — Michigan, Jefferson, Fillmore, and Bailey avenues — revolving around preservation of historic buildings.
• $4 million to turn the Broadway Market into a year-round destination and a sustainable, neighborhood food source.
• $7 million to develop the Michigan Street African-American Heritage Corridor with capital improvements to anchor organizations like the Colored Musicians Club, Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Nash House Museum, and WUFO Black Radio History Collective, as well as future funding to be determined through a master management and joint operations plan.
• $6.6 million for restoring and upgrading Martin Luther King Jr. Park as well as restoration of the Buffalo Science Museum’s formal front stairway for community programming.
• $7.4 million in direct project funding to businesses and individuals for building out of commercial spaces in mixed-use buildings, restoring and reuse of historic structures, with funding set aside for future projects.
• $10 million for street improvements in the four corridors and target areas to complement earlier investments and to leverage state and federal transportation funds.
Other projects include a $10 million capital investment fund for small businesses; a $5 million grant for the University at Buffalo to train East Side residents in real estate development; and $5 million for improvements to historic buildings.
“The East Side has had economic challenges for many, many years. We all know that,” the governor added. “Now that we have the wind at our back, now that we have economic momentum, let’s make sure we bring the East Side along with our success.”
Cuomo did not take questions from reporters following the event, citing pressing business in Albany. But Brown, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Empire State Development Commissioner Howard A. Zemsky all outlined a commitment they say complements other state investments in Buffalo. Zemsky said the plan stems from years of working with City Hall to identify where to invest new state resources.
“You start out with the strengths you have and you build on those strengths,” Zemsky said, citing attractions like the Colored Musicians Club and Broadway Market. “They all have ... some momentum and some assets we can build on. So you’ve got to start with ‘where is there an anchor institution’ or ‘where is there a signature building.’ ”
Cuomo also highlighted the value of historic buildings during his remarks, pointing out that New York has come a long way from the days of “knocking down the old.”
“Now we actually appreciate the old,” he said. “We’re going to invest $5 million to improve our historic buildings on the East Side. And the commercial corridors that make up the East Side that are the arteries of the East Side, they have beautiful old stores. They have great potential, but we have to develop those streetscapes and those main streets and those storefronts, and we’re going to invest $10 million in doing that in the East Side.”
Zemsky said the plan envisions restoration of existing buildings, new housing, workforce training in historic preservation and renovation.
“The East Side has been part of the revitalization strategy from the get-go,” Zemsky said.
Brown, meanwhile, singled out a $450,000 proposal for a commercial kitchen at the Broadway Market as a significant neighborhood project. It will help sustain the historic attraction as a grocery source for visitors and the neighborhood's poor people alike, he said.
“There are many people living in that area of the city that are living in poverty,” he said. “Now the state’s investment will help make the market something truly special. It will transform the Broadway Market for residents living in that part of the city."
“I think with the investments in the market, now you will see many more events held there,” he added. “I think you will see an interesting and creative use of the market on a regular basis.”
The mayor also predicted the effort will spur a “multiplier effect” that will encourage private development to follow the initial state investment.
“Think about what great opportunity there is along Michigan Avenue and its proximity to the Medical Campus,” Zemsky added.