A record crowd showed up at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center today as Mayor Byron W. Brown delivered a State of the City address that outlined a continued freeze on property taxes, increased police presence at Canalside, and further emphasis on redeveloping the East Side.
The address also included details on a new mobile app that the city is involved with to help young people find summer jobs via their smartphones.
“We continue to think big, to move the city forward, and I’m going to continue to keep my foot on the accelerator, to be aggressive in striving to continue the progress we are seeing in Buffalo,” Brown said before delivering his address, which will be his 11th State of the City.
The mayor, 58, is in the final year of his third four-year term. Political insiders said Brown has told them that he is planning to seek a fourth term, but the mayor has not yet made any announcement on the matter.
Here are some highlights from the State of the City speech:
* A property tax freeze will continue
Brown has not raised the property tax rate at all since taking office, and for the last five years, has also frozen assessments, resulting in a freeze on property taxes. That freeze will continue for another year.
"It keeps Buffalo affordable and attractive to investors," Brown said of his tax policy.
* Increased police presence at Canalside
New police substations will be created at Canalside and in the Broadway Market area on the East Side.
“With the number of visitors we are seeing at Canalside, this will help with the general traffic flow and safety,” Brown said.
The Broadway Market substation, Brown said, is part of the city’s long-term commitment to the market as well as residents and investors in the larger Broadway-Fillmore area.
* Northland Corridor
Demolition and construction work will begin next month on the $50 million Northland Corridor project to bring training and light-manufacturing jobs to the East Side.
Also, related to the Northland Corridor, Brown will announce a new computer coding training school planned for the Northland campus.
“We will provide funds to bring a coding school to provide training,” Brown said.
“We’ve been researching, and this is a new frontier for jobs.”
The coding school, Brown said, will provide high school graduates with training for entry-level positions.
* An emphasis on redeveloping Jefferson Avenue
A new Jefferson Health and Wellness Center will be announced as the latest project for the Jefferson Avenue commercial area, which Brown has previously said would be the focus of an urban revitalization plan.
The health and wellness center will combine a host of primary and specialty medical practices and services such as behavioral care, nutrition and wellness.
It will also have some form of acute care for more serious conditions that don't require an emergency room visit.
The project is being developed by Nick Sinatra and David Pawlik, who are partnering with former ImmediateCare founder Dr. Greg Daniel.
Other aspects of the Jefferson Avenue revitalization plan include infrastructure improvements, and the Beverly Gray Business Exchange on Utica near Jefferson to assist minority- and women-owned businesses, as well as two new residential and commercial projects on the street, one at 1490 Jefferson Ave. and the other at 1160 Jefferson Ave.
All together, everything proposed for Jefferson could be an investment of over $50 million, Brown said.
* Creating additional affordable housing
A new affordable housing development is planned for the Highland Park area, near the former Central Park Plaza.
* Summer jobs for young people
The city is working with one of the 43North business competition winners to create a free mobile app aimed at making summer job opportunities more accessible, Brown said.
Brown also outlined other intiatives for this year:
- Say Yes education initiative gets another $1 million, bringing the city's contribution to $2.3 million
- Mayor's summer youth employment program expanded. Details on the increase not immediately available.
- Renovation of 62 residential properties the city acquired from absentee landlords in a recent foreclosure sale. The city will partner with the Center for Opportunity to repair and maintain the properties. City residents will be hired to work with skilled laborers to learn the job. A related programs will assist city residents interested in purchasing the homes.
- New mixed-income project being developed near Jefferson and East Utica.
- A block club competition being created to encourage higher recycling rates. The current rate is now 27.4 percent. The city's goal is 34 percent.
- City's Clean Sweeps program expanded to add "Super Sweeps" - working with homeowners to identify neighborhoods that need street paving and side walk repair.
- CitiStat program updated to CitiStat 2.0, bringing outside experts in to discuss city-wide issues with Buffalo's department heads.
- Open Data Buffalo, a free, online portal providing access to data from some city departments, to be launched this summer.
- Speaker's Bureau created through the Office of New Americans to engage Buffalo's foreign-born newcomers and equip them to serve on city boards and to be advocates for their communities.
- Partnerships with Journey's End Refugee Services, Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo and the New York State Office for New Americans to help more immigrants attain U.S. citizenship.The mayor delivered his State of the City address during a luncheon at the convention center that was expected to attract more than 1,700 people.Guests buy tickets to the luncheon.The event has been growing in recent years, attracting some 1,200 people in 2015, closer to 1,700 in 2016, and more than 1,700 are expected for today's event.