As reported here in June, New York leaders supercharged its most successful blight elimination grant program, Restore NY, with a $250 million allocation in the state’s 2022-2023 budget.
The Restore NY program is managed by Empire State Development (ESD), the state’s economic development agency. ESD announced this summer that the $250 million in Restore NY funding would be distributed over two application rounds.
The first round of $100 million was announced in July, and local and county governments had to complete and submit ESD’s one-page “Intent to Apply” form (a fillable PDF) by August 11, 2022. Applicants had to provide basic project details, including property addresses, a one-paragraph description of the project, estimated amount of Restore NY funds being requested, and the total project cost.
I emailed the City of Binghamton on August 11 requesting a copy of the Intent to Apply PDF form they submitted to ESD for the Restore NY Program. The Binghamton City Clerk, who serves as the City’s Public Records Officer, intentionally obstructed my access to the document, in violation of the New York State Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), saying it would take him 30 days or more to “find” the one-page form.
Disappointed but not surpised by his partisan pettiness, I then submitted a FOIL request to ESD, requesting a copy of the one-page “Intent to Apply” forms received by any government in Broome County. ESD responded in four days with copies of the appropriate public documents.
Here are summaries of the six requests made by governments in Broome County:
Applicant: City of Binghamton
Project Name: 187 Clinton
Project Address: 187 Clinton Street
Brief Description: Construct mixed-use buildings on a 5-acre brownfield site, which would include 102 housing units for those making 50 to 60% of average median income (AMI).
Restore NY Request: $3 M
Total Project Cost: $41.2 M
My Take? There is a significant shortage of affordable housing units for those making 30 – 50% of AMI, which represent some of our most vulnerable residents. Kudos to Kraham’s team for prioritizing this need in its Restore NY project. But rezoning and brownfield remediation will take some time before this project can even move forward.
Applicant: City of Binghamton
Project Name: First Ward West Blight Removal and Affordable Housing Project
Project Address: 58 and 60 Glenwood
Brief Description: Demolish these two long-standing dilapidated properties, and build new mixed-use building with 12 one-bedroom affordable housing units and retail/restaurant space on ground floor.
Restore NY Request: $1.4 M
Total Project Cost: $1.5 M
My Take? Binghamton could creatively use its CDBG, HOME, and ARPA funds to make this happen today. Given local families—particularly single women with kids—have such a hard time finding quality, affordable housing in the area, I would prioritize 2-BR rental units over 1-BR units. And if the developer can’t put more skin in the game, then the property when finished could be deeded over to the Southern Door Community Land Trust and the retail could be cooperative business (child care, laundry service, etc) supported by residents in the permanently affordable units above.
Applicant: Broome County
Project Name: Oakdale Commons
Project Address: 601 Harry L. Drive (Oakdale Mall)
Brief Description: Support site improvements and the rehabilitation and upgrades at former Oakdale Mall.
Restore NY Request: $10 M
Total Project Cost: $91 M
My Take? How much public subsidy do two of the richest families in Binghamton need to transform this property? If history is any indicator, a lot—and local leaders will happily open up the floodgates.
Applicant: Town of Union
Project Name: Red Carpet Inn Motel Conversion
Project Address: 749 W Main Street, Village of Endicott
Brief Description: Support the full renovation and expansion of the dilapidated and vacant former motel into 36-market rate rental units (mix of 1BR and 2 BR).
Restore NY Request: $2 M
Total Project Cost: $5.4 M
My Take? This is the type of property, if located closer to amenities, would be ideal for conversion to permanent supportive housing. But across from En-Joie, host of a PGA Tour Champions event, I understand the proposal. It should score high with ESD.
Applicant: Village of Endicott
Project Name: IBM North Street Demolition Project
Project Address: Corner of North Street and McKinley Avenue
Brief Description: Demolish block of defunct IBM buildings beyond repair, which will set the stage for construction of a $200 M facility to accommodate Phase 2 expansion of Imperium 3 NY (lithium-ion battery manufacturer).
Restore NY Request: $9 M
Total Project Cost: $10 M
My Take? Imperium 3 NY is at the center of the regional economic revitalization plan that just won $64 million in federal funds and another $50 million from state. This is the promising golden goose that will secure millions in public subsidies for years. The demolition will help, but don’t expect the $200 M expansion to happen any time soon. Besides, “special project” applications (more than $5 million) are supposed to cataylze new investment and activity. With the recently announced $114 million from federal and state agencies, this project is already catalyzed. It’s happening.
Applicant: Village of Endicott
Project Name: Kmart Plaza Redevelopment Initiative
Project Address: 527 Endicott Plaza
Brief Description: Complete rehabilitation of flood-damaged and vacant Kmart Plaza to accommodate new regional distribution center for Green Mountain Electric Supply, which has 11 retail locations in NY and others in NH and VT.
Restore NY Request: $500,000 M
Total Project Cost: $12.1 M
My Take? Better than Endicott’s other proposal, this is a great project with a private company footing most of the bill. If the goal is to turn Broome into one of the nation’s most active green energy hubs—this is a step in the right direction. I only hope protecting against future flooding events are part of the plans for site redevelopment.
ESD reviewed all Intent to Apply forms, and for those that met the program’s eligibility and aligned with objectives, ESD invited the local government to complete a full application, which are due October 11. I’m not sure which proposals above were greenlighted for a full application, but according to the grant program rules, municipalities must host public hearings on the proposed project. Keep an eye out for the announcement—or reach out to your local officials and ask about the status.
Also, a second application round for the remaining $150 million will likely open in late October.
What do folks think about the Round 1 proposals above?
Are there vacant properties in Broome County or your municipality that you’d like to see your local leaders prioritize in Round 2?
As always, folks, stay informed and stay engaged.