Central New York given $66.9 million in regional council awards

Dec 11, 2013

Central New York missed securing a hat-trick in the latest of the state's economic development awards competition, known as the Regional Economic Development Councils.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo handed out $715.9 million is grants and incentives to more than 800 projects across the state in the third year of his regional councils Wednesday.

Central New York was labeled a "top performer" the first two years, putting it among the highest earning regions. This year, it brought back $66.9 million for 32 projects. Long Island was the biggest winner, bringing in more than $80 million.

The highlights for central New York include $2.8 million for redevelopment of the vacant former NYNEX building in downtown Syracuse. The office tower sits across the street from city hall and will be converted to apartments and mixed-used space.

Despite criticisms to the contrary, Rob Simpson, co-chair of the central New York regional council, said the regional council process is accountable and transparent.

"We’re very, very conscious of putting forward projects that not only offer the potential of large economic benefit and meet our region’s vision and our strategy, but projects that have a realistic chance of completion," he said following the awards ceremony in Albany.

He says unlike in the past, economic incentives aren’t awarded until after projects deliver on their commitments.

"These projects have a real and meaningful impact on our communities," he said.

Here are the top winners in central New York:

  • $2.8 million to convert the vacant NYNEX building in Syracuse into a mixed-use facility.
  • $1.3 million to continue development of the Syracuse Inner Harbor.
  • $750,000 to continue infrastructure investments at the Central New York Raceway.
  • $500,000 to purchase and renovate the currently vacant Harriet Tubman Residential Center in Auburn.

North Country & Mohawk Valley

The North Country and Mohawk Valley councils also secured more than $80 million each. Projects include $6 million for expanding broadband in the North Country and $5 million for the Utica Harbor project.

The redevelopment of downtown Watertown got a boost, too, with $2.1 million towards replacing the former Mercy Hospital with a mix of business and residential units.

"It’s going to help transform our downtown along with some other projects, so to have that state support is essential. We emphasized how important that was, and I’m glad to see the Cuomo Administration agrees," said Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham.

The state funding is a sliver of the estimated $65-70 million project cost. COR Development of Syracuse has bought the property and is responsible for the transformation. According to city planning director Ken Mix, COR is currently removing equipment and asbestos from the site in preparation for demolition of the old buildings later this winter.