Will Cuomo’s 2012 Budget Create Jobs in Bed-Stuy?

Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner/CEO of NYS Homes and Community renewal, presenting Governor Cuomo’s 2012-13 Executive Budget.

On January 26th, Darryl C. Towns, Commissioner/CEO of NYS Homes and Community renewal, presented Governor Cuomo’s 2012-13 Executive Budget to a group of community representatives in Restoration Plaza’s 5th Floor Boardroom. The new budget was met with excitement and some questions.  Pension reform and a teacher evaluation plan were big topics within the budget, but for Brooklyn representatives last night, housing and employment dominated the conversation.

Gov. Cuomo’s budget anticipates a $25 billion economic development agenda, funded largely by leveraging money in private sector investment rather than taxpayer dollars. The amount being put up by The New York Works Fund is $1.3 billion. The fund, Cuomo’s marquee infrastructure program won’t include transit, but it will provide funding for highways, bridges, municipal water systems, dams, and even state parks and historic sites. This program was developed with the intention of creating jobs.

The State is hoping to make up the rest of the $25 billion from other sources, including private companies, the federal government, and local authorities throughout the state. The private funding will allow projects like the $4 billion convention center at the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens to go ahead as planned. The state’s only monetary commitment to the new convention center is the land on which it will be located.

Community representatives were tentative about the number of jobs that the new convention center would create.  A few noted that during the construction of the Jacob Javits Center, African-Americans were cut out of job opportunities.  There was also worry about the influx of gambling in these troubled economic times; people who are already struggling will be tempted by the promise of gambling wins.

Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council, showed concern with what would happen to current funding.

District Leader of the 56thAssembly District, Robert Cornegy, was concerned about the needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs. He emphasized a need for reinvestment in vacant warehouses located here in Bed-Stuy that could offer spaces for businesses to grow and expand. Cornegy noted that if light manufacturing could be brought back to Red Hook, it could also happen here in Bed-Stuy. Mr. Towns said there is no direct program to support light manufacturing at the moment, but there is $200 million in bond funding that can be used to help start up companies. Deb Howard, executive director of the Pratt Area Community Council, said there might still be funding to be awarded through the New York State Main Street Program.

Even with the prospect of jobs, many were worried that the employed still wouldn’t be able to afford living in Bed-Stuy.  Many are being pushed out of the neighborhood and young adults who return with a college education can’t afford to live in the neighborhood they were raised in.

Commissioner Towns’s remarks emphasized a need for more integrated housing. “The state has been very good at creating low-income housing and the skyscrapers you see in Manhattan but hasn’t done much in between,” he said. He hopes to see buildings offering space for elders, veterans, and middle-income residents. Community member Gloria Wilson sees a solution in initiatives like Project Reclaim. Launched by Assembly Member Hakeem Jeffries, Project Reclaim is designed to convert vacant luxury apartments into affordable homes for working families, middle class residents and senior citizens.  It was unclear whether programs like this will be eliminated in Gov. Cuomo’s government restructuring.

The Reverend Fred Lucas from the Brooklyn Community Church expressed a concern many in that room were feeling, “How will this budget impact black people and central Brooklyn?” After a moment of consideration, Mr. Towns replied with the analogy, “Often we have experienced the unfair sacrifice of the Chicken and the Pig, with some giving an egg and others a leg.”


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Categories: Affordable Housing, Community Event

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