News in Cortland NY

City Development Under Mayor Feiszli's Tenure

HOUSING:

Since January 2010, the City has provided rehabilitation assistance as follows:

Investment of $560,847 in HOME Program funds for the rehabilitation of 31 single-family homes owned and occupied by low-to-moderate income households/individuals;

Investment of $331,175 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for the rehabilitation of 11 income property structures that contain 28 units of low-to-moderate income households/individuals; and

Under Mayor Feiszli, the City also submitted and received a HOME Program grant in the amount of $398,500 for single family, owner-occupied housing rehabilitation; and

Partnered with Access to Independence to provide administrative funds to operate its Access to Home Program that provides accessibility improvements to housing units in which disabled individuals reside.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Submitted and received a Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $200,000 to assist Microenterprises in the City of Cortland (defined as businesses with five or fewer employees, including the owner or owners at the time of application for assistance);

Provided grant assistance to five Microenterprises in the City (with a sixth project pending), five of which will assist low-to-moderate income individuals own and operate their own businesses; one of the awards is to a green energy business; four of the businesses are located in the downtown in keeping with the City’s goals of making the City’s Central Business District diverse and vibrant and another located in the East End in keeping with the East End Strategic Plan to redevelop the retail sector in that neighborhood by providing assistance to stores or service providers currently lacking;

Loan of $33,000 to Daily Grind South to assist in the development of a grocery store in the South End in keeping with the City’s South End Strategic Plan to encourage retail and services currently lacking in the area; this area is historically underserved and heavily populated by low-to-moderate income individuals that lack transportation. These individuals will now have greater access to a grocery store eliminating costly taxi rides to grocery stores outside the City. The Daily Grind South project is a good example of using multiple sources of funds to make a significant difference in an area. The loan for the grocery store was made with Program income funds; the City also committed CDBG income property rehabilitation funds to rehabilitate two units of low-to-moderate income housing in the upper floor and leveraged over $150,000 in private funds for the purchase of the building and renovation of the façade, including handicapped access. The original impetus to get Daily Grind to open a convenience store in the South End was a CDBG microenterprise grant made under a previous years program. That convenience store grew to the recently opened grocery store; the loan also resulted in job creation for low-to-moderate income individuals;

Loan of $61,500 to Bangles, Bags & Bling, a niche boutique that moved outside the City as a result of a fire that destroyed the Clocktower Building. When the building in which she was located outside the City was sold last year, the City provided the necessary assistance to allow her to move back to the City in a new space and expand. This loan is in keeping with the City’s strategy to create a diverse shopping experience in the City by attracting niche businesses that provide goods and services not provided by big box stores or in strip malls; the loan also resulted in job creation for low-to-moderate income individuals; and

Loan of $173,000 to Ithaca Technologies, LLC D/B/A Glyph Technologies, which provides proprietary digital storage devices for the professional recording industry and with this loan, is moving toward providing devices for the video and film industry; the company’s customer base, which includes vocal greats such as Paul McCartney, Bett Midler, and Mariah Carey, grew out of its space in Ithaca and not being able to find affordable space in Ithaca, approached the City for assistance; Glyph’s recording devices have also be used to record sound tracks for movies such as Moulin Rouge and Titanic and are used by ESPN, the Disney Channel , HBO, NBC, Fox and other major networks; the job creation promised in return for the assistance has exceeded expectations.

THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AND THE EAST END PLAN

In every community, including the City of Cortland, various public agencies, private organizations, and individuals make decisions that, individually and cumulatively, can affect a community’s future and impact the quality of life. It is prudent to periodically review the larger picture in order to evaluate the impact of emerging trends; deal with land use issues; ascertain the concerns of citizens and stakeholders; and, ultimately, decide whether policy changes are needed to chart the future desired course of the community.

The City’s Comprehensive Plan and a Strategic Plan for our East End Neighborhood’s importance and relevance is discussed below:

East End Strategic Plan

The East End is an older, once tight-knit mixed-use neighborhood with residential, industrial and commercial uses. Issues the precipitate the need for and preparation of the Strategic Plan for this neighborhood include:

The preparation of the Strategic Plan document, which was funded with a Technical Assistance grant from Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program, served as a conduit for the following:

The Plan established clear and concise goals and implementation measures to address neighborhood concerns. The City has already captured $800,000 for owner occupied and rental rehabilitation and enhanced building code enforcement efforts.

The Comprehensive Plan

The comprehensive planning process grew out of the desire of the City of Cortland to become more proactive in guiding the changing conditions in the City, and to combat the socioeconomic decline the City has experienced in recent years. The Plan was partially funded with a grant from the NY Department of State’s Quality Communities Demonstration Program.

As with many upstate New York cities, Cortland is beset with a number of intractable problems. Historically, Cortland enjoyed over a century of growth and relative prosperity built on a strong manufacturing foundation starting with the post Civil War industrial revolution. The latter part of the 20th Century, however, brought about a collapse of this economic foundation as many companies closed, downsized, or left the area. Other manufacturers have relocated outside the City to the Town of Cortlandville, along with significant retail development. In recent decades the City has struggled as many good jobs have been lost, the population has declined, and poverty has increased. With a shrinking tax base and a large number of tax-exempt parcels, the City is struggling to meet its financial obligations. Recent fiscal concerns have resulted in hiring freezes, budgetary cutbacks, and even discussion of dissolving City government. Much of the City’s housing stock is deteriorating, and recent years have seen growing conflicts between expanding student housing from SUNY Cortland and traditionally owner-occupied neighborhoods.

Cortland is at a crossroads. The blue collar manufacturing community that Cortland once was is largely gone. The City must fundamentally redefine and reinvent itself in order to reverse the decline of recent decades and remain a viable community in the future. The structure of the national economy has changed, and Cortland must change with it. The rust-belt mindset must be set aside, and a new economy developed in order to compete on the regional, statewide, and national levels: one based on the College, education, arts, culture, recreation, tourism, high-tech and green jobs, and other emerging trends. Strong neighborhoods, a vibrant downtown, and a high quality of life must be fostered in order to support new economic opportunities, and to create the sense of place and community that is needed to compete in today’s world.

In short, the Plan will serve as a blueprint for future action by the Common Council, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Historic District Commission, City Departments, and the community as a whole as it deals with growth and change, and the issues noted above. The Plan establishes clear goals to meet the vision of the City, and sets forth a roadmap to achieve its goals and address its problems.

SIDEWALKS AND TREES

Planted 41 trees under the Lottery Program in 2010 and 2011 at a cost of $23,000+

Secured a grant of $15,000 for additional tree planting in 2012

Provided over $22,000 in assistance to facilitate the removal of deteriorated sidewalks and the construction of new sidewalks at 37 properties in the City in 2010 and 2011