By Steven Spinola
There was some very good news out of Albany last week when the state legislature passed a timely 2015-16 state budget, and, for the fifth consecutive year, the new agreement once again includes a two percent cap on spending growth.
This agreement is no small accomplishment for Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
The Governor, legislative leaders, and their colleagues engaged in lengthy and careful deliberations before arriving at an agreement that avoids the political gridlock, finger pointing and frustration that regularly accompanied late state budget fights of the past.
The agreement includes an important program that hasn’t received a lot of attention.
Among the most important and notable additions to the State budget is the 10-year extension of the Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP), which was due to expire at the end of the year.
This program was created to clean up and revitalize brownfields, or properties which face reusability or redevelopment complications due to the presence or potential presence of contaminants such as hazardous waste and petroleum.
Since its inception, the Brownfield Clean-up Program’s (“BCP”) focus on both environmental remediation and economic development has led to the clean-up and repurposing of hundreds of sites all over New York State.
Some of the noteworthy redevelopments include: the Health Now Corporate Headquarters in Buffalo; the Golub Corporation Headquarters in Schenectady; Hudson Park North in Yonkers; as well as Via Verde, Courtlandt Crescent in the Bronx, and many more.
The BCP has proven to be an effective and cost efficient program that has spurred the creation of tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of new direct tax revenues, and more than $15.5B of total economic investment throughout the State.
REBNY continues to stress the importance of the BCP, the benefits it provides to New York, and the urgent need for its extension.
It is both relieving and encouraging to see the State Legislature acknowledging the vital role the BCP plays in New York’s continued prosperity.
State leaders also reached an agreement of an increase of $1.3 billion in state education support, bringing education funding to the highest level it has ever reached – $23.5 billion.
Highlights of this Education Transformation Act of 2015 include components such as a redesigned teacher evaluation system, reforms to tenure so that it will be based on the educator’s performance, a new full scholarship program for top SUNY and CUNY students, and much more.
Any investment in education is an investment in New York’s future, and it is encouraging to see such heavy funding being dedicated to this area.
The 2015-16 Budget is also important for other reasons. Governor Cuomo is to be lauded for his insistence on a budget which includes crucial ethics reform, as well as one which expands opportunities for New Yorkers.
Among the many plans and programs included in the budget are anti-poverty initiatives, the investment of $432 million in homeless services statewide (this is in addition to the existing $780 million of annual spending on homeless service programs), the expansion of urban youth jobs programs, and many other opportunities which will play an important role in keeping New Yorkers safe, healthy, and provided for.
Finally, the Budget resulted in an impressive $5.4 billion investment in New York’s economy.
This money will go towards programs such as the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, modeled on the Buffalo Billion initiative, which will aid in Upstate New York’s economic recovery.
The governor has also set a goal to ensure statewide high-speed broadband access by the end of 2018, which would make New York the first state to boast such an achievement.
The Budget also states that funding be applied to supporting capital projects for health care systems, building new Metro-North Stations in the Bronx, counter-terrorism efforts, transformative economic development on Long Island, and more.
Once again, New York has passed a budget which has great potential to boost economic growth and address the issues that require attention.
By making sure we retain the programs that matter and enacting guidelines that encourage our lawmakers and public officials to continue working for the public’s best interests, our fifth consecutive timely state budget is certainly something New Yorkers can be proud of.
In other REBNY news:
Request for Potential Pre-Kindergarten Spaces: The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is seeking to identify space for September 2015 that could be converted for pre-K programs in order to offer full-day, high-quality, free pre-K to every four-year old in New York City through the Pre-K For All Expansion. To find out more information about the space requirements, or to submit a property for consideration, please visit the DOE’s web site at http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/EarlyChildhood/support/prekspace.htm
REBNY’s next Residential Rental Clinic Seminar, “Pitching Landlords and Developers For Exclusive Listings,” is on April 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in the Mendik Education Center! Registration is required for this free seminar available to REBNY members only, which will feature speaker Karla Saladino of Mirador Real Estate. For more information, visit REBNY.com or contact Yesenia Dhanraj at YDhanraj@rebny.com.
The Residential Upper Manhattan Open House Expo is May 2 and 3. This year, REBNY is combining its annual open house expos into one exciting, all-inclusive weekend, during which attendees will be able to view exclusive condo, co-op, townhouse, and high-end rental listings in Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, and Hamilton Heights! For more information on attending this lively event, contact Desiree Jones at DJones@rebny.com or Jeanne Oliver-Taylor at JTaylor@rebny.com.