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Capital Region Rep. Paul Tonko hoping federal funding can bolster Albany community center

New York Congressman Paul Tonko continues visiting community development and improvement projects he's trying to get federal funding for. The Democrat toured Albany’s Hoffman Park Community Center Wednesday.

Albany's Commissioner of Recreation, Youth & Workforce Services Jonathan Jones says the Hoffman Community Center is overdue for an upgrade. The facility, which serves over 15,000 residents, is located on the northern tip of the city’s South End neighborhood.

“Last year, we had a study done on this building to help us understand our needs," Jones said. "And our biggest need not only was ADA accessibility, but also some of our infrastructure challenges when it was turned in respect to HVAC, circulation, day lighting. And so that is the goal of trying to redo the building and revitalize the vision, so that we can have our young people and our seniors in the same space and be able to recreate together.”

Public facilities at Hoffman Park serve a predominantly low- to moderate-income and historically underserved population, with 40 percent of those living within the target area not having access to a vehicle and the median income at $18,000.

Jones says he's looking at probably tearing the building down and starting over again, as its outdated floor plan lacks capacity and space to properly administer programs.

“I expect this time next year, we'll be making an announcement on where we're going to move forward with RFP," said Jones. "The first process is going to put out a research request for proposal. And then we'll go through the engineering process. After that, we'll be able to understand what companies can work with us, and then have a phase by phase approach, so that we can get this done within the timeline that ARPA has allowed us, which is about two years.”

City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar spoke before a small gathering at Hoffman’s.

"It's great to have had the vision of Jonathan and the recreation department as a whole and envision I think, really all our people in the city that we need to do better here, we're gonna be better here," Shahinfar said. "And I'm looking forward to coming back with a nice big fat check for you as we get this ball rolling.

Also a Democrat, Tonko expects the city will provide funding to match the $400,000 he is trying to secure.

"So we're working as a team here to make certain that from local to state, and I know the state reps both Pat Fahy and Neil Breslin, are very much invested in this," Tonko said. "So we want to be a strong partner from the federal perspective and get it done."

Democratic Common Councilor Sonia Frederick represents the First Ward. She says she is excited that Hoffman will get an upgrade.

"It's something that many constituents have reached out to me, and they really want to see this space utilize the best of its ability," frederick said. "So the additional funding that's coming in, it's going to make it come to fruition and I'm just very excited for the community to get, to be able to see it come to come to part."

Officials say a redesigned Hoffman Community Center will allow local and statewide health partners to coordinate programs to service a designated "Potential Environment Justice Area" and residents more effectively.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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