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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul comes to Cohoes for economic development announcement

Governor Kathy Hochul with Mayor Bill Keeler and other city officials after announcing that Cohoes will receive $10 million in funding as the Capital Region winner of the sixth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
Samantha Simmons
Governor Kathy Hochul with Mayor Bill Keeler, Assemblymember John McDonald and other officials after announcing that Cohoes will receive $10 million in funding as the Capital Region winner of the sixth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Governor Kathy Hochul visited the Cohoes Music Hall this morning to announce the Albany County city is receiving a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.

Hochul appeared onstage at the Cohoes Music Hall with fellow-Democrat Mayor Bill Keeler to announce the Spindle City will get $10 million for downtown redevelopment. She already had suggestions for how the Downtown Revitalization Initiative money should be spent.

"So what are you gonna do with all the money mayor, we're going to reinvigorate our historic places? So they're here 150 years from now? That's our responsibility, the City Hall, the music hall, the beautiful Public Library you have here. I mean, the public libraries are just so beautiful," said Hochul.

Hochul told Keeler most people want to be in a walkable downtown and suggested Cohoes work on increasing its population density — at a time when Hochul is trying to get an ambitious housing proposal into the state budget.

Both politicians reminisced about downtowns they grew up in. Hochul, from Buffalo, shared a story about her mother opening up a flower shop.

"My mother knew nothing about business, retail, all she knew she didn't like the flowers at the local florist," Hochul said. "It's my brother's wedding. And therefore, her daughter, the lawyer who had been out of law school one month, was now going to start this business for her. So that went fine. If don’t know that she ever made much money, but she wanted to hire women from the community women who had been displaced. They call them displaced homemakers at the time, so my mom used this as her way to give back, started a small business. I was involved in starting our local business association that kind of propelled me into politics. And so for small businesses, this is this is a sign that this is a community that matters and this is the place to plant your flag.”"

A nostalgic Keeler recalled a time when downtown Cohoes was a robust retail business hub.

“In 1966 Cohoes was named an All-America City and in 1970, the city celebrated its centennial in style," said Keeler. "Back in those days, when I started the school year, my parents would take us downtown for shirts and pants and belts at Kramer's Armory and the Cohoes Men's and Boy’s shop and then we'd walk down a block to Carol's shoes and get a new pair of shoes for the school year. Remsen Street was just an eclectic mix of businesses that just filled all the storefronts. If you needed jewelry, shop at Campagnas, if you needed furniture, it was National Furniture, paint, wallpaper, diapers, flooring, and on it went downtown. We had our hometown bakery, we had Cohoes Savings Bank, we had the five and dime stores Jupiter's and Woolworths and much, much more. It was just, it was a happening place. But then by 1970, it was the advent of malls and box stores came along. And each of those businesses that I just mentioned, eventually folded and our downtown has not been the same since.”

Keeler, an eighth-generation Cohosier, says now is the time to reimagine downtown, and $10 million dollars will go a long way toward its rebirth.

"And with this DRI funding, long vacant buildings will soon have ground floor restaurants, entertainment shops, shopping supported by new residents who live in apartments up above some of them, micro apartments. DRI funding will ensure that new buildings go up on our now vacant fire site on Remsen Street, which has been vacant for a couple of years now following the fire," Keeler said. "So these new buildings will house new apartments which will mean more customers and expanded business hours and expanded business hours will draw in more people to Cohoes who will want to live in these apartments who will draw in new businesses so it'll just be an upward spiral. That DRI really gives us the pop that we've been waiting for for years."

The mayors of three small towns were also onstage for the announcement. Hochul said the town of Coxsackie will receive $4.5 million while the towns of Cambridge and Kinderhook will each receive $2.5 million.

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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