New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul was in Troy Tuesday to announce nearly $600,000 in state funding for 15 projects aimed at reducing poverty in the Collar City.
The funding is part of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $25 million Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative, or ESPRI. Speaking at Troy School 2, Hochul says ESPRI was designed to impact the state’s large urban areas, like Buffalo and Rochester, as well as “pockets of poverty” in smaller communities like Troy, home to about 50,000 people.
“We’re gonna provide access to workforce development programs, housing, education support services – and the whole goal is to really just create a sense of opportunity for individuals, and let people know that there [are] resources available that weren’t there before," announces Hochul.
The Democrat says the funding will be heavily focused on Troy’s Hillside North and North Central communities. More than half of the funding designated for the city — $300, 420 — is going to the Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program.
“And that’s gonna be five projects: internships, a feasibility study for housing to help individuals looking for affordable housing, two full-time positions to connect families with resources, also [to] deal with the recycling and the Troy Drug-Free Community Coalition," Hochul details.
Also included in the funding is $122,463 for Unity House, to provide training for the hospitality and customer service industries, as well as family movie nights and cleanup initiatives. Another $18,000 will go to TAP, Inc. for the marketing plan Good2BHome, which aims to sell or rehabilitate 10 vacant buildings. While they may seem small, Hochul says cleanups can have a huge impact on a neighborhood.
“So much of a psychology of a community comes down to how people feel about it based on how the community looks," she notes. "You start fixing up buildings and community centers and cleaning up the streets and planting flowers – all of a sudden there’s this sense of possibility and optimism.”
ESPRI will also support a number of children’s programs in the city, from afterschool programs, arts projects, and youth tap dance classes to career development programs run by the Troy Boys and Girls Club. Hochul and Democratic State Assemblyman John McDonald lauded the funds for addressing the more nuanced roots of poverty, rather than just its symptoms. Hochul says even the $12,500 designated for Capital Car Share can go a long way.
“There are jobs being created – the unemployment rate in this area is historically low. When I was first elected, or even when the Governor was first elected four years before me, the unemployment rate in the Capital Region – the Assemblyman knows this – was eight, nine, 10 percent. And now we’ve taken it down dramatically," Hochul explains. "So there’s jobs there. But if you don’t have training, number one, but also access to those jobs – if you can't get to those jobs — they may as well not exist.”
The Commission on Economic Opportunity is administering the ESPRI funding for Troy. CEO President Katherine Maciol says the commission collaborated with community-based organizations like One Troy for over a year to better connect with residents of Hillside North and North Central. At community picnics, she was able to hear residents’ needs first-hand.
“So what happened on a very rainy, thunderstorm day, is we started with a 'one-thing' project. And we invited everyone in the community to the 7th Avenue Park over here," says Maciol. "And then we asked [residents] to tell us, ‘What is it that you want for your neighborhood? What is it that you need?’”
Maciol adds she is pleased with the city’s work so far, and that the commission is working to acquire additional funding from ESPRI to renovate Troy’s 7th Avenue Park. Democratic Mayor Patrick Madden says the kind of support ESPRI provides is not an everyday occurrence.
“These are all designed, or intended to not just alleviate the symptoms of poverty, but to break the cycle of poverty," Madden explains. "And so that’s important, we don’t often see funding of that nature. We don’t see funding that allows us to experiment, to look for a long-term, real solution. So this is important funding for us.”
The Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative was first announced by Governor Cuomo in 2016 to encourage 15 communities - including Albany, Troy, Oneonta, Newburgh, and Utica – to develop locally-driven strategies to combat poverty.