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State addresses blighted properties in Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls


ALBANY -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the winners of the first phase of the Cities for Responsible Investment and Strategic Enforcement ("Cities RISE") grant awards, an investment which will total more than $10 million over the next two years to 18 cities and towns across New York State. The program aims to innovatively address and transform blighted, vacant, or poorly maintained problem properties through the use of housing and community data from various state agencies.

Launched in April 2017, Cities RISE advances Attorney General Schneiderman's comprehensive strategy for helping New York families and communities rebuild from the housing crisis. Since taking office, the Attorney General has obtained settlements with large financial institutions to address misconduct that contributed to the collapse of the housing market—bringing more than $95 billion to communities across the country and over $5.5 billion to New York State alone. With those funds, the Office of the Attorney General has established several consumer programs, from the Homeowners Protection Program (HOPP) to the Land Bank Community Revitalization Initiative, all with the goal of helping New Yorkers become homeowners, avoid foreclosure, and improve blight in their communities.

"Too many New Yorkers are still struggling in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis. That's why my office is investing the dollars we secured from the banks, to provide the tools necessary to rebuild and strengthen our neighborhoods," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "Cities RISE presents a 21st century approach to overcoming this crisis and revitalizing New York's communities."

The 18 grantees—selected by national community development nonprofits Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise) and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) which are managing the program—will receive a two-year subscription to a data platform designed to integrate and analyze data such as code enforcement records, tax liens, and fire and police data. Cites RISE partnered with Tolemi (formerly known as OpportunitySpace), a social enterprise that created BuildingBlocks, a platform designed to integrate housing and code enforcement related data, and was selected for this program following significant research and consultation with numerous industry experts.

Additionally, grantees will receive capacity building support from Spruce Technology, and the program will be guided by a Senior Advisory Team made up of issue area experts specializing in community revitalization and engagement.  The Senior Advisory Team includes Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow at Center for Community Progress, Betsy MacLean, the Executive Director of Hester Street Collaborative, Ira Goldstein, the President of Policy Solutions at the Reinvestment Fund, and Joseph Schilling, Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute.

Future phases of the program may include additional change management resources, support to develop a community collaborative, and an innovation grant to launch new programs.
The awarded municipalities include:

  • City of Albany

  • City of Binghamton

  • City of Buffalo

  • City of White Plains

  • City of Elmira

  • Town of Huntington

  • Town of Irondequot

  • Town of Islip

  • City of Mount Vernon

  • City of Newburgh

  • City of Niagara Falls

  • Town of North Hempstead

  • New York City

  • City of Rochester

  • City of Saratoga Springs

  • City of Schenectady

  • City of Syracuse

  • City of Yonkers

"The Building Blocks software will be a valuable tool in our ongoing efforts to make government more transparent," Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said. "Using this software, individuals will be able to get detailed information about properties, particularly vacant properties, in the city. I am thankful to the Attorney General for his advocacy on behalf of our citizens, which helps us in our efforts to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities."

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "The Cities RISE grant will help Niagara Falls both eliminate information silos and make smart neighborhood investments, supported by real time data. Modern municipal technology is a necessity rather than a luxury. Thank you to Attorney General Schneiderman for continuously assisting New York State local governments to build up our communities."