Tonawanda News

December 12, 2013

NT wins big in bidding process

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda received more than $700,000 through the New York State Consolidated Application process on Wednesday following the release of $715.9 million statewide and $60.8 million to the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, an initiative launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2011.

The Gratwick Riverside Marina project was awarded the largest portion of North Tonawanda’s total, with $208,125 for continued work on docking and infrastructure work there, though much less than the $500,000 sought by the city. 

Oliver Street will get an upgrade with the allotment of $200,000 for facade improvements, with a focus of that project likely centered between Wheatfield and Schenck streets, as the officials seeks to revive the commercial viability of the once lively strip. 

A bicycle path extension up Sweeney Street from downtown North Tonawanda to Mayors Park will also now move forward, with $144,707 in state funding, a project that city official say will add to the quality of life issues and tie into its master plan of enhancing waterfront activities. 

Two applications submitted by private non-profits with the help of North Tonawanda’s Community Development, were also announced Wednesday. The Riviera Theatre and Performing Art Center will get $42,343 to digitize its projectors, and the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum won $134,454 to renovate the Allan Herschell Office Building located at the rear of its property. 

Mayor Rob Ortt said much of the credit for the grant procurements belongs to members of the Lumber City Development Corp., who also run the city’s Community Development arm. The group has pulled in nearly $6 million in federal and state grants since 2009. 

Ortt also said he believes development momentum over the last several years may have been a factor in the state’s decision to fund nearly all of the projects for which the city applied. 

“We have a great development team and we certainly have a good track record with the people reviewing these projects,” he said. “There’s a lot of evidence to show these were wise investments.” 

Cuomo, who created the state Regional Economic Development Council shortly after taking office, said in a statement Wednesday that the third round of funding allotments are a part of his strategy to boost the economy and spur job creation, calling the model a top-down, community-based approach. 

“In the last three years we have put New York’s fiscal house in order by controlling spending and cutting taxes and the global business community has taken notice,” Cuomo said, adding the competitive application process pushes public and private entities to develop strategic plans. 

North Tonawanda has embraced the model, Ortt said, using the nearly year-long process of identifying potential projects and applying for state funding to push its plan to reinvigorate the city’s waterfront potential, including the more than $1 million spent on resuscitating the marina, almost entirely through state and federal funding. 

“These are good days, but there’s still a lot of work for us to do,” Ortt said, noting that it would take months if not years to procure the funding and plan the various projects. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.