Down, but not out, in land bank competition
The cities of Schenectady and Amsterdam, along with Schenectady County, dotted all their i’s, crossed all their t’s and still got turned away by the state attorney general’s office in their first attempt to win funding for their regional land bank.
Perhaps rejection wouldn’t have stung so badly if many of the seven other applicants had also been turned down; but the Capital Region’s land bank was one of only two that got stiffed — Broome County’s did also — while the others divvied up $12.4 million.
It would also be better if, as opposed to baseball, there weren’t just two strikes (rounds) in this game. Because there are, the regional consortium aimed at boosting community revitalization is now down to its last strike. It will have until next spring to regroup, figure out what went wrong, and reapply for what’s left of the $20 million the state secured in a settlement with major banks related to the subprime mortgage crisis.
Thus far, the attorney general’s office hasn’t explained why the winners (including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Newburgh and Chautauqua and Suffolk counties) won and why the losers didn’t. It should, or at least the Capital Region group needs to find out, since it appears to have followed all the rules and suggestions it received from on high.
For example, the city of Schenectady, which initially was planning to go it alone, ultimately chose to partner with Amsterdam and Schenectady County after Gov. Andrew Cuomo encouraged joint ventures.
It’s also possible that the region’s low foreclosure rate — one of the lowest in the nation, in fact — negatively impacted its application, since the money was intended to compensate victims of bank lending practices that fueled foreclosures and the housing collapse. That would be understandable, but small consolation for Schenectady and Amsterdam, which certainly had plenty of foreclosures during this period. It’s just that they were tax-related, not mortgage-related.
Nonetheless, both cities are in desperate financial shape, with more than their share of vacant and deteriorating properties. They need money badly to get them demolished; or fixed up, inhabited and back on the tax rolls. That’s the land bank’s bottom line, and the state needs to keep that in mind when determining who gets what in Round Two.