Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul … –

$4.5 Million Awarded to Villages of Lancaster and Wellsville as Western New York Winners of First Round of NY Forward Program
Governor Hochul: “We’re trying to bring back our downtowns and make them shine like they did a long time ago. And also be a real destination for tourists and local visitors, the day trippers, the people who are going to also discover this region as a gateway to the wine region and the largest contiguous concord grape region in the world.”
Hochul: “Congratulations on being the Western New York region winner of the DRI award, the City of Dunkirk… Every one of our DRI communities has been successful and it’s not just the $10 million that we give and support, but also that attracts other businesses when people see success, they see a downtown coming back.”
Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that the City of Dunkirk will receive $10 million in funding as the Western New York winner of the sixth round of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. Governor Hochul also announced that the Village of Lancaster and the Village of Wellsville will each receive $4.5 million in funding as the Western New York region winners of the first round of NY Forward.
VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.
AUDIO of the event is available here.
PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks are available below:
Thank you very much. Eric Reich, I want to thank you for your leadership of the Regional Economic Development Council. This is the body that makes the decisions and the recommendations and does all the assessments. And then so you – those of you who are winners, you want to thank Eric and everyone. I’m going to ask the members of the Regional Economic Development Council to please rise and thank you for all you – come on, everybody. Stand up. Stand up.
We have great representation from the individuals here that they also represent. I also want to acknowledge Paul Brown, who represents the working men and women who build these projects. So, Paul, thank you for all you do for us on this particular body. You’ve been serving a long time, but also for what you do for the region. So, thank you.
We have some great leaders here, and I’ll be talking about each of their communities with a lot of affection. But first of all, Mayor Willie Rosas, you’ll be hearing from him in a couple of moments, but we’ve been through a lot together. And you know, I come out to places like the Marina often. I try to sneak into town, call up the mayor to go to Demetri’s for breakfast or a cup of coffee, and you’re always there and you serve this community so well. So, Mayor Rosas, let’s give him another round of applause.
Randy Shayler, our Mayor from Wellsville, a beautiful community that I’ve come to know very, very well. Had family members live down. They always thought they lived in God’s country. It’s so beautiful down there. The natural beauty, the Alleghenies, all the assets. And so, to Randy Shayler, congratulations to your community as well. Although, you don’t know what I’m congratulating you for yet. Thanks for just coming here today.
To Lynne Ruda, the Mayor of Lancaster, we’ve walked your streets many times and I’ll go into my knowledge of the community. I have another family member living in Lancaster, so we have big enough family. We have somebody everywhere, so it’s great to be back once again.
But you know, we’re here in Dunkirk. And I know the world was paying attention to something that happened a little further north on a cold day, starting at three o’clock, and I was proud to be there. I was proud to see the energy in that stadium. The love of the Buffalo Bills, win or lose, they are beloved by all. They’re an inspiration. And when Damar Hamlin came up on the screen, I think all of our hearts just stopped. And knowing that God has given him the gift of life, and he’s going to use that he told me as we spoke to inspire others and to tell his story to people who may have, you know, not realized that he believes it was the power of prayer that allowed him to live. I agree with him, and he wants to show his gratitude by helping young people in underserved communities know that they have a better destiny. So, I want you to know, regardless of a score, you know, they’re our team, we love. And next year the Super Bowl.
But as I was sitting there thinking about the wind and the snow and the cold, I’m thinking, “How long is this winter going to last? How much longer we have to endure a brutal record shattering winter?” And the world will await on February 2nd to see what Dunkirk Dave has to say, right? Now, I’ve kind of lobbied Dunkirk Dave. I actually went and visited him off season one summer. I was in the neighborhood, dropped by to make sure he is being taken care of. His owners love him. I do too. But Dunkirk Dave, come on, give us a break. So, we will be waiting to see what he says about Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Shark. Great, great animals, I’m sure, but this is our own hometown, Dunkirk Dave. But it’s also I think about the game, the region, Dunkirk Dave. I think about a region that is known for something incredible, and that is its resiliency, it’s toughness, it’s ability to come back after adversity. And we’ve had that story in Western New York from the Southern Tier in Allegheny County, Chautauqua County, up to Erie County because I lived it. I’ve been a lifelong Western New Yorker. I know all these communities.
I know what we went through. Those of you who are as old as I am, and there aren’t many in this room anymore, as old as I am, but I remember Jack Kemp was the quarterback. That’s how long I go back. We got knocked down. A lot of businesses left for most of my younger life, all my siblings, trying to figure out their career, where they were going to go. It was not Western New York. They all wanted to stay. They wanted to raise their kids around family. They could not because there were not enough jobs.
And that was a heartbreak. We exported – our greatest export was our human capital. We sent our smart young people to other states and other communities and let them build up. But I am so proud to have lived long enough to see a complete reversal where people want to live here. They understand the quality of life we have in especially our smaller cities, our little hamlets, our villages, and you can’t put a price tag on the quality of life of raising a family in these areas.
And that sense of community that’s so strong and powerful, that’s what we have here. That is a gift. We must cherish it. We must never lose that. But also be willing to open up our doors to more opportunities for others and businesses that want to come in. And young people that want to graduate from our, you know, great institutions like Fredonia, you know that they can live right here. Alfred State, Alfred University.
We have great, great assets here. And that’s something, you know, sometimes you live here a long time and you get a little jaded and you just wonder, is everything else better somewhere else? I’m here to tell you I’ve seen it all. There is nothing better, more tougher, more resilient and more loving than the people and the places in these communities that we’re going to be recognizing here today.
So, we have lost a lot. We also gained a lot because I see, and I feel a comeback. It is an extraordinary story of comeback. And I love what I see. We’ve had some job growth in places like Dunkirk over the last few years and other areas because people are starting, you know, the cold storage facility, pharma’s going to be reaching its full potential. I know that.
And because of the people who believe in these communities, and I’ll start with Dunkirk, who love the communities so much, they came together to put together a vision with the Mayor and said, “We can do this. If we put together a vision for the future, not dictated by Albany, we don’t want that,” – I get it. I was in local government a long time – “But what our people want, what our community wants.”
And that’s the beauty of the DRI program that Eric spoke about, is that we have the opportunity to execute your vision, give you the resources to make your future your dream, actually become a reality.
And that’s why I’m so proud to announce that Dunkirk has been awarded a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Grant because I believe, when it comes to Dunkirk, you ain’t seen nothing yet because its position on – and I’m a boater, a new boater, the last few years – the beauty of Lake Erie, but its communities that dot the shoreline like Dunkirk have such potential and it’s almost like they don’t realize how cool they can actually be.
And it’s that faith you need in yourselves, but take it from someone who’s traveled and seen waterfront communities, we have everything we need to just launch into the future, even a little boardwalk, shops. I’ve been over there many times and I just went to Demetri’s again this morning – they have really good eggs – and I met Tony in the kitchen of course, and all the gentlemen sitting there, the 89-year-old who was at the game yesterday – I got to know everybody. They’re all wearing their Bills clothes, so proud.
So, I love to hang out in places like that because you get that sense of being grounded, but they also love this community and to know that there’s going to be investments in them as a people and to be able to take advantage of this magnificent location on Lake Erie and keep our marina strong from being battered by the winds and restoring the historic downtown district.
We have great bones, we have great buildings. You know the old buildings where a lot of them got covered up during what was inexcusable – the 1970s when they plastered over all these old brick buildings. What were they thinking? I’ll never know. But we’re peeling it back. We’re trying to bring back our downtowns and make them shine like they did a long time ago. And also be a real destination for tourists and local visitors, the day trippers, the people who are going to also discover this region as a gateway to the wine region and the largest contiguous concord grape region in the world.
Do you know things like that? I know all these things. We have all that. And this is Dunkirk’s position – not far from a major city, but also close to the many attractions. But I want to thank all of your members of your planning committee for putting forth a vision to create a sense of place that is genuine and authentic. It will never be one of those cookie cutter communities with everything looking the same.
We’re starting to see that – a big article in the news the other day said that you can’t tell the difference when it comes to housing between Seattle and Austin and other cities because they’re building all the same. We can never let that happen to our beautiful villages and towns and cities here. So, we’re going to create that authentic experience and be a catalyst for just organic growth, but also attract others. And make sure that we’re very inclusive in what we do – welcoming people, the new immigrants who want to just plant the flag like the grandparents and parents of many of us, as I know. Your mom’s still in Puerto Rico, right? Is she doing okay? I know she was. We were worried about her during the hurricane.
So, Mayor Rosas, as he mentioned, developing the Marina, we know that this marina needs to be strong and needs to attract people. We also have to continue working, you know, to have some fun options. I’ve always long believed that if you have a downtown brewery, the rest happens. It just happens. An indoor water park, and I know you have so many ideas and some visions, so, you know, we know that these ideas are brilliant. They’re great. That’s what the community wants, and I’m really proud that we’ll be able to put the money behind them. So, we’ll work with you over the next year, and less than a year from now, we’ll be back to announce specifically what projects have been funded. We leave planning money in the award so you can bring in the experts to help you complement your local team already. So, that is what we’re going to be doing. So, congratulations on being the Western New York region winner of the DRI award, the City of Dunkirk again, congratulations.
Now, as I traveled the state making announcements about these awards for many years, we often would encounter leaders of smaller communities who say, “Well, we don’t quite have enough projects for 10 million. You know, it’s kind of a lot. You know, I know you want a vision to execute on the whole amount, but, you know, is there any chance that smaller communities can compete for a lesser amount, for example? It’s like, that sounds smart. Why not? And so, we announced last year first ever, we have it called the New York Forward awards, which are $4.5 million awards, including some money for planning, that can just help maybe finish a vision a community has or to jumpstart and be a catalyst for more investment.
Again, these are all catalysts. When I talk about that word, it’s a catalyst for private sector investment. Every one of our DRI communities has been successful and it’s not just the $10 million that we give and support, but also that attracts other businesses when people see success, they see a downtown coming back.
They see the buildings getting that, you know, the luster brought back to them with streetscapes and connections to waterfronts. We start doing that, other people start paying attention. Mark my words that all of our communities that are award winners here today will start seeing others say, “You know, boy, maybe I want to move there. Maybe I want to bring my business there.”
So, that’s what’s going to happen. So, I’m really proud to announce that among our very first winners of this new initiative we put forth last year for our smaller but mighty communities, I’m announcing that the Villages of Lancaster and Wellsville will each receive $4.5 million in New York Forward awards. Congratulations.
Congratulations. Congratulations. And I know Lancaster very well. I used to represent it in Congress, spent a lot of time there and got to know the people, especially during the pandemic. We were very concerned about the viability of the downtown because we had done so much to bring it back.
The West Main Street Project, cleaning up the sewer lines and the run-down curbs and all the things that make you feel like a community’s kind of run-down. You fix the curbs, you put in some trees and benches, all of a sudden there’s new life. I felt it, even my hometown of Hamburg, which had lost its luster for most of my life, and now that is back. So, I know the value of these initiatives. So, we walked, we talked to the business owners hit so hard by the pandemic, like we went to the coffee shop and Bloomsbury Toy Shop. I need to get back there because I have a grandbaby now. I actually have someone to buy toys for. Three Dog Barber, is he still doing okay? Gentlemen, you need to go to this barber. You want to feel pampered, go to the Three Dog Barber, which open. I’m glad he is still doing well.
But I saw a growth in new businesses and an energy there that always could have been, but it wasn’t until new leadership and a belief in these downtown areas. And people wanting to be in downtowns, people want to live in downtowns. And for far too long our downtowns are comprised of one story, or first-floor retail shops and businesses. But no one takes advantage of the upstairs. Maybe it’s storage, maybe it’s just vacant space. That’s where people want to live. Not everybody wants to have a car. They ride their bikes around. You get everything they need there. An Uber doesn’t help, it doesn’t hurt. You can take Uber if you don’t want to have a car.
So, life has changed, and we can put more focus on our downtown. So, we’re going to have more upgrades. If people want to bicycle around, what you’re proposing is to make the village more livable and healthier. Those are great objectives. Walkable streets, outdoor fitness center, okay that sounds great, new bike lanes. And also, again, we want to restore some of our historic buildings. You have some real gems there. The Opera House, the Masonic Building, the Boys and Girls Club. So, take, again, the ideas from the community. Create a mobility hub for people to gather, and it’s all part of a holistic plan put forth by Mayor Ruda. Congratulations, Mayor Ruda, please take a about everybody. Thank you.
A little further down in Wellsville. Wellsville is so charming. Have you ever seen the Pink House? That Pink House, it was built in 1866 or something. Started then, done in 1868. It’s on the National Historic Record of the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s amazing. That’s just one jewel you have there, but a lot of great homes and, and village. The city’s downtown and it’s a beautiful place. It has such potential. It really does, Mayor, and I know you know this. But again, people live there a long time and just don’t always feel it, what others see when you see the charm of it.
So, you want to take your assets and let them be catalysts for other businesses to come. And I know on Main Street, the former Rockwell Department Store could become housing, you know, bringing that life and that energy downtown and making more retail space, or the municipal building could become hospitality space, the Grand Theater. So many of these downtowns have charming theaters and they’re just expensive to maintain and sometimes it just gets to be much. But they’re all – a lot of them are built around the same town that was hit hard by COVID too. And they need some help getting back on their feet because that often is the center of activity. People go to theater and go to movies and, you know, I think there’s such great, great opportunities here.
And the other thing is, you know, we talk about Dunkirk being on the water here. You’ve got great water; you’ve got the Genesee River. Genesee River has a great story. People think about Genesee beer. They think the river’s flowing with beer. That’s not true, that is not true. But it’s, it’s a beautiful river. You know, it goes all the way through from Rochester through Letchworth State Park, or I’ve jumped off every cliff. Well, now there’s signs to say you can’t, I don’t do it anymore. I used to as a child. I think that’s why I’m a risk taker. I’m not afraid of anything because my dad would let us all jump off the cliffs into the river.
But I have great memories there as well. But you know, I know you have a great vision Mayor, and for the Sinclair Barrel House, what we can do there, apartments, again, I keep focusing on apartments because one thing we have is people who want to live in our communities now. We didn’t have that. We didn’t have the jobs, people were leaving. Now we have to build the housing and create housing into spaces – even our older buildings. So, that could become a place to welcome people to the waterfront. It could be a restaurant; it could be housing. It’d be extraordinary. I’m so excited to know that there’s people out there, people in this room, and the ones who couldn’t make it here today, who believe in their communities so deeply, who love them with such passion that it brought you here today and as Governor produced by allowing a check.
These aren’t really real checks, but we’ll get you a real one, but knowing that just, we can be the catalyst that jump starts a new energy and a sense of pride in your downtowns. That’s what gives me the most pride and what I love so much about being the Governor of New York. There is so many communities that feel like a long time, no one paid attention to them. I know this because I’m from here. That era is over. Every community, regardless of size, regardless of population matters to me. So, this is deeply personal. I want you to shine. I want you to go out there and just say, we are a fantastic community. We want to be here because we’re so livable and viable, and if we can be help, if we can be support and help lift you up, that is what I’m going to do, continue to do every single year that I have the privilege of being your Governor. So, I want to thank all of you.
I also want to recognize we’re joined by County Executive PJ Wendell here as well. We’ve went to a lot together. We went to a lot together during the pandemic and I know we’re going to continue working together to bring our communities back. So, I wanted to make sure I mentioned that you were here as well, but to all of you. Congratulations. Give yourselves a round of applause and let me present these checks. Don’t take them to the bank. But the money, the money is there. I assure you. I assure you. So, congratulations, everyone. Thank you.
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