HUD director visits city

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Regional Administrator Lynne Patton speaks at the podium in front of Dunkirk City Hall on Friday to recap the tour she took about the city's utilization of HUD's community development block grant funds.

United States Congressman Tom Reed and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Regional Administrator Lynne Patton visited locations in Jamestown and Dunkirk that benefited from HUD funding on Friday. Alongside Reed and Patton were Dunkirk City Mayor Willie Rosas, Jamestown City Mayor Sam Teresi — and while in Dunkirk, Teresi’s representative and Jamestown’s Director of Development Vincent DeJoy III — Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello and representatives from Buffalo’s HUD.

The tour of the two Southern Tier cities focused on the positive impacts that community development block grant funds had. In Jamestown, the group visited Elegant Edibles. The business utilized funds to improve the facade of her company’s building.

“What we are using these funds for are life-changing investments,” said Reed, who represents New York’s 23rd congressional district. “We spent time with Vicky, an 18-year business owner of a catering business in Jamestown, where we saw this money partner with public, private relationships in order to rehab the front of her business to make it a vibrant entrance way to the city of Jamestown.”

Mayor Teresi added to that sentiment and the difference that was made in Jamestown.

“HUD’s CDBG program has been a critical tool in addressing neighborhood housing issues in the city of Jamestown,” he said. “The city helps guide rehabilitation projects for both owner-occupied homes and rental properties to address code and safety issues.”

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski Dunkirk City Mayor Willie Rosas, at podium, speaks about the impact that the United State Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) funding, especially the community development block grant, made in the city. Also pictured behind Rosas, from front to back, is United States Congressman Tom Reed and Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello.

The funds also allow Jamestown to improve sidewalks, curbs and the streets in the city, Teresi stated.

While in Dunkirk, the group visited three sites: Hoyt Street, to see the improvements on waterlines and paving through CDBG funds; Wright Park, to see the construction of a recreational area; and 114 West Fourth St., to visit a first-time homeowner that utilized funds through CDBG to get the down payment on the home.

Mayor Rosas echoed the importance of the community development block grant funds at the Dunkirk City Hall press conference. Rosas, with the assistance of the city’s Director of Planning and Development Rebecca Yanus, emphasized the gratitude residents and the city has towards the funding.

“CDBG funding is so important to our communities because it helps in so many different projects and programs,” Yanus said. “It helps afterschool activities for our Boys and Girls Club and Striders and it helps with homeownership and homeownership repair through CHRIC (Chautauqua Home Rehabilitation & Improvement Corp) and COI’s (Chautauqua Opportunities Inc.) programs.

“And it helps with infrastructure programs at our parks, along our streets and without that help, our community wouldn’t be as great as it is today. Again, I want to say thank you HUD.”

County Executive Borrello noted the threshold necessity between larger cities and the Southern Tier. He said that the area doesn’t need millions, nor billions, to make a direct impact; it only needs a couple thousand to improve businesses and get higher homeownership.

“Community development block grant money has touched so many communities here,” he said Friday. “Today we toured some of the great things going on here in Dunkirk and Jamestown. We just spent a little while with a woman who received $3,000 for a down payment on her home. She is now living out the American dream by being a homeowner, thanks to the community development block grant.”

When Reed took the podium, he stressed the unison that his congressional district has in an effort to improve as a whole.

“We are a team that truly does not care who gets credit,” Reed said. “You can be a Democrat, you can be a Republican, but at the end of the day, we have a common purpose of standing together to serve the residents of our area, our neighbors, our friends and our family members.”

Patton toured the Southern Tier and boasted about the area. She said that she would come back to Wright Park when the recreational facilities are done and was positive throughout the Dunkirk tour.

“It was wonderful today to see firsthand how the programs are affecting Jamestown and Dunkirk and CBDG at home can truly impact such a wide range of situation and needs,” she said Friday.

Fourth Ward Michael Civiletto asked if Patton could change the funding process for CDBG. Civiletto stated that Dunkirk receives the money in August and has a short time to do construction before the snow season, which the city must forfeit some money for not spending the money before the next year.

Patton replied that she spoke with Rosas inside city hall before the press conference about that exact issue. She said that she didn’t want cities to lose the funding due to the short construction season.

Though she was unable to say how much, specifically, the Southern Tier cities will receive, Patton said that there will be a boost coming soon.

“I am proud to stand here and announce that it will be about 10 percent more nationwide,” Patton said. “Dunkirk and Jamestown will be receiving the benefits of that increase. … I know how much money this community is getting (and) you’ll be extremely happy.”

HUD will announce the number before May 21.

Twitter: @ByKuczkowski

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