Niagara Falls Awarded CitiesRISE Technology Grant

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman - June 12, 2017

Cities For Responsible Investment And Strategic Enforcement (“Cities RISE”) Will Invest More Than $10 Million Over Two Years To Advance Neighborhood Revitalization  

Cities RISE Empowers Cities And Towns to Use Data To Strategically Address Their Greatest Housing Challenges 

Funding For Cities RISE Secured Through Schneiderman’s 2016 Settlements With Big Banks 

Schneiderman: Cities RISE Presents A 21st Century Approach To Overcoming The Foreclosure Crisis And Revitalizing New York State

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 ProgressBetsy MacLean, the Executive Director of Hester Street CollaborativeIra 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

“Enterprise recognizes the value of data to local governments and strongly believes that code enforcement can be a powerful tool to strengthen our communities,” said Judi Kende, Vice President and Market Leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “Enterprise is proud to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman and LISC to create Cities RISE and provide this unique opportunity to communities across the state, helping to build equity and improve lives for all residents.”

“It takes a lot more than good intentions to tackle blight in ways that respond to the local needs of New York's cities, towns, and villages,” noted Denise Scott, Executive Vice President at the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). “With Cities RISE, these municipal leaders are making a strong strategic commitment to a better quality of life in their communities. LISC is looking forward to working with them, the Attorney General’s staff and Enterprise to tailor strategies that drive lasting economic and social gains.”

“I’m excited to see that AG Schneiderman’s Cities RISE initiative is moving forward, and that the first group of 18 cities and towns are receiving awards. This program will raise the bar for how local governments deal with problem properties, not just in these cities and towns, but statewide. I’m looking forward to following their progress over the next two years,” said Alan Mallach, Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress and member of Cities RISE Senior Advisory Team.

“While the recession has officially ended, it is easy to forget that there are countless families and communities still feeling its effects. And as federal funding to our cities for housing and community development continues to decline, the financial, technical and human resources provided by Cities RISE will be an invaluable tool to continue to deal with the physical blight left behind. Attorney General Schneiderman is to be commended for ensuring that the settlement dollars will prepare communities for meaningful reinvestment,” said Ira Goldstein, President of Policy Solutions for The Reinvestment Fund and member of Cities RISE Senior Advisory Team.

“Our research through the Vacant Properties Research Network confirms local officials must have a solid data system which integrates different types of information about problem properties—from property conditions and ownership to case management—to address the wide range of vacant and abandoned properties they confront in their communities. Attorney General  Schneiderman’s investment through the RISE program will help dozens of New York communities to wage a more effective, efficient and equitable campaign against blight,” said Joe Schilling, Senior Researcher, Urban Institute, co-director of the VPR Network, and member of Cities RISE Senior Advisory Team.

“Untangling the complicated mix of causes and effects of blight has the power not only to address persistent property problems, but to strengthen communities. Cities RISE will equip municipalities with the tools they need to strengthen both their physical and social infrastructure – making them more resilient now and long into the future,” said Betsy MacLean, the Executive Director of Hester Street Collaborative and member of Cities RISE Senior Advisory Team.

“The Building Blocks software will be a valuable tool in our ongoing efforts to make government more transparent,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warrensaid. “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." 

“The city of Syracuse has worked tirelessly on innovative new programs to revitalize our neighborhoods. From the Greater Syracuse Land Bank to our partnership with IBM Smarter Cities, we have used technology and creativity to deliver results,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “We have expanded our work using data to drive our decisions and this funding will support those efforts. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for his continued support of the hard work we have done.”

"Through the Cities RISE initiative, the City of Binghamton will have access to valuable tools and technology that will help us build on an effective, comprehensive approach to combatting blight and revitalizing our neighborhoods," said Binghamton Mayor Richard C. David. "Access to coordinated data from multiple departments and agencies will make it easier to spot trends across neighborhoods, hone in on problem properties and focus City resources in ways that achieve positive results. The City is grateful to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for his continued partnership and focus on eradicating blight and stabilizing communities."

"We are grateful for this Cities RISE grant from Attorney General Schneiderman and for all his efforts to combat the negative impact of vacant and abandoned properties,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “While we have made progress fighting blight, there is much more work to be done and this software will provide much needed support as we continue our efforts to bring vacant buildings back into productive use."

“The City of Newburgh is pleased to be chosen as a part of the Cities RISE award from the New York State Attorney General's Office. The AG's Office has been a strong and consistent partner to the City.  We are excited for Newburgh to be given this opportunity to better manage our large quantities of data relating to property management and distressed properties.  Grants such as these better position the City to continue to successfully streamline our Codes department to eliminate past deficiencies and proactively meet the challenges of the rapidly increasing volumes of building permits and projects in the pipeline,” said Michael G. Ciaravino, Newburgh City Manager.

“The City of Yonkers is appreciative of the opportunities provided to us through Cities RISE,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano. “By obtaining a license to BuildingBlos, we can help transform not only our affordable housing, but also transform the families who live there so they can continue to live in the communities they love so dearly. Thank you to our Attorney General, Enterprise Community Partners, and LISC for recognizing the needs of our neighborhoods and residents.”

White Plains Mayor Tom Roach said, “The City of White Plains looks forward to participating in Attorney General Schneiderman's Cities RISE initiative, which will allow us to optimize the use of new technology to reduce and ideally, eliminate, zombie and vacant properties. We want to do everything we can to support our residents in successfully maintaining homeownership in light of the many economic challenges that exist for homeowners today."

Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said, “The Town of Huntington looks forward to tapping into the BuildingBlocks property management system to help us make data-driven decisions that can address issues such as blight, housing revitalization, code enforcement and the range of problems that developed as a result of the foreclosure crisis. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for creating the Cities RISE program and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Enterprise for selecting Huntington to receive one of the first grants.”

“The Cities RISE program will enable the Town of North Hempstead’s various departments to better communicate with each other, share data and visualize property trends occurring throughout the Town. This ‘big-picture’ view will assist us in improving building safety, code enforcement and the quality of life in our neighborhoods. We thank the State Attorney General for provide governments with this innovative technology,” said North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth.