The city of Rochester is gearing up for a few major construction projects that are all looking to change its current landscape and affordability. One program that will shift the housing market in Rochester is the Mission-Based Affordable Housing Partnership.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James came to Rochester on May 18 to announce to program. According to the announcement, the program will grant up to $1.4 million to mission-based organizations that are looking to develop available land into affordable housing. Nonprofit civic institutions will also be eligible for the grant. This program will extend beyond Rochester into Erie county as well as areas of Central New York and the Capital Region.
When James visited earlier in the month, she met with local political and faith leaders at F.I.G.H.T Village, a champion of affordable housing in Rochester led by Minister Clifford Florence. The organization has been pushing for affordable housing in Rochester since the 1960s. Its challenges lie in combatting the placement of low-income families in cheap but old homes that present dangers such as lead paint, which is still present in about 57 million homes in the United States.
“We’re fighting with racism, we’re fighting with the lack of jobs, affordable housing, education. So the issues are the same as they were 50 years ago, but we have to have the will to do what it takes to change it,” Florence said.
With the new partnership, organizations like F.I.G.H.T will finally be able to give Rochester residents a permanent solution for stable and economical housing. Too often, homeowners facing financial troubles turn to temporary fixes such as hard money loans, which typically have a loan-to-value ratio in the 60% to 70% range. Now F.I.G.H.T will be able to give residents another option by working with trustworthy developers. These professionals can help guide organizations through the construction processes, which are often long and complicated.
The Flower City Habitat for Humanity and the Autism Council of Rochester are also partnering to bring housing for an underserved community in the city. The two organizations plan to develop autism-friendly homes for families that have children with autism.
Not only will the program get more families closer to being homeowners, the number of which in the country is down to 63.4% from 69% in 2004, but it will also provide the space and modifications that children with autism need.
Objects such as compression swings can help balance the behavior and emotions of children with autism, but they don’t fit very easily into a two-bedroom apartment. The housing will also include sound and light sensitivity and a stockade fence in the backyard that measures six to eight feet high to ensure kids don’t wander into the streets while they play.
The final piece of news in Rochester construction is the proposed Rochester 2034 comprehensive plan. This plan aims to increase density and create more varied uses for certain city arterials. According to city officials, the proposal won’t result in many dramatic changes, but will instead reinforce or restore the downtown area’s historic form and character.
The rezoning efforts would aim to balance the stark differences in poverty rates, education levels, unemployment, minority population share, and more seen between the neighborhoods with the highest and lowest demands. In the southeast and crescent, two areas that are polar opposites to one another, two-thirds of residences are rentals. This is higher than the citywide average and with 33% of renters moving every year, there isn’t much permanency in either of these zones.
No official zoning changes are underway now, but they will go be brought to the neighborhoods and go through normal approvals when it comes time.
The plan will also focus on street-level retail around the East End area, Sibley Square, and Midtown. Establishments like local restaurants and independent coffee shops, which have about $12 billion in annual sales, will help guide the rezoning process in these areas.
The proposal is both more flexible in regulations regarding minimum lot sizes and parking and more adamant about higher standards for the design of mixed-use and multi-family building projects. Although no details of the plan are definite quite yet, the city will hire a consultant to review its zoning code and map once the plan is adopted.
People of color in central New York aren’t getting a fair number of jobs in the construction industry, a local study finds. According to a new study by the Urban Jobs Task Force and the Legal Services of Central New York, there’s a major racial disparity in the New York construction industry despite people of color making up a quarter of the state population.
Researchers analyzed a group of construction projects taking place in New York state including the I-690 project, the Syracuse Hancock Airport Renovations, and the Lakeview Amphitheater in Onondaga.
Researchers found that 88% of the construction workers on these projects were white. Approximately 4% of workers were black or indigenous and only a few workers were Hispanic and Asian.
“Workforces are white in Central New York and we’ve seen it driving by them,” said Andrew Croom, an attorney from Legal Services of Central New York who worked on the study. “Was I ready for how white they were? No.”
The U.S. construction industry is usually a good place for American workers to earn money. Construction projects have public money in them paid for by tax dollars, beneficiaries of government grants, or tax breaks. In 2016 alone, the construction market was worth $1,162 billion and the composite materials market is expected to reach $38 billion by 2023.
The lack of inclusivity in the industry is concerning for many reasons, but especially because it keeps impoverished New Yorkers from finding good-paying jobs. Up to 16% of Rochesterians are living in extreme poverty and 15% of those in Monroe County live below the poverty line.
“You know, living in a city that’s 50% minority and 50% white, I expected a project like I-690 that’s two blocks from my house to be represented by the city where it is,” said Croom. “And it was so far from that, that yes, I found [these] results shocking.”
Urban Jobs President Deka Dancil says there are historical reasons why many people of color aren’t working in construction. The construction of Interstate 81 caused economic and racial segregation, urban renewal, and redlining.
“[This] made the networks of minorities only be with other poor minorities,” said Dancil. “And the networks of white people, for people who had the paying jobs, [were] exposed to the construction trade. I tell you … my whole time growing up in high school, I never even heard a thing about it.”
Dancil also points out that barriers such as non-paid training, lack of transportation, and lack of childcare prevent those who are already living in poverty from getting into construction programs that could lead to higher paying jobs.
Croom says that there are ways to ensure inclusivity in construction projects. LA Metro in Los Angeles is creating workforce agreements within their PLAs and have unions in the community working together.
New York state could see more collaboration with unions and have them more actively recruit in the city with targeted training, Croom says. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh recently launched Syracuse Build in an effort to train those in the city who are looking to work on the I-81 project.
However, Dancil says she isn’t as optimistic after seeing years of meetings on the topic of boosting inclusivity in the construction industry. The voices of local residents need to join those of policymakers, she says.
“I think what it comes down to [is] that there has to be a big table,” says Croom, “there has to be collective action to say ‘we’re all here. We all want the same thing.’ So, we have to work together to make those policies.”
Hard to believe it’s been almost an entire year, but we’re back (expect future RocLinks on Saturdays), and it’s time to roll! From local development to just plain news of the weird, here are your RocLinks for this past week…
RocSubway is excited to share with you some exclusive pictures of an exciting downtown development. 210 South Avenue is currently being transformed into future commercial and residential space in the heart of downtown Rochester. The building currently known as the Merkel Donohue building—and its connected buildings—will be transformed into a mix of commercial & residential space and will go by the name of Woodbury Place…
The area around University of Rochester—both east and west of the river—has seen an explosion of new construction. RocSubway contributor Jimmy Combs ventured out this weekend to get a snapshot of the progress of three of these developments; College Town, The Flats at Brooks Crossing, and the new Golisano Children’s Hospital. All are due to open by 2015…
The latest Midtown renderings from Buckingham Properties are a promising sign of things to come. Still, it’s difficult to ignore this 18-story skeleton which has been looming over Rochester’s streets since 2011. When most people look up at this hulking mass of steel and concrete they see a blemish on the Rochester skyline. But for one urban explorer, this is a photo op.
The same anonymous photographer who took us inside Terrence Tower and the Sykes Datatronics building, climbed to the tippy top of midtown last week. He submitted this collection of photos and the following narrative…
In 2012 we were surprised to learn that RGRTA had dug up the foundation of the RKO Palace Theater while excavating for the new transit terminal. This week, Jim Memmott reported on some more fantastic treasures that were unearthed at the same site. Some time last year seven heavy stones (some weighing a ton) were pulled up from depths of up to 30 feet below street level. Each stone bore a symbol of the Freemasons…
For the past few weeks workers have been attacking a 100 ton hunk of slag that was discovered at the Port of Rochester last spring. Yesterday I noticed the giant plume of smoke from the O’rorke Bridge and made my way down to the scene of this epic battle. When the dust settles, who will remain standing? Man? Or The Slag?
David DiPonzio, a firefighter with the Lake Shore Fire District in Greece, sent me these photos (taken by friend Fred Amato) of a strange-looking crater in the middle of the parking lot at Ontario Beach Park. An asteroid? Uh, not quite. This may be the most interesting archeological find since RGRTA dug up the RKO Palace. That big rock you see in the center of the crater is actually a giant hunk of slag – left over from the iron or steel mill that once operated here…
The photo above was taken in January, 2011. Late last year we looked at the plans for the new public spaces at Midtown Plaza. Work on the site is now progressing quickly – and those plan drawings are becoming reality. The old Midtown buildings are gone. The new Windstream building is mostly complete. And this week, the first street curbs have been installed giving shape to the new Cortland Street. Here’s a birds-eye view of the past 30 months progress…
After the Erie Canal was rerouted south of downtown Rochester, the Rochester
Industrial & Rapid Transit Railway (the subway) was built in
its place as a link between the five different railroads and interurban trolley
lines that served the Rochester area. As the industrial landscape of Rochester
changed, and highways replaced the railroads, the Rochester subway gradually
became a relic of a bygone era. In 1956 the subway was abandoned and much of
its route was converted into Interstate 490 built to connect Rochester
with the New York State Thruway (I-90). Read more about the history of the Rochester Subway.
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