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With Five Summer Concerts & Hundreds Of Outdoor Activities Every Summer, Corning Preserve Lacks The Infrastructure & Resources Needed To Expand Outdoor Activities

New Schumer Bill Will Provide Albany With New Funding Opportunities To Help Transform Local Parks Into Major Tourist Sites

Schumer: Restricted Funds Will Now Be Available To Revitalize Albany Park 

Standing at Corning Preserve in Albany, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today launched his effort to increase federal funding for underdeveloped community parks and waterfronts, like Corning Preserve in Albany. Schumer explained that, currently, there is no federal source of funding for community parks. In fact, the current funding structure results in funds going almost entirely to rural state parks, which are often less accessible to many communities, and national parks across the country that are often unreachable. As a result, a new Schumer-led bill would address this lack of federal funding that community parks and waterfronts receive by making many Upstate NY cities, like Albany, eligible to apply for millions in federal grants that would allow them to improve community parks and waterfronts for recreation and economic development purposes. Schumer is therefore urging his colleagues in Congress to pass this bill, which would allow municipalities around New York State to access the federal resources they need to improve community parks and regional tourism opportunities for residents and visitors. 

“It is an absolute travesty that, right now, there is virtually no way for our community and urban parks to access the critical federal funding they need to improve their grounds and increase park and waterfront access for residents and visitors,” said Schumer. “The City of Albany and its local partners have put together a state-of-the-art plan that would do just that for the Corning Preserve Waterfront Park. However, this project is not eligible to even apply for the funding it needs to get this underway. My legislation would change the funding formula that currently blocks cities like Albany from accessing these funds by paving the way for millions of dollars to flow to our communities through parks and waterfront projects.”

The Corning Preserve is a 15-acre multi-use waterfront park in Downtown Albany. This community park is an essential piece of Albany’s urban fabric and also provides significant link to the Hudson River for visitors and residents alike. In addition, it is also the site of many major events, namely the “Alive at Five” summer concert series. However, many local officials and residents agree it should be further developed to take full advantage of its waterfront location. Despite this, the Corning Preserve currently suffers from connectivity issues due to the 12-lane highway that cuts it off from Downtown Albany. This major highway not only includes Interstate-787 and its frontage roads, but also a freight rail line nestled within the highway corridor. 

As a result, Schumer explained, the City of Albany planning board is currently looking at ways to open up the Corning Preserve to better connect the city with its waterfront without disrupting highway access. A current plan being considered – the Corning Preserve Master Plan – would seek to improve visitor accessibility to the Corning Preserve by creating multi-use paths and bicycle and pedestrian crossings, improving access points at five boating locations, enhancing street amenities and signage for pedestrians and drivers, as well as updating the Maiden Lane connection to Downtown Albany and enhancing the current tidal pools and ponds for aesthetic purposes and recreational programming, among many other proposals. According to the master plan, the City aims to improve visitor accessibility to the Corning Preserve for all modes of transportation.

However, Schumer explained, because the Corning Preserve Waterfront Park is not considered a state or national park, it is virtually cut off from all federal funding opportunities. Right now, there is no federal funding stream for community and urban parks to access for improvements. Despite this, these community parks are sometimes the only opportunity for community members to access outdoor recreation when state and national parks are less readily accessible. That is why Schumer is introducing legislation that would change federal funding structures to enable cities like Albany to access critical funds that would allow them to improve park and waterfront access for residents and tourists. Allowing these parks and waterfront to expand and become more accessible, Schumer said, would also allow cities like Albany to spur greater economic development by making these parks thriving centers where businesses want to relocate and places where residents and tourists want to visit and spend their money.

Schumer explained that unless federal funding is made more easily available to cities looking to invest in and improve their community parks, projects like the Corning Preserve could take a very long time to implement or even place a large financial burden upon local taxpayers if federal resources cannot be tapped to help shoulder the cost. As a result, Schumer said his bill would authorize and make permanent the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership grant program. This program was created last year (FY 2014) under the existing authority of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and received $3 million. This legislation, however, would change the funding structure by allowing this grant program to tap into revenue source that comes from oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Schumer said that under current law, the Gulf of Mexico Security Act (GOMESA), requires $125 million of this oil and gas lease revenue be directed to conservation efforts. This bill dedicates that 20 percent of that funding go to community and urban parks projects. In essence, this legislation would make $25 million in federal funding available in FY 2017 for projects just like the Corning Preserve Waterfront Park redevelopment project.

Schumer said that these are exactly the kinds of funds the federal government needs to make available to cities across New York State and the country, including Albany, and the funding structure change would make this applying for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership grant program a possibility. This program would allow for cities with a population of over 50,000 people to apply. Schumer said that with a population over of 98,000 people, the City of Albany would be eligible to apply for this $25 million federal pot of funding dedicated to community and urban park projects. Schumer is pushing his colleagues in Congress to pass this bill, which would allow these parks to make improvements by acquiring land and water for parks and other outdoor recreation purposes in addition to developing new or renovating existing outdoor recreation facilities, such as pools or playgrounds, for public use.

Albany’s Department of Development and Planning, along with the Corning Preserve Steering Committee, is working to create the Corning Preserve Master Plan. This plan is a part of the larger strategy of “Albany 2030,” which is an effort to maximize the opportunities along the City’s waterfront. More details on the proposed project and upgrades can be viewed by clicking this link:

Schumer was joined by Darius Shahinfar, City of Albany Treasurer; Peter Baynes, Executive Director of the New York Conference of Mayors; and planning officials from the City of Albany.

“I fully support Senator Schumer's effort to establish a federal funding stream for our community parks. We have big plans for Corning Preserve, as well as, several other parks in the City of Albany, but don’t have the budgetary resources to implement them. It would be very helpful to cities like ours to have this funding opportunity in place,” said City of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan.