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NYS Department of State celebrates its environmental and climate accomplishments for Earth Day

New York State Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez today touted the Department of State’s (DOS) many environmental and climate accomplishments in celebration of Earth Day, and looks forward to another banner year for the State’s environment. The State’s enacted budget increases funding for DOS programs to bring new opportunities for expanding investments in green infrastructure around the state. DOS administers several programs that promote sustainable community development, natural resource protection and climate-friendly infrastructure—including the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, NY Forward, Brownfield Opportunity Area, Smart Growth Planning and Local Waterfront Revitalization Initiative.

“Smart, sustainable, climate-friendly growth strikes at the core of our mission at the Department of State,” said Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez. “DOS programs are guided by the “3 Es” of sustainability—Environment, Equity and Economy.  With the new Budget supporting our programs at unprecedented levels, DOS is poised to accelerate and expand its environmental and community development work.

The State’s FY23 Budget includes record funding and support for several DOS community planning and development programs that protect the environment, reduce greenhouse gases, and increase clean energy siting, made possible in part through an increase in the Environmental Protection Fund from $300 million to $400 million.

A breakdown of DOS’ sustainability-oriented programs:

Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI)
The DRI launched in 2016 to accelerate and expand the revitalization of downtowns and neighborhoods in all ten regions of the state to serve as centers of activity and catalysts for increased local investments. Led by the Department of State, the DRI represents an unprecedented and innovative “plan-then-act” strategy that couples strategic planning with immediate implementation.

Compact, mixed-use, walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented downtowns reduce automobile use and dependence, which reduces car-based greenhouse gases. Downtown redevelopment also helps reverse sprawl, which is not environmentally sustainable. Downtowns also offer an ideal location for clean energy. In 2021, DOS entered into an agreement with NYPA to locate Electric Vehicle charging stations in several DRIs; thus far _XXX_ DRI communities have enrolled in this initiative. The DRI is also partnering with NYSERDA to promote carbon-neutral, energy-efficient downtown projects.

The DRI has awarded a total of $600 million to 59 communities in its first five rounds. The annual appropriate of $100 million was doubled to $200 million in 2021, allowing 19 more communities to be funded. The FY23 State Budget includes another $100 million for the DRI, with an additional $100 million for an innovative variation on the DRI called NY Forward.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

NY Forward
An offshoot of DRI, NY Forward is a new, $100M program in the Budget to support a more equitable downtown recovery across New York’s rural and smaller communities, with a focus on hamlets and villages. DOS will lead the community through an abbreviated planning process and provide needed technical assistance to develop a slate of readily implementable projects. Like the DRI, NY Forward will help reverse sprawl and thus reduce greenhouse gases and protect open space and other natural resources.

Smart Growth Comprehensive Planning Grant Program
The Smart Growth program provides funding for community, county and regional planning and implementation that embraces the principles of Smart Growth, including walkable downtowns and clean energy siting.

In 2021, the DOS awarded over $1.5 million to 24 communities to develop municipal comprehensive plans that embrace and incorporate the principles of Smart Growth to guide future zoning and development. Smart Growth program funding was increased to $3 million in the new Budget (which is split evenly with the DEC’s Adirondack and Catskill Parks Smart Growth program).

Ocean and Great Lakes/Coastal Consistency
The Department of State played a role in New York’s first offshore wind project—South Fork Wind—which will deliver electric power to Long Island. DOS’ Coastal Consistency and Ocean and Great Lakes program worked with stakeholders and government partners to minimize potential adverse environmental impacts and avoid disruptions to our coastal economy as we transition to a cleaner, greener future. Governor Hochul also advanced a nation-leading $500 million investment in offshore wind ports, manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure to support future offshore wind projects, which will help the State to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as directed by the landmark Climate Leadership and Community protection Act.

Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) Program
The BOA program transforms brownfield sites—i.e., areas with significant contamination—from liabilities to community assets that generate and support new businesses, jobs, housing and public amenities, including renewable energy sites. BOA funds a plan that, once completed, is submitted to the Secretary of State for approval or “designation,” which entitles projects that are consistent with the BOA plan to priority state funding among certain programs; an additional 5% brownfield developer tax credit; and grants for pre-development project costs.

In addition to helping revive and redevelop blighted brownfield sites, the BOA program has also helped generate solar farms on brownfields in Olean and Lackawanna, which is helping to achieve the State’s nation-leading greenhouse gas reduction goals in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.?

In 2021, the Secretary of State designated 4 new BOAs, for a total of 61 designated BOAs statewide, and awarded $3.6 million in grant funding to 18 municipalities and community-based organizations. The FY23 Budget increases funding to $4 million.

Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP)
The LWRP Program provides grants to communities to develop a community-driven plan with a vision for their waterfront, guided by several environmental policies that ensure that projects are in harmony with waterfront natural resources and ecosystems. Once an LWRP is approved by the Secretary of State and adopted by a local community, the community can apply for funds to implement projects that support the plan.

There are currently 113 municipalities with approved LWRPs in New York State, including 4 which were approved by the Secretary of State in 2021. The program awarded an unprecedented $30.9 million for 46 projects in 2021. The State Budget includes $16.3 million for 2022/2023