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Schumer Visits Niagara Falls, Hopes to Secure HUD Grant

Niagara Falls, NY (WBEN) - Senator Charles Schumer was in Niagara Falls on Monday to talk about community development.

While standing on an underdeveloped corner, in front of a vacant fire hall, Schumer praised those who he said were working hard do redevelop large blocks of the city. Where does the money for this redevelopment come from?

"One of the best tools in the toolbox to help turn Niagara Falls around is Community Development Block Grants," Schumer said.

But the Senator says that the US department of Housing and Urban Development is trying to reform that grant in a way that would remove Niagara Falls from being eligible.

The grant is only available to cities with a population of at least 50,000, Niagara Falls has slightly below 50,000 people, but have been grandfathered in to eligibility. HUD is considering ending the grandfathering provision.

"How can a city that's been using its CDBG so well have the rug pulled out from under them in the middle when there's huge bang for the buck. 49,700 (people) is not that different from 50,000."

If the grant is denied to Niagara Falls, how much money will the city be losing?

"If you count the actual money that goes there, and leverage money it could be as much as $15 Million a year," Schumer said. "That's a lot for a city like Niagara Falls, and it's not tax-levy dollars that have to go to certain services. In other words it's flexible money... The Mayor has an obligation to the Police department, funding the fire department, he doesn't have the flexibility without this funding, so it's even more than the $15 Million that it will bring in."

In the past, the city has used the grant money for new playgrounds, the demolition of vacant buildings, improving storefronts, and various community programs. In 2014, the city will use the funds to repair streets, sidewalks, and lighting in residential areas.

Schumer is a senior member of the banking committee, which oversees CDBG grants. "I don't want to promise (that the grant will continue to be available), but I can promise that I will fight as hard as I can, and when I fight as hard as i can I usually succeed."

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