Are Governor Cuomo’s economic policies good for Amsterdam? (Part One: Land Bank)

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Photo by saebaryo. CC BY-ND 2.0

As we debate about and struggle to redefine and rebuild Amsterdam’s economy, it’s worth remembering that many of the hurdles we face along with many Upstate NY communities originate from the leadership and policies of our state government. Unfortunately, I think that news about state polices sometimes gets lost in the shuffle between the local news (which often seems more immediate and relevant) and national news which is so ubiquitous as it is delivered via the national networks. There are four important economic policies of NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) that I see as worth taking a closer look at because I believe they are having a large impact on Amsterdam’s current and future economy:

  1. Land bank program
  2. Property tax caps
  3. Shared services/consolidation
  4. Tax free zones around state college campuses

The Land Bank Program

New York State’s Land Bank Program was signed into law in 2011 and less than a year later, the first five applicants were approved which included The Land Reutilization Corporation of the Capital Region, of which the City of Amsterdam is a part of. The lank bank allows people who are both knowledgeable and passionate about fixing the problems of blight in our neighborhood to work together under a common organization. It uses funds from both local governments and funds awarded to the State Attorney General’s office as a result of the National Mortgage Settlement.

According to nationalmortgagesettlement.com, an informational website maintained by 49 state attorneys general, the settlement was one of the largest of its kind and was a result of “federal investigations finding that the country’s five largest mortgage servicers (Ally/GMAC, Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo) routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct.”

The land bank will acquire foreclosed properties in order to renovate them. Being a non-profit organization, the land bank could potentially save the city from having to pay the county and school taxes on that property if it is in the land bank’s possession for a long period of time. Once repairs to the property have been finished, it will be sold to private owners, putting the property back on the tax rolls. Part of the money from the sale will go to paying back loans from the city (assuming the Common Council will approve the funding this Tuesday) and the rest will be used to renovate more properties.

Up until now, the city has had no other strategy to deal with foreclosed properties other than demolition. But a developed property is always going to generate more tax revenue than a vacant lot. I believe this program will help preserve our housing stock which is one of the city’s most valuable assets. That’s why I have high hopes that this program will benefit our city’s economy positively in the future.

So I think this policy clearly works for Amsterdam’s best interests. I hope the common council votes to fund the program at this Tuesday’s meeting, it will be a good decision that every member can be proud of.

However, I’m not so unequivocally supportive of some of Cuomo’s other polices, and I’ll be looking at tax caps, shared services and consolidation in the next installment.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.