This week, the One Region Funders’ Group and Tri-State Transportation Campaign announced four grants that will help municipalities and development agencies in downstate New York and Connecticut pursue innovative and equitable transit-oriented development. As it did in 2009, the Transit-Centered Development Grant Program supports projects that will help grow our region in a more sustainable manner. This year’s grantees are a diverse group, and the chosen projects reflect different ways that transit-oriented development can help foster affordable housing, walkable communities, and neighborhood revitalization.
The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency received $48,000 for a market study and case study review that will result in design and financial tools aimed at stabilizing and revitalizing the area around the South Norwalk Metro-North station. This neighborhood largely consists of older, multi-family housing and is both a historic asset and critical source of affordable housing; however, it also faces challenges such as foreclosure and neglect due to absentee ownership.
“The One Region Funders’ Group is excited to support an innovative, forward-thinking project that will promote transit use and spur investment in South Norwalk, while stabilizing and preserving the neighborhoods near the train station which are critical sources of affordable housing,” said Karen Brown, vice president of programs for the Fairfield County Community Foundation.
“This project takes direct aim at both the challenges and opportunities facing South Norwalk. We believe the project will bolster the community, while also supporting the City’s continuing efforts to develop around this important transit hub,” said Nicole Chevalier, program director for the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.
The Town of Brookhaven received $44,500 for a study of potential sites and financing options for sewage treatment facilities near the Bellport Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station. Sewer infrastructure would support private redevelopment proposals aimed at revitalizing Bellport, a diverse working-class neighborhood, through construction of residential units, commercial and office space, as well as a community center.
The grant marks the continuation of a community-driven planning process coordinated by Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Connie Kepert and the Greater Bellport Coalition, a community organization comprised of business, civic, and faith-based organizations. The coalition held multiple visioning sessions and developed a sustainable community plan which was adopted by the town board in 2009.
“This study is important because it will help us find an economically viable and socially just location for a use that is often perceived as having a negative impact on its surroundings, but is critical to the development and growth of the community,” said John Rogers, chair of the Greater Bellport Coalition.
“The One Region Funders’ Group is thrilled to support an innovative, forward-thinking project that will promote transit use, spur investment in Bellport, and implement the community’s vision for redevelopment,” said John McNally, environment program director of the Rauch Foundation.
The Village of Mamaroneck received $38,500 to study a draft zoning ordinance and form-based code to support the village’s recently adopted comprehensive plan. The village’s comprehensive plan calls for incentivizing affordable housing, providing quality public space, and linking the village’s retail and central business districts. The study will include heavy community involvement and will be performed in partnership with the Washingtonville Housing Alliance, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing.
“The Village of Mamaroneck is taking bold steps to promote smart growth through revitalization of its downtown area surrounding the train station. This is good news for Mamaroneck and good news for other Westchester communities,” said Catherine Marsh, executive director of the Westchester Community Foundation.
Flushing, Queens, NY
The Flushing-Willets Point-Corona LDC received $14,000 to refine its proposal to construct affordable and senior housing as part of a mixed-use development on what is currently a municipal parking lot. The development is part of a larger proposal to overhaul the LIRR’s Flushing station and make it more convenient and accessible for pedestrians.
“The One Region Funders’ Group is thrilled to support such an innovative and forward-thinking project that will promote transit use, create walkable communities and spur investment in Flushing. We hope that this modest grant will leverage far more in community support and public resources,” said Pat Jenny, program director for the New York Community Trust.
Strong Demand for TOD
The second round of the Transit-Centered Development grant program demonstrates growing municipal interest and demand for sustainable development around transit hubs. Forty-three municipalities applied for funds from the program, more applicants than the first program, and requests far outstripped available resources.
State policies still need to catch up. After much prodding from advocates, Connecticut released funds for its first-ever TOD assistance program last year and is targeting municipalities served by CTfastrak, the state’s new rapid transit system, and the future New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail project. However, there are no clear plans for the continuation of the program. New Jersey has restored funding for its popular Transit Village program in this year’s budget, but provides less than it has in some prior budgets. New York continues to lag behind in many ways, with no comparable assistance program for municipalities from either the New York State Department of Transportation or the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Funding for the TCD program was provided by the One Region Funders’ Group, a collaborative of funders in the tri-state area, which includes Fairfield County Community Foundation, Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation, Long Island Community Foundation, New York Community Trust, Rauch Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Westchester Community Foundation, Fund for the Environment & Urban Life, Rockefeller Foundation, and Ford Foundation. Tri-State Transportation Campaign staff administers the program.