ITHACA, N.Y. — In a comparatively low-key announcement Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative announced a $5.9 million financial infusion to Tompkins County, to be divvied up between seven local projects.

The REDC, launched by former governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011 and continued by Hochul this year, is a major part of the state’s ongoing effort to increase state investment and economic development. The regional councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government and non-governmental organizations.

The amount tends to vary from year to year. $3.2 million was awarded in 2016, about $5 million in 2017, $4.4 million in 2018, and a whopping $13.8 million in 2019. No awards were made in 2020 due to the damage done by COVID-19 to the state’s budget at the time, before federal aid plugged the state’s deep budget gap earlier this year. The REDC funding will be used to fund seven local economic, cultural and quality of life initiatives and projects throughout the county.

The biggest single award in this year’s distribution is a grant for a little over $3.2 million, to be used towards the reconstruction of the Ithaca Farmer’s Market currently going through the Planning Board review process. Grants were awarded to programs and projects in the city of Ithaca, town of Dryden, town of Ithaca, town of Lansing, and village of Groton.

A list of funded projects follows below:

Ithaca Farmers Market Site and Access Improvements — $3,230,053 — The City of Ithaca will design and construct improvements to the Farmers Market site. This is a phased project, which will advance the Cayuga Lake Waterfront Plan. The City, in partnership with the Ithaca Farmers Market, will design future waterfront improvements and site lighting. The project will also construct vehicular and pedestrian access to enhance access and connectivity throughout the site creating a vibrant community destination along the Cayuga Lake Inlet.

Stewart Park Splash Pad — $500,000 — Friends of Stewart Park, Inc., in cooperation with the City of Ithaca, will construct a new, universally accessible splash pad and restroom facility in Stewart Park as the final phase of the playground improvements in the park, located on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake. The new recreation facility will be designed with its Finger Lakes waterfront location in mind and will feature interpretive elements highlighting park history and the Finger Lakes geology and environment.

Opera Ithaca Festival Tourism Special Event — $95,000 — The Opera Ithaca Festival will use the grant funds to offer a unique, month-long series of special multi-sensory events, including a landmark double bill of Missy Mazzoli’s Proving Up and William Grant Still’s Highway 1 USA. The Festival invites the audience to immerse themselves in the richness of the Southern Tier’s myriad cultural assets and destinations.

Dryden Community Development Block Grant #2 — $1,250,000 — The Town of Dryden will use $1.25 million in CDBG funding to make improvements to its consolidated sewer district in the Hamlet of Varna. The project will rehabilitate aging infrastructure, reduce infiltration and inflow into the system, as well as increase capacity in the region.

Ithaca Reservoir Stream Restoration & Sediment Reduction Project — $30,000 — The Town of Ithaca will complete an engineering and design report to restore segments along an unnamed tributary flowing directly into Ithaca’s drinking water reservoir. Projected climate change impacts will be considered to provide long-term resiliency. The project will reduce nutrients entering Cayuga Lake.

Myers Park Waterfront Revitalization Project — $750,000 — The Town of Lansing will make improvements to Myers Park. The improvements will enhance the existing public space by constructing a unisex ADA-accessible and family-accessible restroom facility, add an ADA-compliant kayak launch, upgrade playing courts, upgrade the boat launch, upgrade the septic system to reduce runoff, and make improvements to parking and campsites. The park’s infrastructure upgrades will assist supporting the Cayuga Lake Blueway Trail and Cayuga Lake Scenic Byway.

Village of Groton Comprehensive Plan — $50,000 — The Village of Groton will update their 2005 Comprehensive Plan. The plan will look at Climate Act goals, environmental sustainability, smart growth principles, asset risk assessments, carbon reduction and abatement, energy efficiency, and alternative energy benefits. The Plan will look for actions that the Village can take to mitigate the impacts of climate change, protect natural resources, reduce their carbon footprint, and prepare the community for future extreme weather events.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.