Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro to designate Rochester, New York, a federal Promise Zone. Senator Gillibrand’s letter follows a visit last week with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren to the Teen Empowerment youth center, an organization dedicated to empowering youth as agents of change in their communities.
Recent data from the US Census Bureau estimated that over one-third of Rochester’s city population lives in poverty, with the number climbing to over 50 percent for children. Rochester’s child poverty rate is second only to Detroit among large US cities. The Promise Zone designation would allow Rochester to increase public and private investments in community programs that have proven records of success in poverty and crime reduction, economic sustainability, and improving education outcomes.
“I can’t overstate how important a federal Promise Zone designation would be for Rochester,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The windfall of new investments and opportunities this designation would bring is critical to tackling Rochester’s staggering poverty level and helping the city thrive. Rochester has a proud legacy as one of New York State’s great economic centers, and this Promise Zone designation is exactly what the city needs to jumpstart it back in the right direction.”
“The statistics are alarming, our City has gone from 11th to 3rd in the nation in childhood poverty,” said Mayor Lovely Warren. “As a community, we’re mobilizing to streamline our community programs and align our resources, but we cannot solve this crisis by ourselves. Designation as a federal Promise Zone would go a long way toward pulling our families out of poverty and into self-sufficiency. I’m thankful to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for her efforts in helping us secure this designation.”
The Promise Zones initiative is a White House effort started by President Obama designed to bring federal and private investment to revitalize 20 high-poverty communities across the country. Specifically, designees will receive technical assistance, as well as preferred access, to certain competitive federal investments through 35 programs across 12 federal agencies.
If granted, the Promise Zone designation would bring private investment, jobs, increased economic activity, more educational opportunities, and improved public safety to Rochester.
Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Secretary Castro is below:
Dear Secretary Castro,
I write in support of the City of Rochester’s designation as a Promise Zone through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. This designation would allow Rochester to increase public and private investments in community programs that have proven records of success in poverty and crime reduction, economic sustainability, and improving education outcomes.
Over the past decades, the City of Rochester has seen a steady decline of economic opportunity with the downsizing of multiple major companies and with many middle class families moving into surrounding suburbs or out of the area completely. These factors have left Rochester with some of the lowest graduation rates in the country, child poverty at all-time highs, and an abandoned housing stock. Despite these challenges, there has been a recent revitalization in the City with artist, developers, young college graduates, chefs, social entrepreneurs, among others, bringing new energy to the area and sparking the revitalization of Rochester. The City has also benefited from renewed activating in research and development as well as high-tech manufacturing, demonstrating that these industries are not only the region’s proud heritage, but also the foundation of its future.
Rochester has the assets and proven programs to build on these emerging opportunities. The Promise Zone designation for the City of Rochester would better fully integrate approaches and expand what is already working, thereby implementing a comprehensive strategy to help break the cycle of poverty. Rochester will seek to use this designation to enhance educational opportunities by expanding early learning and Pre-K programs, adding additional curriculum to schools in music and arts, promoting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs and adding more Career Technical Education at the high school level. The City will also provide targeted resources to reduce suspension and truancy rates, so students will spend more time in the classroom. As a strategy to decrease unemployment, more job and apprentice training programs will be developed, with a particular focus on year-round investment in youth training and employment, and increased private investment will also be targeted at the areas within the Promise Zone to revitalize communities that are still facing significant economic hardships. Strategic outreach on and expansion of current programs like community policing and youth-police dialogues will aim to engage the residents of the Promise Zone in an effort to promote safety and reduce crime rates throughout the area. Through all of these initiatives and more, this designation has the potential to drastically reduce poverty, increase college and career readiness, improve high school graduation rates, stabilize neighborhoods, and provide a stronger, more resilient economy for the greater Rochester region.