Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today wrote the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to designate the City of Utica as a federal Promise Zone. The proposed Utica Promise Zone (UPZ) would cover a population of 20,228 where the average household income is approximately $20,299 – less than half of the national household median income. The designation would provide federal support to programs that focus on creating sustainable jobs, supporting economic development, improving educational opportunities, reducing crime, promoting access to healthcare, and increasing affordable housing through partnerships with local organizations in the region.
“The Promise Zone designation would allow Utica to continue and expand vital economic development initiatives in the region’s most distressed communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The new investments and opportunities would help revitalize these struggling areas, bringing in the resources needed to help jumpstart the city by making healthier and safer neighborhoods, launching new businesses, and creating new jobs.”
“Designation of the City of Utica as a federal Promise Zone is the next logical progression in our relationship with HUD,” said Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri. “Beginning with the Community Needs Assessment that was completed last year to my having met with HUD Deputy Secretary Nani Coloretti at the regional summit hosted in Utica, HUD has proven to be a great partner in the complete transformation that this City has witnessed over the last five years. I thank Senator Gillibrand for her support of the City of Utica and join her in urging HUD to designate a Promise Zone in the City of Utica.”
If granted, the designation would bring additional investment, jobs, increased economic activity, more educational opportunities, and improved public safety to the City of Utica. Promise Zones are a White House initiative started by President Obama designed to bring federal and private investment to high-poverty communities across the country. The Promise Zone designation partners the Federal government with local leaders who are addressing multiple community revitalization challenges in a collaborative way and have demonstrated a commitment to results. Promise Zone Designees will receive an opportunity to engage AmeriCorps VISTA members in their work, direct assistance in navigating federal resources, and preferences for certain competitive federal grant programs as well as technical assistance from participating federal agencies.
The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to HUD is included below.
The Honorable Julian Castro
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20410
Dear Secretary Castro,
I write in support of the City of Utica’s Department of Urban and Economic Development’s application for a designation as a Promise Zone (PZ) through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Promise Zone designation will empower Utica to create jobs, increase economic activity, improve educational opportunities, reduce violent crime in high poverty areas, promote health and access to healthcare, and increase access to quality affordable healthcare.
The City of Utica is located in Oneida County, New York and is home to approximately 62,000 people. The proposed Utica Promise Zone (UPZ) location covers a population of 20,228, of which about half live in poverty which is more than three times the national average and much higher than the PZ criteria. 25% of UPZ residents are immigrants and refugees who face additional challenges integrating into the Utica community. Median household income in the UPZ is $20,299, which is less than half of the national household median income. Further, the four main street commercial corridors in the City of Utica are included in the proposed UPZ.
While the City of Utica faces all of these challenges, the area has made significant progress that will be enhanced by the PZ designation. The requested designation will provide critical federal support to programs that are focused on creating sustainable jobs, increasing economic activity, improving educational opportunities, reducing violent crime, promoting access to healthcare, and increasing affordable housing through partnerships with local organizations. The City of Utica worked with the Municipal Housing Authority to build an $11.5 million Hope VI housing project in 2003 that will be central to the UPZ. Other non-profits, like the Johnson Park Center, operate within the UPZ and already have infrastructure in place to continue revitalizing Utica. Further, Cornell University’s Rust to Green (R2G) initiative has an urban studio in Utica, where they provide technical assistance and empower the local neighborhood to prioritize projects to meet their needs. The Promise Zone designation will allow Utica to continue vital community development initiatives like these, providing the area’s most distressed communities an opportunity to improve and succeed.
United States Senator