Letter to the Editor: Land Bank Act will help N.Y.

Originally published Friday, July 22, 2011 in the Albany Times Union

Dear Editor,
New York cities face a daunting vacancy crisis. Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, Rochester, Schenectady, Syracuse, Troy and Utica all have vacancy rates over 10 percent, according to recent census data. Vacant properties pose a serious threat to New York communities by lowering surrounding property values, attracting crime, cutting into local tax revenues and perpetuating cycles of disinvestment.

Across New York, leaders have coalesced around the Land Bank Act as an antidote to fight the plague of vacancies. The state Legislature passed the measure; now it is time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign it into law.

By giving local governments the authority to establish land banks — entities that can remove barriers to redevelopment and make properties more attractive to investors — the Land Bank Act would give cities and towns across New York a critical tool to return vacant and abandoned properties to productive, income-generating use.

The Land Bank Act, which won’t cost New York taxpayers a dime, would provide New York’s communities with a proven resource to attract investment and boost local economies. Land banking has a proven track record of success in other communities that are trying to revitalize, like Flint, Mich.

In his 2010 Urban Agenda, Governor Cuomo indicated support for land bank banking and pledged to enact legislation in New York to authorize the establishment of land banks. Now is his chance to sign the Land Bank Act into law and make this part of his agenda a reality.

Geoff Anderson
President and CEO
Smart Growth America
Washington, D.C.