A state senator has asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo to release a portion of the funds from a recent mortgage settlement for a housing redevelopment project in the city of Niagara Falls.
In a letter to Cuomo this week, state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, asked the governor to use a portion of the funds from the JP Morgan Chase mortgage settlement to support work being done in the Falls by representatives from the Isaiah 61 Project.
"The Isaiah 61 Project is making a real difference in the city of Niagara Falls," Maziarz wrote. "Its great work could be greatly augmented by JP Morgan Chase settlement dollars, and I would be happy to discuss this matter with you or provide additional details you may require."
The state is entitled to a share of a $13 billion settlement reached with JP Morgan Chase & Co. over mortgage bond sales. The first payment of the state's $613 million share is expected to be $163 million.
Under an agreement between Cuomo and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman directs about $81.5 million to the governor's control. Those funds are expected to be used for housing programs. The remaining share will be distributed by Schneiderman’s office to anti-foreclosure programs.
In his letter, Maziarz lauded the work being done by Isaiah 61, a local nonprofit that trains unemployed and underemployed residents while rehabilitating vacant, city-owned homes. Maziarz cited a presence of blighted and vacant homes is "particularly acute" in the city, noting that the city has experienced a significant decline in population in recent years. According to Maziarz, 20 percent of the city's buildings are vacant. He also noted that one in four residents in the city are now living below the poverty level.
"These conditions do not bode well for maintaining and improving the city's housing stock, but a major local initiative is confronting the problem in a forthright manner: The Isaiah 61 Project," Maziarz wrote. "Its focus is providing on-the-job training to the unemployed in the building and construction trades field. In doing so, vacant Niagara Falls homes are rehabilitated by students and turned into affordable low-middle incoming house. The end result is that students embark upon a rewarding career, families can find a decent place to live and the city gets to reclaim its tax base — a win, win, win for the community."