While saying a difficult budget situation will likely force the state to make its share of sacrifices this year, Gov. David Paterson said Thursday he’s confident a $1 billion plan to revitalize Upstate New York will not be one of them.

Visiting Buffalo for the first time since being named governor earlier this month, Paterson expressed serious concerns about the state of the state’s proposed $124 billion budget, but said he believes the Upstate Revitalization Plan announced by his predecessor in January can and will survive scrutiny from lawmakers in the state Assembly and Senate.

“We have some horrific budget problems,” Paterson said. “In spite of that fact, it is going to happen.”

New York lawmakers are dealing with a $4.6 billion budget gap this year and Paterson has asked his department heads to take steps to reduce costs. With the nation’s economy in flux as well, Paterson expressed serious concern about the financial situation in New York and the potential impact it could have on communities statewide.

Still, Paterson said, Upstate New York, including Western New York, will continue to be a focus of his administration. While acknowledging that previous governors have made similar commitments only to disappoint, Paterson said he’s serious about it this time and wants people living in places like Buffalo to understand that they are still part of the “family” in New York.

“This is one state,” he said.

Niagara Falls and Niagara County garnered little attention during Thursday’s press conference. Paterson did not discuss either specifically during his address and Gundersen mentioned the Falls only once while welcoming Mayor Paul Dyster.

Following the governor’s address, Dyster sounded an upbeat tone over the governor’s remarks, saying Paterson made it clear that he is going to do what he can to help struggling communities like Buffalo and Niagara Falls.

“I think we heard what we wanted to hear today,” Dyster said. “The government seems to have accepted our argument that the time is right to invest in Western New York.”

The location of the press conference itself may have been an indication of the direction the state will take as it moves ahead with its recovery plan. The governor, joined by his Upstate Economic Development Director Dan Gundersen, addressed local officials and members of the media inside an old warehouse building in Buffalo’s Cobblestone District. The building, located on Perry Street near HSBC Arena, is being renovated by the state as the future headquarters building for Empire State Development Corp. operations in Western New York. Plans include not only two floors of new office space for state economic development officials, but also room for a restaurant and residential space.

Following the press conference, Gundersen said his office believes strongly in supporting projects that find new uses for empty buildings with historic or architectural significance. In carrying out the proposed Upstate Revitalization Plan, Gundersen said state officials plan to focus on “neighborhood” and “community” development projects and will rely heavily on input from local residents and leaders in what he described as a “bottom-up” approach.

While Thursday’s visit was in Buffalo, Gundersen stressed that the state is not focusing in on any one community Upstate and is working to make sure places like Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Rochester finally get their fare share of attention.

“We don’t say any one is any more significant than the other,” he said. “They all need to be healthy.”

Both Paterson and Gundersen acknowledged the common Upstate perception that downstate communities and New York City get preferential treatment when it comes to state-sponsored development efforts. Both also said they’re confident projects funded through the revitalization plan will do much to change that perception.

“The message is that the state is being more strategic in the deployment of its resources,” Gundersen said.

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