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New county-wide land bank to be one of first in NYS

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Photo provided by City of Buffalo
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Mayor Brown on the steps of Buffalo's City Hall with other area mayors and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz to announce new Land Bank

The City of Buffalo and Erie County are celebrating the approval of a county-wide land bank.  

The City of Buffalo learned Thursday from Governor Cuomo that Empire State Development approved the land bank.  It will be one of the first to be created in the state.

"With the announcement today, the Governor has added a significant weapon to Buffalo's arsenal for ridding the City of vacant and abandoned property,” said Mayor Brown.   “Further, the City of Buffalo looks forward to working with Erie County, the cities of Lackawanna and Tonawanda as well as all of the other towns and villages on an issue facing the entire region."

Mayor Brown was joined by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski and Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi on the steps of City Hall early Thursday afternoon to applaud the approval by the Empire State Development Corp. to create a county-wide land bank.

Last year, Governor Cuomo signed a state law allowing municipalities to form nonprofit corporations to create land banks as an economic development tool.  Buffalo, Lackawanna and Tonawanda joined the County in filing a joint application earlier this year with the Empire State Development Corporation.

“Municipalities all across Erie County have been dealing with a growing problem of vacant, abandoned, and tax-delinquent properties. Now, thanks to Governor Cuomo and the Empire State Development Corp., Erie County will be one of the first counties in New York State to apply a land banking solution to this problem,” said County Executive Poloncarz.  “I look forward to working with partners in the cities of Buffalo, Lackawanna, and Tonawanda, as well as other municipalities, to apply a regional approach to the problem.”

Lackawanna Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski stated, “Land banking is going to transform the Lackawanna landscape by letting us ‘fight blight’ on two fronts. We will now be able to catch properties going through foreclosure before they become dilapidated, and also stop the spread of blight by addressing those properties that are too far gone to save.”

The new land bank is called the Buffalo Erie Niagara Land Improvement Corporation. It is designed to create  a one-stop-shop for dealing with distressed properties and speed up the process for converting vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed properties.  It will also provide maintenance services for vacant lots, and pay for demolition of some structures.

In Erie County, there is an excess of 73,000 tax liens, which have a value of $53 million in taxes owed. The land bank could help recoup those losses.

While the City of Buffalo is often the focal point of the issue of abandoned properties, it is not the only community in the County that is suffering from the blight and disinvestment in real property. For instance, although the City is the location of approximately 64% of the tax delinquent properties (46,883 out of 73,360), the City has only 11% of the assessed value of all liens (approximately $6 million).”

Mayor Brown added, “This land bank will be one of the most important and effective tools in combating the abandoned property program, while improving the quality of life in city neighborhoods and creating new opportunities for business investment.”