Ogdensburg acting city manager says some of governor’s proposals could help city
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – In an update to City Council, Interim City Manager Andrea Smith said several items mentioned in the Governor’s State of the State could bring benefits to Ogdensburg.
In her recent State of the State address, Gov. Kathy Hochul laid out vague plans to address problems with housing stock, mental health, bail reform and electric vehicle charging, which if comes to fruition could provide much needed funding to target those areas.Housing
Smith says a plan to provide funding to rehabilitate housing aims to make $5 million in State Low Income Housing Tax Credits available to mixed-income projects. That could be a boon to the city which has long-struggled to keep properties on the tax rolls.
Additionally, Smith said that the state’s goal to address childhood lead poisoning is beneficial due to the age of homes in the community.
“Given the average age of housing stock in communities like Ogdensburg, the risk of lead exposure can be higher. Increased blood lead levels in children can lead to pernicious health effects. The Governor proposes to develop and fund programs aimed to reduce the risk of lead exposure in rental properties,” she said in the public update.
In recent years the city formed a land bank in hopes of rehabilitating dilapidated properties for resale. She says the governor aims to propose legislation that could make the process easier. However, she acknowledges that details are limited at this time.
“The State of the State is unclear about the details of funding to help implement this legislative change, but is of interest and may present opportunities for partnership with the Ogdensburg Land Bank,” she said.
In recent years New York has shut down and closed wings in psychiatric hospitals. At the same time the state pledged to focus on outpatient treatment. However, there has been wide criticism regarding the state’s follow through of that plan. Preceding the pandemic the North Country was experiencing a mental health crisis, which was exacerbated in recent years as seen throughout the nation.
While not necessarily directly tied to the mental health crisis Ogdensburg has seen an increase in the homeless population, which can often overlap with people who are not receiving proper mental health care.
Smith said the governor’s state of the state Hochul acknowledges that the state is in the midst of a mental health care crisis and has set out a series investments and policy changes to “change the trajectory of the State’s approach to mental health, with the goal of fixing the entire continuum of care that is necessary to keep people healthy and safe.”
The address states, “the number of inpatient psychiatric beds in New York State has declined by 20 percent since 2014.” Last February, Hochul announced an investment of “$27.5 million to support increased reimbursement rates for inpatient psychiatric beds. Today, however, roughly 850 beds remain offline.”
In 2023, the Governor will now direct Article 28 community hospitals to immediately bring inpatient psychiatric beds online.
At the same time, she will propose legislation to allow OMH to fine hospitals for non-compliance with their operating certificate at a rate of up to $2,000 per violation, per day. Additionally, the Governor will open 150 new adult beds in State-run psychiatric hospitals. While 100 of these beds will be in New York City, 50 will open outside of New York City.
This will build on the 50 new beds that the Governor announced in November collectively constituting the largest expansion of State inpatient capacity in decades.
However, it’s unclear if Ogdensburg’s St. Lawrence County Psychiatric Center is slated to be part of that initiative at this time.
Many St. Lawrence County residents, judges and law enforcement agencies have criticized bail reform laws, which critics have argued has created a “revolving door” for criminals.
Though details are vague, Smith pointed out that Gov. Hochul says she will work with the Legislature to make thoughtful changes to the bail law, consistent with the spirit behind its original passage. Which she says is “to ensure that the size of someone’s bank account should not determine whether they sit in jail or return home.”
For serious crimes that remain eligible for bail, Gov. Hochul believes the “least restrictive” standard should be eliminated.
Finally, Smith points out the governor’s plan to invest in electric vehicles.
According to the governor’s statement New York State will receive $175 million over five years in federal funds to establish an interconnected network of reliable charging for electric vehicles, which incentivizes EV purchasing.
In 2023, the state will determine the most efficient and effective way to provide incentives that support the installation, operation, and maintenance of EV infrastructure.