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Ogdensburg housing program left out in funding announcements

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OGDENSBURG — Recent problems may have left the city’s housing rehabilitation program’s request for state funds out in the cold.

The programs were left out of $785 million in economic development funding announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday.

“In a climate of continued fiscal uncertainty for the state, it is unfortunate, though not wholly unsurprising, that the city didn’t get additional housing money for the coming year,” said Andrea L. Smith, the city’s interim director of planning and development.

While $1.29 million in funding was announced for housing agencies throughout St. Lawrence County, Ogdensburg received nothing for its Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

James A. O’Neill, president of C. W. Augustine, the DeKalb Junction firm that administers the city’s program, said a significant need for housing rehabilitation still exists.

“We had somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in applications for Ogdensburg, none of which got funded,” he said. “It is probably in large part due to the Ogdensburg Journal spreading the news.”

Mr. O’Neill said he thought the funding was denied because of the bad press the programs have received after it came to light that a family had been allowed to live in a city-owned property for three years without paying rent, fees or taxes. The property was rehabilitated through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

“Other communities I work for were successful in getting funding,” he said. “The city’s problems had to have had an impact. It is a safe assumption.”

This year, housing rehabilitation money was released through Mr. Cuomo’s 10 regional economic development councils. That meant Mr. O’Neill and the city had to apply for the grants through a consolidated funding application.

A recent audit of the city’s program by the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal found the programs were well organized and executed within guidelines.

“Given the results of a recent monitoring of the city’s housing programs by New York State, which stated ‘no findings or concerns,’ we are confident that the lack of an award in no way reflects on the city’s capacity to administer efficient housing services,” Ms. Smith said.

It is not clear whether all of New York’s housing rehabilitation funds were doled out on Thursday, Ms. Smith said.

“We’re checking out if all of that funding that was for housing and was lumped into the consolidated funding pot, or whether some of it was separate,” she said.

Mr. O’Neill said C. W. Augustine and the city would try again when another round of funding is announced next year.

“We haven’t had any feedback from the state as to when the notice of funding awards will be made or when the next consolidated funding application round will be announced,” he said.

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