first_img Devon Magliozzi ITHACA, N.Y. – Mayor Svante Myrick’s 2019 State of the City address was optimistic, at least in the short term. Citing the City of Ithaca’s 2018 budget surplus, infrastructure projects and youth programming, the mayor said things are looking up for 2019. But a good year, Myrick cautioned, should be treated as time to prepare for the challenges ahead.“The sun is shining on the City of Ithaca. It’s not time to celebrate – it’s time to make hay,” Myrick said at Wednesday’s Common Council meeting.Myrick’s speech called attention to the 10 department heads who are largely responsible for carrying out the city’s agenda.The mayor highlighted Leslyn McBean-Clairborne and Liz Klohmann’s success, as directors of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and the Ithaca Youth Bureau respectively, reaching a record number of Ithaca’s kids with recreational, mentoring and employment opportunities.He thanked Ari Lavine, Julie Holcomb and Steve Thayer – the city’s attorney, clerk and controller – for smoothing the city’s operations and increasing its efficiency.He credited Fire Chief Tom Parsons and Police Chief Pete Tyler with preventing emergencies and ensuring Ithacans feel safe, and Director of Human Resources Schelley Michell-Nunn with ensuring all Ithacans feel included in and represented by the city’s government.JoAnn Cornish and Mike Thorne, director of Planning, Building and Economic Development and superintendent of the Department of Public Works, got shout-outs for steering the city’s growth and building reliable infrastructure to support it.The city’s department heads, Myrick said, “have fought to make positive things happen for the people of the city, and they’ve done it on a shoestring budget.”Given the list of priorities Myrick outlined for 2019, it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting a break anytime soon.Mentioning concerns from the fluctuating stock market to global warming, Myrick said the city would focus on economically and environmentally sustainable projects in 2019, including building affordable housing; codifying green building standards; and upgrading infrastructure to address extreme weather events. He also suggested a major Collegetown development is in the works, though details are lacking at this point.Building affordable housingMyrick singled out “the displacement of middle-class and poor people due to high rents and high taxes” as “the most dangerous trend in the City of Ithaca today.”The median assessed home value in the city rose from $210,000 for the 2018 tax year to $230,000 for 2019, an increase of about 10 percent. While Myrick touted a decrease in the 2019 property tax rate, most homeowners will see an increase in their bill.Myrick cited policies intended to make homeownership and renting more affordable as 2018 successes, including a requirement that projects receiving tax abatements must include affordable housing units and moves to bring more Ithaca properties onto the tax rolls.Vowing to approve more affordable housing projects in 2019, he highlighted the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency’s recent choice to recommend the Vecino Group’s Green Street redevelopment project. The proposal has not been approved by Common Council yet but would add over 200 affordable units downtown. Tagged: affordable housing, common council, development, green building policy, Mayor Svante Myrick, State of the City Your government news is made possible with support from: center_img Myrick suggested the city will allow infill building to offset tax and maintenance costs for homeowners and add units to the market in 2019, though it remains to be seen how the city will strike a balance between the need for housing and desire to retain neighborhood character.Green building codesThe city passed a Green Building Policy in 2018, featuring regulations designed to reduce carbon emissions and curb the environmental impacts of development. That policy document, however, has not yet been codified within the city’s building regulations. Myrick said codifying the Green Building Policy is a priority in 2019.Many residents have been urging the city to move forward with the codification in recent months. As major projects like Cornell’s North Campus Residential Expansion and the Green Street Garage redevelopment moved through committees, activists called for the city to lead the way on environmentally sustainable development.“Climate change is accelerating, which is threatening lives, damaging property and destroying entire economies,” Myrick said. By working to reduce emissions locally, he said Ithaca would be “taking the action that our federal government won’t.”Infrastructure improvementsSeveral infrastructure projects are on Myrick’s 2019 priority list, including adding sidewalks around Belle Sherman School, Wood Street, Elm Street and Chestnut Street; beginning dredging work along Cascadilla Creek; repairing drainage culverts; and repaving roads.Infrastructure priorities shouldn’t come as a surprise, given 2019 budget allocations for a new street crew and water and sewer crew approved by Common Council. Council also approved a new DPW position for an assistant supervisor of streets at Wednesday’s meeting.Myrick noted that the 2008 economic recession set the city back in terms of infrastructure maintenance, and said the city would take advantage of its healthy finances now to prepare for future downturns.State projects to watch out forMyrick hinted at a large-scale Collegtown development project that is in the works with New York State but did not provide details.“There is a distinct possibility that the state will join in an unprecedented and enormous investment in Collegetown,” he said.According to Myrick, the project could provide “a more robust 365-day a year economy in Collegetown, improved infrastructure, diversity of housing and uses on East Hill and more.”He said the city would prioritize keeping the project on the property tax rolls, insist on thoughtful design features, and negotiate for affordable housing as it pursues the joint venture.“The project should contribute to affordable housing,” he said. “If not directly on site, the City should insist on a financial contribution that is not in the tens, or hundreds of thousands – but in the millions.”While the possible development remains under wraps, there have already been stirrings about a big Collegetown project. This story is certainly one to watch over the next year.Myrick said other changes to look for in Albany include the legalization of recreational marijuana and of overdose prevention sites. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs either into law, there could be significant impacts on the local economy, public safety departments, courts and health services.The mayor said he is hopeful the newly elected state legislature will send more state funds to municipalities and said the city would fight to ensure Ithaca gets its fair share.Closing the State of the City address with anecdotes from teens served by the city’s programs, Myrick returned to his opening metaphor.“We should make hay while the sun shines. We should build a more prosperous, secure, resilient and interesting city so that we can hand it down to the next generation.” Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at [email protected] or 607-391-0328. More by Devon Magliozzi last_img read more