Especially at a time of tight fiscal constraints, grants and public-private partnerships can be instrumental in advancing community goals. This point was made strongly in the just-released report of the Citizens Panel on Sustainable Budgets [LINK], which recommends several steps to strengthen New Rochelle’s competitive position with respect to outside funding. Happily, we received quite a bit of good news on this front in September. The City will receive financial support for the following …

Fire Department Personnel: New Rochelle has been awarded a grant of approximately $1 million from the Department of Homeland Security through the SAFER program. This funding will enable the City to hire six new Fire Fighters. These new hires will not have any bearing one way or another on the overall size of the Fire Department following the two-year expiration of the grant, but they will certainly help by: (a) increasing, at least in the short-term, the number of personnel able to respond to emergencies; (b) lowering the average age within our Fire Department and, thereby, reducing exposure to costly injuries; and (c) cutting the overtime expenses necessary to achieve minimum staffing levels per shift.

Youth & Young Adult Job Training & Placement: Through New York State’s Youth Works Employment Program, and through the good efforts of Council Member Jared Rice, New Rochelle was awarded a $137,600 grant that will support recruitment, training and job placement services for eligible residents between the ages of 16 and 24. Our local efforts will be administered by the New Rochelle Youth Bureau, in partnership with employers and others in the community. In total, we aim to place almost 90 young people in new jobs and, hopefully, help set their lives on a productive and rewarding course.

Park Facilities: Back in 2011, the gazebos at Hudson Park were badly damaged by a series of storms, and they haven’t been usable since. A grant of about $27,000 that originated with the federal Department of Labor and then passed through the NYS Department of Labor will enable us to fully repair the gazebos so that they can be enjoyed once again by the community.

Downtown Code Enforcement: The appearance of our business district can positively or negatively impact its commercial viability. Because of staff cutbacks, the City’s commercial and sign code enforcement has become purely reactive to complaints, with spotty compliance as a result. Through a partnership with the Business Improvement District, the City will retain a contracted service to beef up enforcement downtown, to the ultimate benefit of all business owners. This isn’t exactly a grant, but rather a merging of public and private resources. The BID will donate $15,000 for this service, and the City will contribute $10,000. This modest public investment may well be recaptured through new fee and fine revenue generated by better enforcement.

When it comes to discretionary grants, there are no guarantees, but well-prepared applications, targeted lobbying efforts, initial planning to prepare “shovel ready” projects, and a set aside of matching funds can maximize New Rochelle’s chances of further success moving forward.