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Community groups lose thousands in Utica CDBG funding

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Community groups lose thousands in Utica CDBG funding
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The City of Utica says the way it is distributing Housing and Urban Development grants this year will make a bigger visible impact on the city, but as our Andrew Sorensen tells us, the change is a major loss to programs that were counting on the money.

UTICA, N.Y. -- For some of these people, the Resource Center for Independent Living's adult day program in Utica is a lifeline, helping the elderly and disabled.

"I'd be lost without them. I can't walk very well and if it wasn't for these people, I'd be on the floor," client Paula Meany said.

Their mission, according to program director Michelle Murphy, is to, "Keep them out of a nursing home, in their home, where they can live a quality life."

But for people like Carol Wells, who was put in a coma in 1990, and now finds meaning in the work she does with her hands that lifeline could be cut short.

Last year, RCIL used $17,568 in Community Development Block Grant funds given out by the city. This year's pull: $0.

RCIL'S Executive Director Burt Danovitz says they'll get by. But the cuts will reduce how many times people can use the service.

"So although it's not a significant amount," Danovitz said. "To now have to deny that service to people, it's very significant."

They aren't alone. The city is giving about $90,000 fewer to community groups than they did in 2012. The city says there's a problem with the way they were spending the money before: You couldn't see the change on your average city street.

Mayor Robert Palmieri said, "Instead of sprinkling 'x' amount of dollars throughout the entire area, we are going to identify two to three areas and make a very big impact within a short period of time."

Palmieri said part of the cuts are because of decreased Housing and Urban Development funds for the grants. But he is diverting money for his own vision.

"We can see something that is changed in this area from a curb appeal. What we're looking for from the economic development of it, is the city is saying, 'this city is open for business,'" he explained.

But the groups affected have a different feel of it.

"When people are no longer able to live in their homes," said Danovitz, "They're no longer able to take care of their homes."

So they hope to find other funding to keep working toward a better city.

The mayor plans to use the funds for facades, sidewalks and other infrastructure upgrades.

The city's funding will be focused on four specific neighborhoods:
1. Bleecker Street (From Genesee Street to Albany Street.)
2. Newell (North of Faxton-St. Luke's Medical Center)
3. Capital Avenue in West Utica
4. Center City (Areas near the Memorial Parkway between Genesee and Steuben streets)

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