ALBANY, NY — A total of $87 million were steered to 174 new grants for local projects over the past ten months by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), according to data the Empire Center recently received under a FOIL request.

The governor and state legislators hand-picked most of the grantees, under a program that lets them direct DASNY dollars to state and local programs.

Fourteen different local park projects received $7 million in grant funds. Another $5.6 million will go to build or improve upon athletic, fitness or recreational facilities. Municipal restrooms got $700,000 for renovations in the latest round of approved grants.

The entire list of projects is posted on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s government transparency website.

“Legislators in Albany should not be picking and choosing which local restroom facilities or athletic fields deserve special financing from state taxpayers,” said Tim Hoefer, the Empire Center’s President & CEO.  “Such projects can compete for funding from existing state programs.  Further, meritorious projects can be paid for directly, by the local taxpayers they are intended to benefit.”

The largest grants were a series of $5 million awards to individual institutions of higher education for the renovation and construction of science and engineering centers. The recipient schools were Clarkson University, Fordham University, St. John’s University and Manhattan College. Also among the 174 projects funded this cycle: 

  • $2.3 million for the construction of the Daemen Sports and Recreation Center at Daemen College in Western New York; 
  • $865,656 for upgrades and expansions to athletic facilities at Utica College in the Mohawk Valley; 
  • $600,000 for the renovation of stairs in Westminster Park in Central New York;
  • $525,000 for the installation of new lighting and park safety improvements at the Empire State Plaza in the Capital; 
  • $250,000 to construct a pavilion for the City of Middletown in the Mid-Hudson Valley;
  • $100,000 for the renovation of restrooms at the Port Washington Public Library on Long Island; and 
  • $100,000 to install a pool dehumidification system at the St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church in New York City.

These projects are funded by bonds issued without voter approval. Most of the grants are authorized under the State and Municipal Facilities Program (SMFP), a $2 billion slush fund created in 2013 that lets state lawmakers and the governor name the recipients. The Budget Division anticipates paying out $260 million from SMFP alone during the current fiscal year.

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family. 

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