ITHACA, N.Y.—Looks like local communities once again come out empty-handed for competitive New York State economic grants. The City of Ithaca has yet again been passed over for a $10 million grant for downtown improvements from the state, with the award for the Southern Tier region going to Johnson City this year.

While Johnson City was the big winner this year, smaller village-focused awards, the newly-launched NY Forward program, were granted to the communities Waverly and Montour Falls, passing over an application from the Village of Dryden.

Over most of the last decade, New York State has hosted a grant competition for each of its 10 regions, called the “Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” where incorporated municipalities jockey for a $10 million grant based on some combination of the quality of the application and whatever else Empire State Development, the state’s economic development agency, is taking into consideration during the process.

This is Ithaca’s sixth attempt in the six years the competition has been running. In the first year of the contest in 2016, Elmira was the recipient of the grantand in 2017, Watkins Glen was the winnerIn 2018, the funds were awarded to the Village of Owego, and  2019’s winner was Hornell. Due to the pandemic, 2020 had no contest, but in 2021, Norwich and Endicott were the winners, and now we have Johnson City as this year’s lucky recipient.

Ithaca’s application for 2022, titled “Cultivating Community: Bringing Inclusive Prosperity and Connectivity to Downtown Ithaca,” was less lofty than some of the city’s applications submitted in previous years. It was the work of about thirty business, government and non-profit community members that had been working on entries since last spring.

The press release from New York State Gov. Kathy Hochul highlights plans for a $50 million battery technology hub and $13 million in infrastructure investments at Binghamton University, along with a $10 million to improve the fire academy in Montour Falls.

The Tompkins County-specific highlights in the release are $10 million for Capital Projects at Cornell University, $250,000 for Tompkins Cortland Community College and $600,000 for improvements to Taughannock Falls State Park.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at