"Celebrating Successes, Inspiring New Achievements" NYLBA Conference 2019


The BENLIC Board and Staff welcome this opportunity to host the annual NYS Land Bank conference. Come and enjoy Buffalo’s Canalside District and waterfront at this most pleasant time of the year!

With nearly 35 land banks Statewide, this event will be an excellent networking and educational opportunity for land bank staff, Board members, legislators and colleagues who interface regularly with New York State Land Banks as a critical community development tool. We look forward to providing inspiration, site visits to witness BENLIC’s recent successes and partnerships in person, and a program of in-depth panel topics to enable each Land Bank to achieve meaningful successes in their respective communities.


Niskayuna's infamous 'zombie' property problem solved

The Capital Region Land Bank will be purchasing notorious “zombie” property 2 Cornelius Avenue in Niskayuna from Mr. Cooper. The Land Bank will explore proposals for both rehab and demolition and will also seek $20,000 in grant funds to help offset any costs associated with the property. Chairman of the Land Bank’s Board, Richard Ruzzo, praised the Land Bank’s work:

“The Land Bank's mission is to improve neighborhoods by fixing homes that need renovation and demolishing zombie properties that are beyond repair. We have seen time and time again that neighborhoods improve when vacant and derelict properties are taken care of instead of being neglected."

Read the full Times Union article here.

Land bank hitting stride in 3rd year

The Oswego County Land Bank continues to build on its early successes. To date, about $1 million has been put back on the tax rolls through the Land Bank’s work. Kim Park, Executive Director of the Oswego County Land Bank, says over 15 properties are poised for rehabilitation and 8 are slated for demolition with the help of recently awarded grant funds. Check out this article for more about the Oswego County Land Bank’s work.

Clinton County eyes land bank slot

Since the Governor signed legislation last month to increase the cap of land banks from 25 to 35, more municipalities have been entertaining the idea of applying to ESD to create a land bank. Clinton County has joined the conversation and is actively considering establishing a land bank. Land banks are great tools to help address vacancy in blight. You can read more about Clinton County’s endeavor here.

Ogdensburg zombie, land bank programs each reaching milestones at end of year

The Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation and the city’s zombie-property program are both gearing up for complimentary work in 2019.

“The two programs are designed to go hand in glove as part of ongoing efforts in Ogdensburg to improve blighted residential neighborhoods and business districts. ‘Collectively the two programs work well together to address the larger issue of property abandonment, vacancy and blight,” said Ogdensburg Planning and Development Director Andrea L. Smith.

Read more about the joint efforts here.

Sullivan Land Bank reducing blight

The Sullivan County Land Bank has worked on 13 properties since being established. Most have been demolitions—the removal of these vacant buildings has had a great impact. Bill Reiber, Town Supervisor for Thompson, NY says the Sullivan County Land Bank “is changing the character of neighborhoods rather than just pot-shooting a house here or there. By targeting certain areas, you can see the blight is gone, and people interested in being here can start investing money.”

Read more about the land bank’s great work here.

How to Fund Land Banks

This month, Shelterforce published an article by Tarik Abdelazim (of Center for Community Progress) that tackles how to successfully fund land banks. Read the full article here for a look into lessons learned over the last 10 years as land banks continue to mature.

Stabilizing and revitalizing disinvested neighborhoods is not an overnight endeavor. Land banks require planning, patience, and partnerships—and dedicated, recurring funding affords land banks the opportunity to carry out meaningful community engagement, pursue long-term strategies, and pilot innovative partnerships.
— Tarik Abdelazim

A.G. Underwood Awards Nearly $26 Million to New York Land Banks

Earlier this month, the NYS Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced almost $26 Million had been awarded to land banks across New York. This funding will allow NYS land banks to continue their work returning vacant and abandoned properties to productive use.

“Land banks are a pivotal part of revitalizing and rebuilding neighborhoods across the state,” said Attorney General Underwood. “Thanks to funding secured by my office’s settlements with the big banks, we’ve been able to invest in cities and towns across New York still recovering from the foreclosure crisis.”

Read the full press release here.

Demolitions Across the State

Land banks across New York are responsibly returning vacant and abandoned properties to productive use and eliminating harm from our communities. One way land banks improve our communities is through the demolition of blighted, structurally unsafe buildings. While demolitions sometimes get a bad rap, removing a blighted building can lead to safer neighborhoods and more opportunities for land reuse.

The Broome County Land Bank Corporation began the demolition of three nuisance properties in August. One building demolished had been severely damaged in a fire and had seen more police activity due to illegal trespassing and squatting. The other two buildings had been vacant since severe flooding in Broome County in 2011. Click here to read more about the Broome County Land Bank's demolitions.

The Cattaraugus County Land Bank Corporation has several demolitions planned for this year and the upcoming year. In addition to 11 planned rehabilitation, Cattaraugus County Land Bank plans to demolish seven properties this year and an additional 12 buildings next year. reducing blight in the community. For more information on improvements being done by the Cattaraugus County Land Bank Corporation, click here.

Building equitable communities: It takes systems reform, collaboration, and community wealth-building

Last month, the Center for Community Progress highlighted community revitalization work happening across the country. CCP and JPMorgan Chase hosted a learning exchange between local governments, land banks, community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and nonprofits to discuss strategies that can tackle vacancy and abandonment in an equitable way. 

As a recipient of CCP's national Technical Assistance Scholarship Program, the Albany County Land Bank were among attendees at the May 2018 learning exchange. ACLB shared information on its Equitable Ownership Program designed to provide more affordable homeownership opportunities for first-time homebuyers in Albany County's most economically distressed neighborhoods

To see what other community development groups are working on throughout the U.S., read CCP's full blog post.

Reactivating Abandoned Buildings through Local Ownership in Smaller Cities

Several NYS land banks are rehabbing vacant and abandoned properties through the Neighbors for Neighborhoods program. The goal of the program is "to develop some affordable rental housing in struggling neighborhoods and build local wealth at the same time." Through Neighbors for Neighborhoods, land banks across the state are making investments to provide high quality, affordable rental units. Under the terms of sale, units must be affordable for 20 years and will be sold to those that do not own more than two rental properties. 

Next City wrote a great article about the transformative work NYS land banks are doing to rehab and occupy these units!

National nonprofit visits Ogdensburg to help with Land Bank initiative

Earlier this month, Center for Community Progress (CCP), a national nonprofit, hosted a workshop with Ogdensburg city planning officials. Ultimately, recommendations regarding best practices in land banking and dealing with zombie properties will be made to the city and the Land Bank for consideration.

Once funding and the certificate of incorporation is secured, the Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation will be able to acquire tax-foreclosed properties throughout Ogdensburg.

To learn more about CCP's involvement with the Ogdensburg Land Bank Corporation, check out this Watertown Daily Times article.

In Our Opinion: Land bank offers real option for vacant properties

In an opinion piece featured on The Daily Star (Oneonta), land banks were highlighted as a tool that can be used to address vacant problem properties. Officials from the City of Oneonta have been exploring the possibility of partnering with the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank. 

"It’s important to secure vacant buildings to keep them from being used for nefarious purposes or become havens for feral cats and wildlife, but we’d like to see a process to more quickly move those properties from vacant status to one of responsible human habitation."

Land banks are effective entities designed to responsibly dispose of vacant and abandoned properties. 

Albany land bank program offers mentoring for first-time home buyers

The Albany County Land Bank recently introduced a new pilot program designed to create more first-time homeowners in neighborhoods that have a more robust rental population. The Equitable Ownership Pilot Program will pair buyers with a rehab mentor and other resources to help them through the process of renovating their first home.

“This is our attempt to use our abilities, powers and resources to give a boost to people and increase home ownership in our focus neighborhoods,” Executive Director Adam Zaranko said.

For a closer look at the program details, visit the Land Bank's website. Read the Albany Times Union article featuring the program here.

Land bank moves to salvage abandoned properties

The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank (GMVLB) will be collaborating with the village of Cherry Valley in Otsego County to help address vacant and blighted properties. In addition to passing the Resolution of Engagement, the Cherry Valley Village Board passed the Land Bank's 5/50 Resolution which states that "50 percent of the real property taxes on properties within the Village of Cherry Valley purchased from the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank be remitted to the Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank for a period of five years." This remittance is then reinvested into other blighted properties in the Land Bank's operating footprint. 

Executive Director of GMVLB Tolga Morawksi said "Cherry Valley is a beautiful place, and by collaborating with the municipal government and community volunteers, we can begin to address blighted properties there." 

For the full story, click here.


Wayne County Land Bank gets hands on first properties

After receiving its certificate of incorporation from the state, the Wayne County Regional Land Bank Corporation has acquired its first three properties. The Land Bank will now evaluate each property based on condition to determine the best course of action. 

"The ultimate goal is to improve communities by reducing the number of properties that may be deemed unsightly and/or unsafe and which could be negatively affecting neighborhoods — and dragging down property values in the process."

To read more, read the article featured in the FInger Lakes Times.

Can 'land banks' help rebuild post-industrial U.S. cities?

Land banks are becoming more and more recognized as an effective tool to use in the fight against vacant and abandoned properties. New York's strong network of land banks continue to serve as a national model of bringing vacant properties back into productive use.

Buffalo Erie Niagra Land Improvement Coporation (BENLIC) "aims to take on the parcels of land it feels will have the biggest impact in a neighbourhood." Jocelyn Gordon, Executive Director of BENLIC, said "if there's a demolition on a lot in a marketable neighborhood, and we can strengthen that block, that's the most fulfilling part."

Visit the Thomson Reuters Foundation website to read more about BENLIC's approach to land banking and for a snapshot of land banks across the country.