New York Governor David Paterson promised to support local revitalization efforts, including funds for UR, at a rally in downtown Rochester last Thursday. The visit came just three days after the former lieutenant governor was sworn into office, replacing former Governor Eliot Spitzer. Mayor Robert Duffy and UR President Joel Seligman, who also spoke at the rally in Midtown Plaza, greeted Paterson’s support for upstate New York with enthusiasm.

Paterson confirmed that his office was going to stand by Spitzer’s economic growth plan for the region. In January, Spitzer gave the first ever State of Upstate Address in Buffalo, at which he announced plans for a $1 billion Upstate Revitalization Fund. According to the Democrat and Chronicle, the fund would lead to a 13.5 percent increase in state aid for Rochester, the largest increase for any municipality besides New York City.

Paterson assured the crowd that the plans, which include $50 million toward UR’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, were going on as scheduled.

“A lot of things have changed in New York in the last couple of weeks,” Paterson said. “One thing that has not changed is our considered support for all [funding].”

The Institute will build on its $50 million investment with an economic benefit of $30 million annually and will create 600 permanent jobs in the Rochester community, according to a pamphlet put out by the Rochester Community Coalition.

The pamphlet detailed the potential returns on investment of a number of initiatives. They included $50 million for the Golisano Institute for Sustainability, which would create 6,000 permanent jobs, and the demolition of decrepit Midtown Plaza, to be replaced with an office park, creating 1,200 jobs. The Coalition is a consortium of local groups, from businesses to academic institutions, dedicated to securing state investment for Rochester.

“The Plaza project is alive and well, and it will go on as scheduled,” Paterson said, adding that he was not going to divert from Spitzer’s plans for the city’s other projects.

At the rally, Seligman said that Rochester should be thrilled to have Paterson as governor and had high hopes for Paterson’s leadership.

“We now have our Moses, our leader, someone who is going to take us to our 21st-century knowledge-based economy,” he said.

Paterson lauded Rochester’s strengths, noting its contributions to the scientific community – UR is currently the city’s largest employer. He stressed the necessity of retaining college graduates, saying that many graduates move away because there are no available jobs and taxes are too high. He insisted that students should be able to make a future for themselves in Rochester, again drawing on the city’s scientific prowess.

“No one is doing biotech or stem cell research better than they’re doing it in Rochester,” Paterson said.

URMC’s five-year strategic plan outlines, among many other initiatives, a pioneering stem cell research program. Speaking later in an interview, Seligman said the CTSI money is a catalyst for the $500 million plan.

UR Associate Director of Public Relations and Communication Mark Michaud said that the groundbreaking for the CTSI building, which is in the design phase, will occur later this year no matter how the state funding pans out. However, he said the funding is critical in the process of securing future funds and gaining leverage in future transactions.

“None of this is definite until the ink is dry and the budget’s been put to bed,” he said. “So you have to sit and wait and hope that it’s a project that’s had widespread support, which we think it does, and go ahead from there.”

Duffy spoke after Paterson, thanking him for his visit.

“Three days after he is inaugurated, he is here in Rochester,” Duffy said. “He is reinforcing the promises that are going to be kept.” However, Duffy also acknowledged that Rochester had tough times ahead, noting recent cuts in its budget.

Paterson, who is from Harlem, explained how he is different from other politicians. He said that many people in New York politics are from uptown New York City and do not understand the needs of upstate New York.

“I’m from a different part of New York City than any of those people ever were,” he said, drawing raucous applause.

Wrobel is a member of the class of 2010.

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