On August 30, Governor David Paterson signed the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act, giving Assemblyman Sam Hoyt an important victory in his longstanding fight against urban sprawl. Since he was first elected 18 years ago, Hoyt has been an advocate of smart growth. “The unplanned sprawl has destroyed our city for years,” Hoyt said. “Not just our city, but all upstate cities.”
The concept of smart growth revolves around investing in existing infrastructure, especially in the downtown areas, rather than pouring money into building new infrastructure, such as sewers, roads, bridges, utilities and school districts. “Whenever you build a new subdivision, you then have to maintain the infrastructure, and it costs the taxpayers a lot of money,” Hoyt said. “My goal is that we will, as a community, recognize that strengthening the city and downtown neighborhoods is good for everybody, and when we do that we will also reduce taxes and keep our costs down.”
Hoyt also believes that investing resources in the city and downtown neighborhoods will aid in protecting the environment. He pointed out that sprawl is often associated with economic and population growth. However, continued construction leads to the infiltration of rural areas. By containing urban sprawl and building inward, more green space will be kept open and wildlife will be protected.
The smart growth initiative will kick start a multiyear transformation in investment and development decisions. From now on, all projects will have to undergo a smart growth witness test. The state agencies involved in funding them will have to ensure that the plans are consistent with smart growth principles and will focus on developed areas. This will include commitments by the state Department of Transportation, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Department of Education, and the Empire State Development Corporation.
Although it may take time to witness significant change, advocates like Sam Hoyt believe it will encourage more strategic planning and revitalize the downtown areas of Buffalo and other cities in New York State. “We need to transform the thinking of people in this community,” Hoyt said. “A strong urban core will make a strong region.”