Mayor meets with Interfaith Action - Catholic Courier

Mayor meets with Interfaith Action

ROCHESTER — The Rochester Police Department will continue to intensively patrol four of the city’s high-crime areas on foot for at least the next two-and-a-half years, Mayor Robert Duffy announced at a May 24 public-action meeting at St. Luke and St. Simon Cyrene Episcopal Church.

This comment drew applause from the hundreds of city residents who had packed into the church that evening to listen to Duffy speak with representatives of Interfaith Action, a local federation of business alliances and congregations from several religious denominations, including a number of Catholic churches. The public-action meeting was scheduled as a follow-up to a meeting at the church in July 2005, when Interfaith Action called the Rochester mayoral candidates together to present the federation’sRochesterOneMonroe Community Agenda.

At the 2005 meeting, then-candidate Duffy pledged to support Interfaith Action’s 13-point agenda, a plan proposed to improve overall conditions in the city. One of the actions called for by the agenda was the implementation of daily, intensive foot patrols through Rochester’s high-crime areas, an initiative many inner-city Catholic churches strongly supported.

In September 2006, police officers began patrolling the Lyell Avenue area near Otis Street, which is home to Holy Apostles and Holy Family Churches; Campbell and Child streets; the Goodman Avenue blocks near Peck and Garson streets; and Woodward, Ontario, North, Scio and other streets surrounding Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Patrolled neighborhoods have seen a 70-percent decrease in violent crime and a 75-percent decrease in general property crime since the patrols began, Deputy Chief James Sheppard said at the meeting.

The foot-patrol program was implemented only as a one-year initiative, however, and was set to expire in September 2007. During the May 24 meeting, Interfaith Action representatives asked Duffy if he would renew the program for another year. Duffy not only agreed, he also took the initiative a step further.

"As long as I’m in office, you’re going to see those foot patrols," he said.

That night Duffy also pledged to partner with Interfaith Action to advocate for the creation of a statewide housing trust fund. On behalf of Interfaith Action, St. Monica parishioner Bill Hennings also asked Duffy if he would create a city-administered housing trust fund with a $1 million downpayment of city money. The establishment of a $90 million Neighborhood Trust Fund to rebuild distressed Monroe County neighborhoods was another of the priorities on the RochesterOneMonroe Community Agenda.

"For years Interfaith Action has been a leader in encouraging the creation of a neighborhood trust fund. A key goal of your administration is job creation. Well, if you build 100 homes you create 250 jobs. What do you think about that?" Hennings asked.

Duffy replied that philosophically he supports the idea of investing in housing by means of a trust fund, but that he doesn’t think it’s something the city alone can or should create and administer. Rochester and New York state are home to a wide array of housing agencies, and if these agencies partner with the city and Monroe County, such a project is more likely to succeed, he said.

"I do think a trust-fund concept will work, but it has to be something that is communitywide and takes in support of all those agencies. It really has to be community driven," Duffy said. "I’m willing to make it happen, but I think we have to do it in a broader context. If I sit here and say yes tonight and there are no partners to support it, I think we’re back here next year saying we got nothing done."

Duffy said he’s willing to meet with housing agencies, discuss the trust-fund concept and even propose it to Monroe County leadership if the housing agencies sign on.

Another priority of the RochesterOneMonroe Community Agenda was the creation of a policy through which city staff would work to rebuild the neighborhoods surrounding economic-development projects. Hennings asked Duffy to consider placing the equivalent of 5 percent of the cost of a given economic-development project into a housing trust fund for use in redeveloping housing in the neighborhoods surrounding the project.

Duffy agreed such neighborhood development is critical to the success of the economic-development projects, but said he couldn’t agree to such a blanket proposal without knowing the specifics of individual projects.

During the meeting Duffy agreed to encourage the City Council to propose a change in state law that would make prostitution a Class A misdemeanor, so city court judges could offer Drug Court as an alternative to jail. Such a measure could reduce the repetitive nature of prostitution, he said.

Duffy also pledged city money to support improvements in Rochester’s Sebastian Park, which is near Most Precious Blood Church on Stenson Street, and promised to look into building eight new homes in the city’s Historic Jones Square neighborhood, where St. Anthony of Padua Church is located on Lorimer Street.

Interfaith Action representatives also celebrated several successes of their community agenda, including the acquisition of $32 million in additional state aid to Rochester during the last two years and the creation of 550 summer jobs for youths.

Interfaith also announced the creation of the New York Thruway Alliance, an upstate alliance that comprises Interfaith Action and six other faith-based community organizations in Albany, Buffalo, Cortland, Niagara Falls and Syracuse. The new alliance recently launched a listening campaign to learn about the concerns of 5,000 families from across upstate New York.

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