ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — In her first State of the State address, Governor Kathy Hochul signaled support for policies that would directly impact two parts of Western New York: the University at Buffalo and the Kensington Expressway.

The Kensington is one of several highways the governor said she wanted to address.

“Infrastructure is all about connections,” Hochul said. “We need to reconnect neighborhoods that were severed by asphalt highways, disproportionately impacting communities of color.”

According to Hochul’s State of the State Book, which details her proposals more thoroughly, the community’s interest in recreating the park-like character of Humboldt Parkway is strong.

The book says, “This project would reconnect and restore the east-west neighborhoods across the depressed section of the Kensington Expressway corridor (between Best Street and East Ferry Street), and re-establish the green space originally provided by the Humboldt Parkway without compromising the long-term capacity provided by the expressway.”

State officials say the Department of Transportation has completed a preliminary assessment of the project, allowing it to move into the federally-required environmental review process.

State Senator Tim Kennedy, the Transportation Committee Chairman whose district includes the Kensington Expressway, tweeted his appreciation for Hochul’s support.

“Thrilled to hear @GovKathyHochul commit to prioritizing the reconnection of Buffalo’s East Side communities in her #StateOfTheStateNY today. Moving our city & our region forward can only be accomplished successfully if we invest in and re-envision Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway,” Kennedy wrote.

Hochul also signaled her support for making the University at Buffalo one of two SUNY flagship institutions. The governor also supports making Stony Brook University a flagship institution.

“This designation and support would help drive a goal for each institution of achieving $1 billion annually in primarily federal research funding by 2030, well over double their respective current levels of research expenditures,” Hochul’s State of the State Book says.

In a letter to the UB community, Satish Tripathi, the university’s president, called the designation significant.

“A flagship university sets the standard to which other institutions aspire, so we all have reason to take great pride in today’s announcement,” he wrote.

“Although UB has long been considered a de facto flagship of the SUNY system, the formal designation positions us for even greater success,” Tripathi added, while noting university officials hope to make the school one of the top 25 public research universities in the nation.”

Implementing a plan to make UB a SUNY flagship university could require budgetary, statutory, or administrative action, a state official said. Hochul is expected to work with SUNY to move the idea forward.

“I believe that SUNY and CUNY are the engines of social mobility and have untapped potential that still needs to be unleashed and harnessed,” Hochul said during her address. “So today, I’m outlining a vision to make SUNY the best statewide public higher education system in the nation.”

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.

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