Governor Cuomo, First: Do No Harm.
by Alan Bedenko (@BuffaloPundit) - posted 7:30 am, September 21, 2012
Has a penny of the billion-dollar grant been spent yet? Is it in anyone’s account yet? Is there a plan for how it will be spent yet?
The reason I ask is because that billion dollar grant that Governor Cuomo announced for Buffalo several months ago sure sounds great, but what’s going on with it? Who from this committee, which is in charge of the money, is communicating with us about what’s going on with it? There’s this PowerPoint from Brookings, and this paper, which is fantastic, but now what? What’s next? Jim Heaney from Investigative Post gave an update where the committee has decided to make a decision, but the whole process isn’t user-friendly, isn’t particularly well-publicized, and has neither the efficiency of a dictatorship nor the legitimacy of a democratic process.
And another reason I ask is that Albany inaction has been in the news twice now in recent days. First, this report from the Buffalo News placing the blame on the delay in negotiating a new Bills lease squarely on the Cuomo Administration. The deal doesn’t get done if Albany, the County, and the Bills aren’t at the table, and Albany has been unready or unwilling to move on this. The reasons why? What reason would make sense? Why would Governor Cuomo – who has placed a billion dollar bet on Buffalo – risk losing the only NFL team that plays home games within New York State? There’s no scenario within which that makes any sense.
A second example of Albany dragging its feet to Buffalo’s detriment? This story from WGRZ reporting that Rocco Termini has abandoned his ambitious ($60 million) – and fully leased – plan to renovate the AM&A building on Main Street. As detailed in this interview with Investigative Post’s Jim Heaney:
Heaney:The AM&A’s building. It’s next to the Trico Building. It’s probably the biggest hulking vacant space in downtown. You’ve got an option that’s expiring soon with that property. Where do things stand?
Termini: Well we’re waiting for the tax credit bill to be signed by Albany.
Heaney:The bill would raise the cap on tax credits …
Termini: From 5 to 12 million dollars.
Heaney:And you need that much additional to make the project work?
Heaney:The project is how much?
Termini: $60 million.
Heaney:Is this a spec project or do you have tenants?
Termini: The building is 100 percent leased by various businesses that we’ve already been in contact with.
Heaney:You probably don’t want to name individual tenants, but give me a flavor – is this hotel? Is this retail? Is this office? Is this high-tech office? What’s the tenant mix?
Termini: It’s all of them. But a lot of it is tech companies that are looking for what I call “Googlized space” – cool space – which there isn’t any cool space downtown. And we are filling that niche in downtown of providing cool space for tech companies.
Heaney:When does your option expire?
Termini: In a couple of weeks, and if it’s not signed in a couple of weeks we’ll get a move on to another project because we don’t want to lose our tenants.
Heaney:So you’re going to walk away from the building and they’ll be back to ground zero after that?
Termini: That’s right.
Heaney:Any indication from the governor’s people as to which way he’s leaning at this point?
Heaney:How are the local politicians? Are they in support of this? Are they not in support of this? Are they sitting it out?
Termini: Every local politician is in support of this project. They all voted for it. They’ve had press conferences about it. They know the importance of this bill to Upstate New York. It’s not just Buffalo, it’s every city along the Thruway, which are faced with the same problems.
Heaney:So basically Cuomo signs or you walk.
Termini: That’s right.
Hey, Albany & Governor Cuomo: Buffalo and WNY are all FUBAR as it is. We don’t need you to make it worse. This is bad politics and bad policy, and there’s no reasonable rationale for this kind of governmental malpractice. Some are saying this has something to do with the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee. That can’t be right, though, can it? Seriously, you would harm the entire community over Frank Max? That’s not just malpractice, that’s reckless and wanton.