Daniel Gundersen, the governor's nominee for upstate economic development czar, will call Buffalo home as of Sept. 1.
Gundersen, whose temporary living quarters in Saratoga Springs became an issue during his State Senate confirmation hearings last month, signed a lease Thursday for an apartment in Buffalo's Bidwell Parkway neighborhood.
"This is something I've wanted to do all along," Gundersen said. "I am looking forward to the comfort of having a place here to call home at the end of a long day."
Gundersen, whose confirmation process is expected to resume as early as next week when the Senate returns to Albany for a special session, found himself on the hot seat in June as Republican senators challenged his commitment to his upstate duties because of his address.
The nominee, whose economic development territory spans some 40,000 square miles -- from Westchester County through Central and Western New York, and the Southern Tier -- said he's "excited and relieved" to have the residence situation settled.
"I want to get the focus off me and where I'm living and on the economic development challenges of upstate New York," Gundersen said. He added that he understands and respects those who were sincerely concerned that his month-to-month lease in the Capital District was an indication that he wasn't fully committed to Buffalo and other upstate communities.
"It strikes a nerve with me that my temporary apartment suggested my upstate focus was anything less than 100 percent," he said.
He noted that while the Empire State Development Corp.'s new upstate headquarters is in downtown Buffalo, his actual workplace to date has been his car.
"I've driven 22,000 miles across upstate New York in the past five months," he said. "My car has been my mobile office as I've traveled around meeting people in the communities I serve."
Gundersen, a Pennsylvania economic development executive, was picked by Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer to lead a revamped Empire State Development Corp. with specific upstate focus. He explained that he's renting, rather than buying a home here because his wife and teenage daughter will remain in Pennsylvania for another year.
"My daughter is a senior in high school and we've made the difficult decision for them to stay where they are until she graduates," he said. "After we're in a position to sell our home in Pennsylvania, we'll decide where to buy here."
Gundersen also said his decision to get a temporary apartment near Saratoga Springs, within easy driving distance of Albany, was based on his need to spend time in the state capital at the onset of his new position, as well as his rigorous travel schedule.
Spitzer defended his nominee after his rough ride during confirmation hearings, saying he was "a little troubled" by how Republican senators had treated Gundersen.
"It matters much less to me what his mailing address is than that he has been spending every hour just about crisscrossing the state in his car, living out of a suitcase, closing deals, generating jobs for the state of New York," Spitzer said last month.
State Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, who was among those who criticized Gundersen for not putting down stakes in Western New York, said he's pleased to learn the development official will soon be residing in Buffalo.
"I believe that if you're going to do stuff for upstate and your main office is in Buffalo, you have to be around here. He should live here and be as visible as possible," Volker said.
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, a Gundersen supporter, said with the "ZIP code issue" solved, the nomination process can focus on the candidate's credentials.
"He's been working his butt off to learn about Buffalo and the rest of upstate New York and has barely had time to catch his breath," Hoyt said.
Hoyt, who resides a few blocks from where Gundersen will be living, said he made an "excellent choice."
"He's going to love the Elmwood Village and we welcome him with open arms. He's picked one of the most vibrant and interesting neighborhoods in all of New York State," the lawmaker said.