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Robert McCarthy: 'Captain Cuomo' puts on a show in praise of Buffalo

Robert J. McCarthy

ABOARD THE GOOD SHIP ANDREW – You’ve heard of a champagne cruise. Call this one a campaign cruise.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo invited about 100 of his closest friends aboard a Buffalo Harbor tour boat Wednesday to see firsthand all of the marvels of Albany’s largess since 2011 – coincidentally the same year as the start of his administration.

It was a beautiful day for a cruise, especially in the administration’s view. That’s because with all of the moaning and groaning by Rep. Brian Higgins and Assemblyman Sean Ryan over lack of Canalside progress, somebody in Cuomoland suggested: “Let’s put on a show.”

“Brilliant!” they responded in the Capitol. “We’ll show those knuckleheads.”

So all kinds of important people boarded at bustling and state-sponsored Canalside to ply through the revived Buffalo River.

Cruise director Howard Zemsky pointed out the DL&W Terminal received Buffalo Billion II money to make it ripe for “a ton of private sector development” down the road.

Cuomo on his father, Tim Russert and an affinity for Buffalo

Breaking through the bounding main, Zemsky showcased all of the development along Ohio Street stemming from “state and federal government investment.” The RiverWorks complex, parks and new street lighting. It must have been an oversight, however, to ignore Carl Paladino’s housing development on Ohio Street. (We don’t talk about Cuomo’s 2010 opponent, don’t you know.)

First Mate Kathy Hochul then steered the course, explaining how Cuomo “really, really, really” works hard to restore her hometown of Buffalo to its glory days. She may have also hinted at future plans by suggesting the current Coast Guard base could certainly be used for another purpose some day.

Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll resisted temptation to man the ship’s gun turrets as it approached the Peace Bridge. He recalled the “ugly” events of 2013, when Cuomo’s impatience with the pace of development on the Buffalo plaza led to a “very heated” confrontation at the binational Peace Bridge Authority.

“It was almost like a war between New York and Canada,” he quipped, noting that the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed boathouse near the international span served as the site of a “historic, breakthrough agreement” signed by Cuomo and the Canadian ambassador.

“Thereby averting war,” he joked again, without mentioning the only real result of the agreement was a traffic study.

The Politics Column, as an aside, always reported Cuomo’s role in the dispute as his attempt to be a good governor – to spur action on a vital transportation link he viewed as moribund. He saw the Peace Bridge as a metaphor for inaction throughout Western New York.

The Canadian delegation to the Peace Bridge Authority, however, resisted what may have been a well-intentioned power play in a drama that resurfaced Wednesday with Driscoll’s historical narrative.

Returning from the new Buffalo Harbor State Park, Captain Cuomo took command. He looked across his domain from the waters of Lake Erie and pronounced it good. Again, his efforts reflect ambitious efforts with projects spurring new vitality in Buffalo as well as private-sector investment.

On Wednesday, he obliquely responded to the Higgins/Ryan broadside, crediting Capitol aide and Buffalo native John Maggiore with recognizing the need for action at the Canalside hole where Buffalo Memorial Auditorium once stood.

“John pointed out one of the undone pieces in the corridor of growth is the Aud Block,” Cuomo said. “And we are prepared on the state side to put $2 million on the table, put out an RFP, and let’s get the best private sector deal we can to redo the Aud Block and we’re going to do that right away.”

Cuomo’s fascination with – yes, commitment and dedication – to Buffalo continues. He points out the good things here to anyone who will listen.

If you can turn around a mess like Buffalo, after all, you can turn around any problem in the United States.

Besides, it was a nice day for a cruise on Lake Erie.

Cuomo commits $2 million for Aud site during tour of harbor

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