Cuomo mishandled RiverBend, Amazon HQ2
Buffalo businessman Howard Zemsky recently found himself in an unenviable position: explaining to a legislative panel in Albany Tesla’s disappointing job-creation figures at the million-square-foot centerpiece of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion,” while justifying $1.525 billion of incentives to lure Amazon to build a headquarters in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens.
Things haven’t gotten easier for Zemsky, president of New York’s Empire State Development agency, or his boss.
Amazon issued a statement Feb. 14 expressing its decision “not to move forward” with its plan to construct 4 million square feet of office space and bring 25,000 employees to New York City, citing opposition from state and local politicians.
With the Buffalo Billion, the Cuomo administration poured $750 million into building the Western Hemisphere’s largest solar panel factory and filling it with sophisticated equipment, but failed to make certain that its tenants – initially SolarCity, now Tesla – were financially secure.
With Amazon HQ2, Cuomo arrogantly made decisions that would impact an existing community for decades without seeking the perspective of local leaders and residents, choosing instead to secretly negotiate an agreement with Amazon. Despite an obligation to assess potential environmental impacts prior to approving funding for a project, governor-appointed members of the Public Authorities Control Board approved the first $118 million for RiverBend two months before the mandatory environmental review.
Then, to ensure a “shovel in the ground” prior to the 2014 gubernatorial election, SUNY Poly performed a perfunctory environmental assessment for this massive industrial facility without the benefit of an environmental impact statement. To borrow a phrase from our governor, the Cuomo administration’s handling of both the RiverBend and Amazon HQ2 projects constitute governmental malpractice.
Arthur J. Giacalone