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Zemsky to step down as state economic development czar

Howard Zemsky, a Buffalo businessman who heads Empire State Development Corp., is stepping down from his state post but will remain chairman of the agency's board of directors, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed.

"Howard's original commitment to us was for two years, he's served this administration and the people of this great state for eight – with no compensation mind you – and New York is the better for it," Cuomo spokesman Richard Azzopardi said. "We are thrilled and honored that he will continue his public service and remain a beloved part of the team."

As the CEO of the state's economic development agency, Zemsky was paid $1 a year.

Cuomo appointed Zemsky, one of Cuomo's go-to people on the affairs of Western New York, to the post since 2015. Prior to that, Zemsky co-chaired the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.

Zemsky's tenure with the state agency has been marked by high-profile projects, including a failed effort to lure a second Amazon headquarters to New York City and the second wave of the state's Buffalo Billion program.

Cuomo tasked Empire State Development and Zemsky with developing a follow-up program for the Buffalo Billion in 2016, after several people, including Alain R. Kaloyeros, the CEO of SUNY Polytechnic, were charged with corruption in a pay-to-play scheme involving Buffalo Billion projects and others across the state.

Zemsky, as head of the regional economic development council, had previously helped craft a local strategy that looked at the region’s strengths, such as tourism and advanced manufacturing, and tried to double down on those competitive advantages that other regions couldn’t easily match.

Larkin Development Group, headed by Zemsky, has been working to transform the Larkinville neighborhood since 2002.

"Every time we put another piece in place for the future of this neighborhood, it only accelerates the rate of potential change going forward," Zemsky told The News in 2017.

[Related: For the Zemskys, guiding Larkinville's revival remains a family affair]

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