Governor Cuomo, First: Do No Harm.

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?

Termini: Yes.

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?

Termini: None.

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.

Cuomo didn’t sign. Termini walked. 

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. 

13 comments

  • “Termini: The building is 100 percent leased by various businesses that we’ve already been in contact with.”

    I’m just curious but what will happen to the space that these businesses are currently in? Or are these all new tenants?

    • This is an excellent question.    In a declining area with ongoing depopulation, this is likely a rearrangement of deck chairs.

    • Also, in the quoted Wgrz interview Termini even says he has other space the tenants can rent.  That doesn’t sound like it would “do harm” economically if NY state doesn’t give Termini $12 million when jobs at those companies would be here in other buildings regardless of AM&As.

      This part looks interesting but unclear.  

      Some are saying this has something to do with the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee.

      Does anyone know if that means according to the some who are saying, that Cuomo signing the bill or not would be trying to affect who gets chosen as party chairman?  Or intended as revenge somehow against … whom?

  • What is an otherwise good article goes bat shit crazy in the final sentence. What could all these breakdowns of government… the signing of historic tax credit legislation for AM&As, the Bills lease delays, the $1-billion economic development grant, possibly have to do with Frank Max???

    Max is running for county chair..he has had that ambition for many many years. Like him or hate him, all he is doing is reaching out to all the disparate factions of the Democratic community and presenting his credentials. His candidacy has NOTHING to do with the failings of government regarding the issues espoused in this article.

    It appears he is actually getting traction in his quest. If the acolytes over at HQ or the 16th floor at the Rath Building don’t like that, maybe they should recruit a “fresh young face” who people actually like and could embrace, rather than the loathsome and detestable individual (did someone say “execrable”?) they have placed all their confidence in.

    • I don’t really care who gets selected / elected for county chair. It affects me not a whit. 

      What I do care is that Albany would dare to harm the entire community & hold it hostage over a petty political squabble. 

      • And for the record, I have no rooting interest in this outcome and am watching this as an interested political observer. Last time Eagan and I talked was this past Tuesday at Statler City where we exchanged pleasantries. Last time Max and I talked was last December at a Christmas event out in Cheektowaga. Last time Zellner and I talked was at EC Dems HQ in June of 2009, when he berated me and screamed at me in front of a whole room full of people, all of whom were there to pick up petition packets, and ordered me to sit down and shut up and that I could leave when he told me it was permissible.

      • Self righteous bomb-throwing and then a claim to ‘not care’ right afterwards.  I wouldn’t expect anything less.

        • Dan – which do you think is more important for our community as a whole? Ensuring that Frank Max becomes ECDC chairman, or signing bills that would finally enable a developer to do something with one of downtown’s biggest boondoggle embarrassments? You don’t have to be in Pigeon’s pocket or Lenny’s lounge to realize Buffalo is greater than ECDC chair bullshit.

          But your livelihood may be dependent on it, so you’re personally affected and can’t think of anything more important. Who’s self-righteous now?

          • Alan – Without getting into the rest of the conspiratorial arguments you’re making, it’s that you claim to ‘not care’ about the Chairman’s race when it’s obvious that you do. 

          • What I care about is the allegation that Albany is holding things that will help WNY hostage over insignificant nonsense such as “whether Frank Max becomes ECDC Chair”. I think the former is infinitely more important than the latter.

  • Andrew and Dan …. the post is about the Cuomo administration failing to deliver on things that are necessary to the growth of our community. Things that the governor has said are important and that ultimately he supported. It isn’t about the state of Erie County Democratic politics, which is often ridiculous and self-defeating……mostly because we allow guys like Steve Pigeon to even participate.  

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