Control Over Rochester Photonics Initiative Still The Subject Of Debate

About two months after the tug of war over where a $600 million photonics center in Rochester should be located went public, it appears the infighting is far from over. SUNY Polytechnic, which has consistently described itself as the lead contract designee through the Department of Defense, seemed to rekindle that battle on Monday.

“I was asked to do this to establish and strengthen relationships in the business community,” said Former Lt. Governor Bob Duffy.

SUNY Polytechnic appointed Duffy, who currently heads the Rochester Business Alliance, to lead the AIM Photonics Leadership Council. Duffy said the council will be in charge of strategy and will make key decisions for the institute that’s expected to generate hundreds if not thousands of local jobs.

“As I’ve been told this is the decision-making group for AIM Photonics. It is my hope, first and foremost, that we fulfill and really go beyond the expectation of the DOD for this effort,” said Duffy.

As a former mayor and police chief, Duffy remains a popular figure in Rochester, but his appointment appears to put him odds with some his former political allies.

“This is not a SUNY Poly initiative. It’s an initiative of AIM Photonics and RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) and the U of R (University of Rochester) have equal standing here,” said State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle.

Morelle joined Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in August to criticize SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Dr. Alain Kaloyeros and his apparent unwillingness to communicate with the other partners in the photonics center. Kaloyeros’ appointment of his friend did little to alleviate his concerns

“The good news Bob Duffy is known to us, the troubling part is that this was done without the consultation of the partners and that’s a consistent and persistent criticism of this,” Morelle said.

Morelle’s understanding of Duffy’s role, and the responsibility the leadership council will have over the project seems to be different than Duffy’s. Morelle described the body as a technical advisory board and said an overarching governance board, appointed by the Governor, will take the lead.

“Well I think the Governor needs to make the appointments to the AIM Photonics Board so we don’t have individual players who are making unilateral decision that may not be in the interests of the initiatives going forward,” Morelle said.

According to the Governor’s Office, the seven-person governance board would be made up of members from the governor’s office, SUNY, University of Rochester and RIT. The board was announced shortly after those involved got into the aforementioned public dispute about where the center’s headquarters should go.

According to SUNY, The Leadership Council and Governance Board serve different but complimentary roles and responsibilities. One focuses on strategy and technical matters, while the other focuses on business and economic development.

It said both boards are co-equal entities that will work together to ensure the successful growth and expansion of the photonics institute. The Leadership Council, as required by the Department of Defense, will focus on the strategic planning and technical direction of the Institute while the governance board will help oversee and implement business outreach and economic development strategy.

Duffy believes the governance board will make recommendations to the council he is leading, not the other way around. He also downplayed the dispute between Kaloyeros and the other partners.

“If the disagreements and discussions were kept more private then this would not have been a story. It is my belief; any vestige of bad feelings does not exist. If it does exist, I would put it on the individual,” said Duffy.

Duffy said he’ll know more about who the other members of the Leadership Council are during the group’s first meeting in Albany next Tuesday.

In the meantime Morelle is hoping the Governor will clear up the confusion, and appoint a local expert to the seven-member governance board.

“Rob Clark is one of the leading experts on optics and Photonics in the world and he was the one who chaired this until yesterday. And his removal was troubling,” Morelle said.

Morelle is keenly aware the back and forth is bad for the future of the project and hopes all parties get on the same page soon.

“I think the last thing that we would want to see, I think the last thing the department of defense would like to see are the individual partners in this going off on their own, with their own agendas and that’s troubling to me and yet I think that’s what’s going to happen unless we can get SUNY Poly to act like a contributing member of a community instead of acting in their own interests,” Morelle added.

Erie County Executive Explains Investigation; AG’s Office Says Case Closed

It was story that around lunchtime appeared to have the potential to shake-up the race for Erie County Executive.  Just hours later, the Attorney General’s office seemed to mute the “alarm bells” Mark Poloncarz’s opponent was ringing.

The report, which was published online by City and State NY, detailed an AG investigation into the Erie County Department of Public Works.  Specifically, the report referenced wrongdoing by county employees, failing to competitively bid the first two phases of a reconstruction project.

“He has an obligation to come out and say what he knew, when he knew it and why he’s been keeping it a secret for the last four years,” said Poloncarz’s GOP Challenger Ray Walter.

Just minutes after Walter’s Tuesday afternoon press conference wrapped up Poloncarz called one of his own to, as Walter put it, “say what he knew.”

“I run a clean administration and people are out there trying to use this, especially since it’s election season to say Mark Poloncarz’s administration was involved in an investigation.  My administration uncovered the information and the evidence that pertains to potential improprieties,” Poloncarz said.

According to Poloncarz, the accusations date back to 2010 and 2011, under the administration of former County Executive Chris Collins.  After installing his own DPW Commissioner and Highway Department personnel, he said possible falsified claims for Consolidated Highway Improvement Program or C.H.I.P.S were brought to light.

The county, working with the State Department of Transportation, re-appropriated $2.5 million of questionable reimbursements to other projects.  Rather than go public Poloncarz decided to turn things over to the Attorney General.

“I didn’t want people to think that I was leading an investigation to basically kick dirt on the grave of Christopher Collins. I felt it was important that this matter be reviewed by an independent source,” Poloncarz said.

That source, the AG’s office, confirmed to Time Warner Cable News it did look into the matter.  A spokesperson released this statement:

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works. After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

Poloncarz told us to the best of his knowledge nobody who was under investigation still works for the county.  Poloncarz hopes speaking out will bring the matter to a close.

“I felt that the truth needed to get out and I didn’t want people to assume that my administration did something wrong because that’s not the case. We did nothing wrong.”

Walter still questions why a source told City and State that the target of the investigation was a “recently” terminated county worker. Following Poloncarz’s press conference a Walter spokesperson said “we look forward to further tough questions from the media.”

Former County Executive and current Congressman Chris Collins declined comment on the matter telling us it appeared everything had been cleared up.


Democratic presidential candidates are just hours away from squaring off for their first debate, with the top contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, finally bracing for their debut face-to-face showdown after months of circling each other from a distance.

Here’s more of what to expect from the debate at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas, and here’s some Democratic debate Bingo to keep you amused during the show.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries endorsed Clinton for president and said Sanders will never win the White House because he’s a self-described socialist.

Jeffries, a Brooklyn Democrat rumored to be considering a primary challenge to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017, also chastised his fellow Democrat today for his many forays out of the five boroughs.

GOP 2016 frontrunner Donald Trump will host “Saturday Night Live” on Nov. 7.

JCOPE plans to offer six months of amnesty starting Jan. 1 to “encourage lobbyists and clients of lobbyists” to file with the watchdog group.

Thanks to his “yes” vote on the Iran nuclear deal, Rep. Jerry Nadler could face a (rare, but likely survivable) primary challenge next year, making for a potentially messy race.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst has picked up the backing of Democratic Reps. Kathleen Rice and Carolyn Maloney, in her bid to challenge Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin in NY-1 next year.

Buffalo School Board Member Carl Paladino is recommending that the district tighten up its attendance policy, including going after parents for failing to ensure their children are in class.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to be the special guest at the Nassau County Democrats’ annual fall fundraiser on Oct. 20.

Sen. Dean Skelos is becoming an issue in the race for Nassau County DA, with the acting Democratic incumbent, Madeline Singas unveiling a new TV ad linking her GOP opponent Kate Murray to the indicted former majority leader.

AG Eric Schneiderman’s office has been investigating alleged bid rigging at the Erie County Department of Public Works since at least March. County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who is seeking re-election this fall, told City & State that the only investigation into the department that he is aware of stems from actions during 2010 and 2011, which predate his administration.

The state will replace North Country transmission lines to update connections between the New York and Vermont electrical grid, and also start a separate, years-long process to upgrade the infrastructure supporting the transmission lines that connect to a hydropower dam.

While SUNY Downstate Medical was cheering the earnings successes of graduates from its undergrad programs — it was named among the top in the county by the US Department of Education — PEF is waving a red flag, saying that the SUNY Board of Trustees has “decimated” the school’s clinical capabilities in recent years.

Ruth Messinger, a former NYC Councilwoman and onetime mayoral candidate who transformed the American Jewish World Service into a fundraising powerhouse and became one of the most vocal human-rights advocates on hot-button issues like the genocide in Sudan and gay rights in Uganda, will step down from the job this summer.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin is quoted by a television station that he is not expecting any layoffs at GlobalFoundries’ Essex Junction computer chip factory known as Fab 9. That comes as somewhat of a surprise.

Assemblyman José Rivera’s spokesman Mike Nieves said the longtime Bronx Democrat has no plans to retire and those spreading rumors about the Rivera family’s plans should call him directly instead of gossiping.

RIP WRGB CBS 6 News anchor Ed O’Brien.

Comptroller Restricts State Investment in Private Prisons

The office of State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has agreed to get out of the private, for-profit prison business. While the Comptroller’s office does not characterize the move as a “divestment,” to the common investor it looks an awful lot like precisely that.

Specifically, New York State’s Common Retirement fund has placed GEO Group on it’s restricted list for active management. GEO Group is the largest private corrections company in the world, according to it’s website. The Comptroller says they are directing  active managers to no longer purchase shares in the company. DiNapoli is also directing all actively managed shares of GEO Group to be sold by the end of the year. The holding is currently 43,220 shares worth about $1.5 Million.

All other shares of GEO Group, and Corrections Corp of America ( which does exactly what it’s name would suggest ) held by the Common Retirement Fund, which amount to about $10.6 Million, are in what is known as passive index funds. In other words, it’s not a direct investment by the State. Money managers are hired by New York to buy lots of different shares of lots of different companies and hold them together as part of a larger fund. Managers are given broad discretion to buy and sell as they so choose, and the State takes no role in those decisions.

To put things in perspective, the State’s retirement fund is worth roughly $184.5 Billion. It’s the third largest in the nation. So, divesting a a couple million bucks isn’t necessarily going to make or break performance. But by taking money out of for-profit prisons, the State is sending a strong, symbolic message. New York State wants no part of private prisons, which have had all sorts of problems with abuse, and other issues.

The move comes after comedian, activist and perennial candidate for public office Randy Credico launched a group with the help of Effective NY’s Bill Samuels called “End the Prison Industrial Complex Now,” or “EPIC.” Randy ( who’s father served time in prison ), has also been dressing up in fake prison garb and holding protests outside the offices of State leaders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo. Joe Percoco from the Governor’s office apparently handed Credico a fancy cigar the last time he was perched outside the Third Avenue office, while also chastising Randy for failing to garner any press attention. In a statement, Credico said,

It’s a significant and welcome development. The implications are profound, and I am extremely encouraged by the Comtroller’s actions. However, I am not suprised. Mr. Dinapoli is an extremely ethical public official. And this is the stuff that makes statesman. This action serves notice to the practice of human beings exploited for profit’s days are numbered. We have our work cut out still, but this removes a huge load. Indeed, one giant step for humankind.

DiNapoli was unavailable for comment, but his Spokesman Matthew Sweeney said,

After a review, Comptroller DiNapoli and the Common Retirement Fund are taking steps to reduce and restrict the Fund’s investment in these companies.

Former Cuomo, Assembly Aides On NYC Bar’s Constitutional Convention Panel

The New York City Bar Association’s task force on the state constitutional convention includes two former top aides to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a former adivsor to two Assembly speakers.

The panel is set to include former Cuomo administration counsel Mylan Denerstein, along with Jeremy Creelan, a former special counsel to the governor on ethics issues.

Denerstein now serves as a partner at Gibson Dunn, while Creelan is a partner at Jenner & Block.

The task force also includes former Assembly counsel Jim Yates, a former judge who was a top advisor to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his successor, Carl Heastie. Yates retired earlier this year.

The task force is being formed as voters will consider a referendum, automatically due to be on the ballot in 2017, to form a constitutional convention.

“What makes this so interesting is that while the Constitution hasn’t changed much in the past 20 years, so much else has,” said Bar Association President Debra Raskin. “We’ve had the Internet, a wave of ethical scandals, an unprecedented flow of money into politics, 9/11 and the war on terror, an additional one million people calling New York City home, and climate change. It is a great opportunity to weigh in and to help educate the public and I am so grateful to the members of the Task Force for taking on such a complex issue.”

Stewart-Cousins Teases Skoufis Senate Run

ascDemocratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Saturday teased the possible state Senate run of Assemblyman James Skoufis this past weekend while speaking with the Orange County Democratic Committee.

Stewart-Cousins was in Orange County to give the keynote address at the committee’s annual gala, an appearance that comes as Democrats have stepped up their criticism of Republican Sen. Bill Larkin, whose seat they consider to be a potential pickup opportunity next year.

“This is my foray up here because of my good friends, but also because of the promise of the future,” she said in her remarks. “I believe that the day where we have Democratic senators from Orange County is fast approaching.”

Stewart-Cousins then turned and nodded at Skoufis, who was sitting about a foot away in the front: “So, it’s good to be here, James. So nice to see you.”

The Hudson Valley district is due to be one of several battleground districts next year as Senate Republicans hold on to a narrow majority in the chamber.

Larkin plans to run for re-election, and the Senate GOP’s political arm has called the effort to oust him “odd and misguided.”

Watch Steve Run

The re-election campaign of Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone released a new TV ad showing the incumbent running — literally.

The 30-second commercial depicts Bellone jogging while he narrates his accomplishments.

“When you start running, it’s about a goal. One mile, then two, getting results everyday,” he says in the ad.

Bellone takes credit for balancing the county budget and closing a deficit as well.

“It’s how I’ve held the line on taxes and cut my own pay,” Bellone says. “Now I’m investing in our future, creating high paying jobs cleaning up our water.”

Bellone first won the county post in 2011, winning what has once a traditionally Republican area of the state and replacing Democrat-turned-Republican gubernatorial hopeful Steve Levy.

When Legislative Leaders Collide

From the Morning Memo:

Imagine our surprise yesterday when separate press releases indicated that Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who haven’t made a public appearance together since the legislative session ended in June, would be visiting a prominent Hudson Valley tourist spot at exactly the same time this afternoon.

First Sen. Sue Serino announced that she and local leaders would be leading Flanagan on a 3 p.m. tour of the Walkway Over the Hudson – a former rail bridge-turned-park that spans the Hudson River, connecting the city of Poughkeepsie and the hamlet of Highland (in the town of Lloyd).

“For the past couple of years, our area has been passed over as the state sent billions of dollars to New York City and Western New York,” Serino said in a press release. “Our area has the potential to be a significant economic engine for the state, but we need partners at every level to make that vision a reality.”

“Senator Flanagan has made a real effort to travel our state and understand the issues affecting individuals and families across the board,” the freshman Republican lawmaker continued. “And it’s especially important that he gets an accurate picture of all that we have to offer, as well as our unique challenges. His visit signifies his willingness to make our area a priority, and I look forward to welcoming him.”

Joining Serino’s release was an announcement from the Assembly press office that Heastie would be continuing his summer-into-fall upstate blitz with several stops in the Hudson Valley – including a 3 p.m. tour of the Walkway Over the Hudson with Assemblyman Frank Skartados. More >

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at the funeral for Department of Correction Assistant Deputy Warden Rodney Bowdenn, Central Baptist Church, 166 West 92nd St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie joins Assemblywoman Didi Barrett on a visit to the Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood
6 S. 2nd St., Hudson.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Carolyn Maloney, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, state Sens. Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, gun violence prevention advocates and others hold a community forum after two recent college shootings, 47-49 65th St., Manhattan.

At 10:50 a.m., Heastie tours the Hudson Opera House, 327 Warren St., Hudson.

At 11 a.m., de Blasio speaks at a dedication ceremony for the Battery Park Police Memorial, Liberty Street and South End Avenue, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Rep. Dan Donovan joins retired firefighter Robert Serra and his family at their home to discuss Serra’s 9/11 experience and why Congress should permanently extend the Zadroga Act, 113 Midland Rd., Staten Island.

At 11:35 a.m., Heastie has lunch at the West Taghkanic Diner, 1016 NY-82, Ancram.

At noon, Reps. Gregory Meeks, Yvette Clarke and Hakeem Jeffries hold a press conference to endorse a candidate in the race to secure the Democratic nomination for president, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at noon, Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and nuclear expert Paul Blanch deliver over 30,000 petitions calling on the governor to halt construction of the Spectra Energy Algonquin Incremental Market high-pressure gas pipeline next to the Indian Point nuclear facility, Legislative Office Building, Room 130, Albany.

At 1 p.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. announce job training for victims of domestic violence, Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse, the Bronx.

At 12:50 p.m., Heastie tours the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, Harlem Valley Rail Association, 1 John St., Millerton.

At 1:30 p.m., Heastie vists the Taconic Developmental Disabilities Service Office site/Wassaic Project, 4277 NY-22, Amenia.

At 3 p.m., Sen. Sue Serino and local officials will lead Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on a tour of the Walkway Over the Hudson to highlight importance of tourism and local economic development, meeting on the Poughkeepsie side of the bridge to take the elevator up.

Also at 3 p.m., Heastie tours the Walkway over the Hudson with Assemblyman Frank Skartados, Waryas Park Promenade, Poughkeepsie.

At 3:30 p.m., de Blasio holds a public hearing on and signs Intros 903 and 730, and also holds a public hearing on Intros 917-A, 885, and 897, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 4 p.m., LG Kathy Hochul and members of the delegation she’s leading to Puerto Rico hold a press conference with the Puerto Rican delegation, Caribe Hilton, 1 San Geronimo St., Room C, San Juan.

At 6 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman will co-host a forum with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to educate homeowners about deed theft and scammers in the housing market, Brooklyn Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

At 6:30 p.m., de Blasio and NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray attend and deliver remarks at the at UpStander Awards, Harlem Hospital – Mural Pavilion, 512 Lenox Ave., Manhattan.

At 8:30 p.m., the first Democratic presidential debate will take place at the Wynn Las Vegas casino hotel, and will be broadcast on CNN. At least five candidates – former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee – will participate.


Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton stopped at a union rally outside Donald Trump’s hotel on the Las VegasStrip, taunting the Republican front-runner on the eve of the first Democratic presidential debate.

“You know, some people think Mr. Trump is entertaining,” Clinton said. “But I don’t think it’s entertaining when somebody insults immigrants, insults women. That is just unacceptable behavior.”

With separate news conferences at the same Manhattan event -the Columbus Day Parade – Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday promoted a deal struck over the weekend on funding for MTA infrastructure projects.

Aside from the obvious one of how the state would come up with the $8.3 billion it’s willing to commit to the MTA plan, there’s another matter as old as the state budget process itself: What about upstate?

The Cuomo administration is considering borrowing to cover at least some of the $8.3 billion state commitment the governor has made to the cash-strapped authority, as well as to provide money to upstate roads and bridges.

The NYS hails the MTA deal, and hopes the mayor and the governor manage to “continue working together to modernize this system and make it work for millions of New Yorkers.”

The money will mostly be spent on long-overdue repairs and upgrades, transit experts said, leaving the nation’s largest city lagging behind modern systems around the world.

Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a potential challenger de Blasio in 2017, is endorsing Clinton for president today as the mayor continues to say he’s not ready to back the former New York senator.

Fifty-seven Long Island educators ranked among the 100 highest-paid employees in the state’s public schools and colleges during the 2014-15 academic year, according to the latest compensation figures from the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System.

Charter school advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools is attacking de Blasio in a television ad for the second time in just a few weeks, this time by targeting his K-12 education agenda.

De Blasio said the prosecution of an indicted Long Island restaurateur and prominent benefactor to the Democrat’s campaign is “as it should be.”

Republican challenger Raymond Walter isn’t tipping his hand about tomorrow’s debate against Democratic County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. But it’s almost a given among political experts that an underdog like Walter needs to do something, anything, to gain the attention of a voting public that so far seems not even mildly interested.

More >


RIP former NYC Council Minority Leader, mayoral candidate and LG contender Tom Ognibene, a Queens Republican.

Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton says women are “held to a totally different standard” in politics — and that it’s been that way since she first ran for office.

During the same interview (with BuzzFeed podcast Another Round), Clinton joked that she’s a robot “constructed in a garage in Palo Alto a very long time ago,” which, apparently, explains why she doesn’t sweat.

Republican 2016 candidate Donald Trump says this week’s Democratic presidential primary debate will be cause viewers to “fall asleep” – mostly because he’s not in it.

Former LG Bob Duffy will lead a five-member panel that will oversee the establishment of the major photonics center in Rochester.

NYC Mayor de Blasio defended his administration’s four-month-old law curtailing hotel conversions into residential space amid a legal battle with the powerful Real Estate Board of New York. “We obviously think the bill was appropriate,” the mayor said.

The Greater New York Hospital Association, along with two New York lawmakers, want the federal government to deliver on its promise to reimburse the state’s hospitals for their Ebola preparedness.

Lamar Advertising, a major national billboard company, is courting some controversy with a “Blue Lives Matter” ad campaign aimed at supporting police.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer declared himself an honorary Italian at today’s Columbus Day Parade in NYC.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and de Blasio didn’t march together in the parade. “You know, I normally march, uh, alone,” the governor explained.

New York City will receive 1,000 new subway cars and 1,400 buses as a result of a $26.1 billion infusion of capital into the MTA over the next five years, which is good news for some upstate businesses.

Coca-Cola CEO made former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg “uncomfortable,” causing him to walke out on meeting with Napster’s Sean Parker over e-cigarettes, ex-NYC Health Commissioner Tom Farley writes in a new book.

The Village Voice has been sold to a company controlled by investor Peter D. Barbey of the Reading Eagle Company.

Sen. Diane Savino is sticking with her longtime political consulting firm after The Advance Group was hit with fines last week for helping an anti-horse carriage group avoid contribution limits in supporting City Council candidates in 2013

GlobalFoundries, which employs 3,500 workers at the Fab 8 computer chip factory in Malta, is laying off a “limited” number of workers at its US sites – including the Fab 8 computer chip factory in Malta.

Central New York’s pitch for $500 million in state economic aid contains few details about development projects said to have the potential to create or retain more than 2,000 jobs.