Upstate NY

Cuomo Touts Upstate Airport Renovation Plans

New York State is doling out $80 million dollars for major renovations at two Upstate airports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, visited Elmira and Rochester Wednesday to make the announcements.

Cuomo said there were 16 total applicants for the state funding as part of the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization competition, held in May.

“Airports today are different than they were ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. They’re destinations in and of themselves. The economy is a global economy and the airports in a global economy serve a different purpose,” Cuomo told reporters in Rochester

The Rochester International Airport will receive $40 million from the state and fund $23 million in renovations locally. Its plans include a wide-scale redesign of the terminal, incorporating sustainable elements like solar panels, and new retail dining options.

“The plans were very good from the beginning. Of course we worked with the community over the course of a couple months on some of the nuances of the plans but frankly their plan really jumped out at us,” NYS Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll said.

Elmira, meanwhile, will fund another $18 million dollars locally. Its plans, while similar to Rochester’s, include increasing capacity to handle larger aircrafts, adding a second baggage claim and additional parking spaces.

“This is about business, economic development, and having that front door that welcomes business and says this is a region that is growing,” Cuomo said.


Fed: Upstate NY Continues To Struggle

New York’s economy added 36,200 jobs in July keeping the state’s unemployment rate flat at 4.7 percent, just below the national average, according to the Department of Labor.

“This represents the state’s largest monthly private sector job gain since September 2013,” the state Labor Department said in a statement. “Since the beginning of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration, New York State’s economy has added 857,600 private sector jobs and experienced employment growth in 58 of the past 67 months.”

But it’s not all good news when considering the strength of parts of the upstate economy, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Reserve bank president and CEO William Dudley on Thursday gave a less rosy assessment of the economy in areas like Binghamton, Utica and central New York.

Dudley in a speech assessing the regional economy said economic growth “has generally been modest” outside of New York City, with much of the job increases running well below the rest of the nation.

He did note the Buffalo and Capital Region area economies have seen gains.

“However, not all parts of upstate New York are seeing the same degree of economic progress,” he said. “There has been little to no growth in the center of the state, and Utica and Binghamton continue to see employment declines. Binghamton stands out as being particularly challenged, as its economy has yet to see any meaningful recovery from the Great Recession. Steep manufacturing job losses have weighed heavily on the area, though these losses appear to be nearing an end.”

Dudley did single out the role played by the state university in Binghamton, which has boosted the region’s economy.

“And, like many places dealing with steep manufacturing job losses, there is a large swath of displaced workers that need assistance returning to the labor market. This has proved challenging and remains a priority,” he said.

The numbers drawn out by the Empire Center tell a similar story for swaths of upstate New York:

“The largest percentage increases were in the small volatile metro areas of Ithaca, which is heavily dependent on college and university jobs; Watertown-Ft. Drum, whose economy is dominated by the ripple effects of military postings and spending; and Kingston, where healthcare, banking and tourism are large employers,” E.J. McMahon wrote on the center’s Torch blog.

The state government has sought to invest heavily in economic development efforts over the last several years, with hundreds of millions of dollars being injected into western New York especially. At the same time, a program designed to offer a decade of tax-free operations for companies that come to New York and grow jobs has been questioned for the slow pace of job creation.

Former Prison Guard Linked to North Country Prison Break Released

From our colleagues in the North Country:

The former prison guard who admitted to helping two convicted killers escape from Clinton Correctional Facility has been released from jail.

Gene Palmer was released from Clinton County Jail on good behavior after serving four months of a six month sentence.

Palmer admitted to providing David Sweat and Richard Matt with hamburger meat that unknowingly had a hacksaw blade in it.

He also gave them a screw driver and pliers, all tools they’d use to escape, eventually leading authorities on a three week manhunt.

DEC: Taconic Plastics To Blame For PFOA Contamination

Taconic Plastics has been designated a state superfund site after it was determined to be the source of a PFOA contamination of drinking water in the town of Petersburgh, the Department of Environmental Conservation on Thursday announced.

“Protecting public health and the environment remains the number one priority in Petersburgh, and the state and our local partners have moved swiftly to bring clean, safe drinking water to all residents of the town as quickly as possible,” DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “As our investigation continues and we learn more about the extent of the contamination, we will take aggressive actions to hold the responsible party accountable for all costs associated with full remediation of all impacted areas.”

The designation of the superfund site gives state the power to determine the full extent of the chemical contamination in order to begin a cleanup process.

The DEC announced the state will pursue “all available legal remedies” against the company to recover costs incurred by the cleanup.

Taconic Plastics has already been called on by state officials to install a treatment system on the town’s water supply. The company has retained O’Brien and Gere to design a carbon treatment system for thw town’s water treatment facility in order to have it in place for long-term use.

Construction of the new system is underway and is due to be operational by August.

The superfund designation comes several months after the Saint-Gobain plant in another Rensselaer County community, the village of Hoosick Falls, was given a similar status after a PFOA contamination was found in the village’s drinking water.

A water filtration system has been installed in Hoosick Falls and the state is seeking a long-term alternative water source.

Young Says She’s Not Worried About Funding For Athenex

Western New York legislators appear to have moved past late payment issues with Buffalo’s RiverBend project. The state made good on more than $80 million dollars it owed last week.

“The governor is in charge of getting the money out the door from the Division of Budget and I think there was just a small glitch there and I don’t think that’s the norm. That was just the exception,” State Senator Cathy Young, R-Olean, said.

According to the state, the project will move forward without any delays. Officials have repeatedly pointed to the size and scope of the project as part of the reason it fell behind.

The state is investing $750 million dollars into RiverBend. Last month the Governor announced another major Upstate project, the Athenex factory in Chautauqua County.

When asked by a reporter if the RiverBend snafu gives her any reason to worry about the state’s investment in her district, Young said no.

“There is that $200 million line item in the budget and part of my job is to make sure that’s in the final budget and I will be working very hard to make sure that that happens,” Young said.

As Senate Finance Chair, Young should be instrumental in making sure it is part of the final budget.

“The Senate is very supportive and I think at the end of the day the Assembly will be too but, you know, we just want to make sure it’s in the signed document at the end of the day,” she said.

The governor said he would not support a budget unless it included the Athenex project.

Petersburgh To Receive Water Filtration System

The town of Petersburgh in Rensselaer County will receive a carbon water filtration system as the community grapples with the chemical PFOA in its drinking water.

The Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health on Tuesday announced the filtration system will be installed by Taconic Plastics, the company deemed to be responsbile for the chemical seeping into the drinking water in Petersburgh.

The announcement for Petersburgh comes as state officials seek to address drinking water concerns in nearby Hoosick Falls as well.

“Through the Governor’s leadership, we have secured this commitment from Taconic plastics to install a carbon filtration system that would provide clean drinking water to residents in Petersburgh,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “DEC, DOH and the County will continue to work quickly to conduct further tests to determine the extent of contamination in the Town, and develop necessary actions to address the contamination.”

Last month, PFOA levels were found to be above guidance levels as determined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In addition to the water filtration installation, the DOH and DEC, along with country officials, will continue to conduct tests to determine the extent of the contamination in the town.

“We are working aggressively to resolve this issue and ensure a long-term solution for the residents of Petersburgh,” said Health Commissioner Howard Zucker. “DOH, DEC and the County will continue to test water samples and provide residents with the most up-to-date information, as we move towards a carbon filtration system for the Town’s water supply.”

Ex-Katko Aide Accused Of Holding Two Jobs With Syracuse, DFS

A now-former aide for Rep. John Katko is facing a third-degree grand larceny charge after he was accused of working for both the city and state at the same time.

Tom Connellan left his job as a sergeant with the Syracuse Police Department in 2015 to work for Katko, a Republican from central New York. Connellan left Katko’s office last month.

Connellan was allegedly paid for working for the Department of Financial Services while he was also paid for his job as a Syracuse police officer.

From 2011 through 2014, Connellan was allegedly doubling dipping and submitting false records to the state. The Onondaga County district attorney’s office alleges the theft amounts to $3,000 from both the city and state DFS, which regulates insurance and banking in New York.

The six-month investigation was handled by the DA’s office, as well as the state inspector general.

PSC: ‘Rescue Plan’ Ready For FitzPatrick

State utility regulators on Tuesday announced a proposed rescue plan to refuel the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County, which is due to be shuttered by its ownership in January.

“The plan would enable expedited financial support to FitzPatrick and other qualified nuclear power plants in Upstate New York,” said Public Service Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman. “Until then, we invite Entergy to work with us to make the plans necessary to refuel FitzPatrick and to support the statewide objectives of New York’s new Clean Energy Standard.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration and state officials have said they are pushing to keep the facility open, which employs about 500 people.

But Entergy Corp., which also owns the Indian Point nuclear facility in Westchester County, has said the FitzPatrick plant is no longer economically viable in today’s energy market.

As part of the proposal from the PSC, the state backing the creation of an energy credit that would place a monetary value on zero-emission power that is produced at FitzPatrick and other qualified plants.

At the same time, the PSC is pushing for the development of a faster response to financial problems facing nuclear facilities in New York.

If approved, the new credits would take effect by March 31, 2017.

Entergy Plans To Shutter FitzPatrick Next January

Entergy Corp. on Thursday announced it plans to shut down the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant on Jan. 27, 2017, a move that is expected to result in the loss of about 500 jobs for the central New York region.

The company had previously announced it would close the facility, which requires notification and review by state and federal regulators.

Today’s announcement of the shut-down date was made in an Entergy earnings report.

In closing FitzPatrick, Entergy has said the facility is no longer viable given the changes in the energy market across the country.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state officials are pushing back against the planned closure of the facility.

Cuomo has been locked in a separate dispute with Entergy over the relicensing of Indian Point, a nuclear power plant in Westchester County. Cuomo has long been a critic of the plant, given its proximity to New York City and a densely populated area.

Rochester College Students Push For Ridesharing

The Rochester Intercollegiate Council is releasing on Friday a letter to state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that urges them to expand ridesharing to upstate cities.

The organization comprises nine colleges and universities around the Rochester area, including Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, and SUNY Geneso among them.

In the letter, the students write that bringing ridehsaring options would not only help them get to class, but also reduce drink-driving incidents.

“A ridesharing study conducted by Temple University found a 3.6-5.6% decrease in drunk-driving incidents within nine to fifteen months of introducing transportation network companies in various US cities,” RICC said in the letter. “Car-sharing services provide cheap and easy alternatives to get home, which could help decrease Monroe County’s DWI conviction percentage – one of the highest rates among the large counties in New York State.”

The ridesharing push is being backed by companies like Uber and Lyft that want to expand into the upstate markets.

Ridesharing is currently allowed in New York City, but there’s no statewide regulatory framework in place for overseeing the relatively new business model in New York.

Cuomo has spoken favorably of having the state regulate ridesharing, which could potentially supersede the city’s oversight.

“The Internet has transformed the way people get around and interact, but New York’s outdated laws are struggling to keep up. Antiquated regulations that restrict Internet-enabled competition stifle innovation and new economic activity in our communities,” said Noah Theran, Vice President of Public Affairs & Communications at the Internet Association. “New York’s lawmakers have an opportunity now to listen to their constituents, who demand access to ridesharing as a transportation option.”

Dear Governor Cuomo and the Members of the New York State Legislature.pdf by Nick Reisman