Upstate NY

Lawmakers Say They Raised Red Flag Over Utica Nano Project

State lawmakers from the Utica area had been trying to warn Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration of problems with an anchor tenet for a major economic development project backed by the state in the area.

Amid a series of delays and funding problems, the Austrian-based firm pulled out of the project.

Lawmakers from the area say they had sought unsuccessfully to raise red flags with the project since the 2016 budget season.

“Our beef has been for the last year we’ve been trying to direct the governor’s attention and his staff on this project because there were problems as far back as the beginning of the budget season last year,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi in a Capital Tonight interview. “We met in March with the governor’s staff alerting him of problems with this project. There were breach letters sent by the company that were given to the governor’s people over the summertime.”

Watch the full interview here.

The Austrian-based AMS pulled out as an anchor tenet for the SUNY nano project in November, which had been part of an effort to replicate the success of the Albany-based SUNY Polytechnic. At the time, state officials cast blame on the corruption arrest of ex-SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros, along with a former aide to Cuomo and prominent upstate developers accused of rigging bids.

Brindisi said he mentioned the issues again with the governor personally when he appeared at the State Fair outside of Syracuse during the summer.

“He said he would look into this and get back to us next week, which he did not,” he said. “He had some staff get back to us. But by then, things were already veering off the track.”

Report: New York Loses More Residents

The state’s population declined for the first time in a decade, losing 191,367 people to other states in the year ending last July 1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent population estimates.

Or, put another way by the Empire Center: New York’s net migration loss is equivalent to nearly the entire population of the city of Yonkers. And it’s the largest drop for New York since 2007.

From EJ McMahon at the Empire Center:

It brings New York’s total outflow over the last six years to 846,669 people—more than any other state’s, both in absolute terms and as a share of population as measured by the 2010 census.

As of July 1, New York’s estimated population of 19,745,289 was down 1,894 people from a year earlier. While the decrease was slight—just 0.01 percent—2015-16 marks the first year since 2005-06 in which New York State’s estimated population dropped by any amount.

This likely means New York will lose at least one seat in the House of Representatives in the next round of re-apportionment, where the state currently has 27 members.

Biz Council Praises Schuyler County Officials’ Backing Of Propane Storage Plan

A controversial propane storage plan has received the thumbs up from the Schuyler County Council of Governments — a move that’s being cheered by the state Business Council on Tuesday.

The Crestwood storage project on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region has been bitterly opposed by environmental groups and some residents who say it could have adverse impact on the water.

But officials at the multigovernment body backed the plan as a vehicle for job creation and urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to back the approval.

“The Business Council commends the Schuyler County Council of Governments for unanimously passing a resolution that supports Crestwood’s proposed propane storage facility in Reading,” said Darren Suarez, the Business Council’s director of government relations. “Crestwood’s plan will not only create local jobs and boost community tax revenue; the new facility will serve as a strategic propane reserve providing reliable and affordable heating fuel for New York homes and businesses.”

The hope from supporters of the storage plan is that this will spur other local governments to back the measure. The council is composed of local municipalities.

That local pressure, in turn, could put pressure on the state government’s environmental regulators.

“Now it’s time for the state to do its work and approve Crestwood’s storage project without any further delay,” Suarez said. “Propane has been stored in the Finger Lakes for more than 60 years, including at U.S. Salt for two decades. Furthermore, this summer Crestwood took it upon itself to amend its plan in order to address the concerns of local residents. The fact remains that the community needs reliable and affordable supplies of heating fuel and they’ve been forced to wait nine years for this project. We are hopeful the county’s resolution will encourage the state to move forward and approve Crestwood’s storage facility.”

Cuomo Says Voters Need To Push Lawmakers For Ride-Hailing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, is on the record in support of ride-hailing services for upstate New York, but he made clear Tuesday that companies like Uber and Lyft need more than just his endorsement.

“It’s going to take the people of Upstate New York to call up their legislator and say, ‘Hello, Do you want me to vote for you? Then get me Uber in Upstate New York,” he said.

Cuomo said if people upstate want the service, they should tell their legislators not to come back from Albany until legislation is passed. As for the pressure he could put on lawmakers, the governor said it only goes so far.

“I’ll do my part in January, but my part only works when I have the people behind me. I can call an Upstate legislator and say I think you should do this. that’s nice, but when voters call, when constituents call, that’s what political power’s all about,” he said.

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.”