One of the projects stymieing New York state’s $200 billion budget, which was due Thursday, is a $1.3 billion bond request by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to transform a part of midtown Manhattan, the New York Daily News reported this week.
As part of Cuomo’s post-COVID-19 rebuilding plan, he called for spending $51 billion to redevelop an area near Penn Station that would, among other things, replace the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The Daily News reported Wednesday that Cuomo wanted the bonding “to help build 10 massive” towers in city block south of Penn Station.
A source told the Daily News it’s a “sweetheart deal” for developers who have funded the governor’s political campaigns. One of the landowners in the area is Stephen Roth, chairman of Vornado Reality. Over the last 16 years, Roth and his wife have given more than $400,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns. That includes $130,000 just three years ago.
Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the paper the governor’s actions have not been influenced by any contributor.
The report is the latest story or allegation hounding a governor under investigation for both his nursing home policies during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic as well as multiple sexual harassment complaints. There have also been reports that the governor’s office gave preferential treatment to family members and others, allowing them to get special access to COVID-19 testing at the onset of the pandemic as it was spreading rapidly across New York City.
At the time of the governor’s announcement, state Sen. Brad Hoylman said the plan would “re-energize” the district.
“For decades, Penn Station has been a vexing issue for my district and for the entire region,” he said in a release issued by the governor’s office. “I look forward to working with the community and local stakeholders to bring the vision of the Empire Station Complex to life and continuing Penn Station’s transformation and track expansion.”
On Wednesday, though, he has a different tune for the Daily News, saying the plan doesn’t allow for any local input.
“From a wider perspective, one has to ask why the state is looking to get into speculative real estate development, especially at this juncture,” he said. “We want to fight for genuine community engagement before this project gets baked.”