A state oversight board this week is set to green-light a $486 million payment to the SUNY Polytechnic real estate subsidiary that is at the heart of the federal probe into Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion initiative.
The funding is slated for the Fort Schuyler Management Corporation, the nonprofit “public benefit corporation” established by SUNY Poly to finance and oversee the construction of the $750 million SolarCity manufacturing facility in Buffalo.
The three-member Public Authorities Control Board, consisting of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget director and representatives of the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader, has final sign-off on the payment. The board meets Wednesday to consider a total of $559 million in grant and loan requests by Empire State Development Corp., the state’s economic development arm. Unanimous approval is required for the funds to be released.
The governor’s office itself has acknowledged that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating possible improper lobbying and conflicts of interest related to the Buffalo Billion and related economic development projects. As E.J. McMahon explains in City Journal:
Quite apart from whether Bharara uncovers any criminal wrongdoing, the Buffalo Billion project is highly questionable both as a matter of public policy and as a business proposition.
Another project on the PACB agenda Wednesday is ESD’s request to direct $22 million to the Empire Outlets, a retail project on Staten Island’s north shore that’s already received $25 million from state taxpayers through the capital pork slush fund formally known as the State and Municipal Facilities Program (SMFP). The board will also vote on allowing $210 million in backdoor borrowing by the Dormitory Authority for that same program.