Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Buffalo developer named to head ESDC; Brooklynite Kenneth Adams moving to Department of Taxation & Finance

A Buffalo developer is replacing a Brooklyn business administrator as head of Empire State Development, the state agency overseeing/shepherding Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park. This likely has nothing to do with the project but rather Governor Andrew Cuomo's desire to build ties to and influence in Buffalo and other upstate cities.

That implies less attention to Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, given that Howard Zemsky lives in Bufflao and, unlike Kenneth Adams (who's moving to another state post), cannot easily attend public meetings/hearings in Brooklyn.

It also means that the new ESDC leader starts from scratch on the project, and thus is likely led by staff and/or the developer.

Adams hardly did anything to frustrate the developer, as far as I can tell. For residents concerned about the project, he was, at least, unfailingly courteous and willing to listen, and even to express dismay over the crane narrowing Atlantic Avenue.

The announcement

From a gubernatorial press release yesterday, Governor Cuomo Announces Administration Appointments:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a second wave of appointments to his administration. Fifteen individuals will be joining the administration, adding to the 18 appointments announced yesterday, to help advance the Governor’s bold second term agenda.
...The Governor will nominate the following six individuals for appointments requiring Senate confirmation:

Howard Zemsky to serve as President and CEO of Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) and Commissioner of Economic Development. Mr. Zemsky has co-chaired the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council during the past four years and has worked closely on the Governor’s Buffalo Billion initiative. His company, Larkin Development Group, is redeveloping the historic Larkin District in Buffalo. Zemsky has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and an M.B.A from the University of Rochester.
Kenneth Adams to serve as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Mr. Adams previously served as President, CEO & Commissioner of Empire State Development since 2011 and was President & CEO of The Business Council of New York State, from 2006 to 2011. Prior to leading the Business Council, he was President of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and was the founding Executive Director of New York Cares.
A dollar a year

The Buffalo News reported:
Howard A. Zemsky, a prominent Buffalo developer, has spent the last four years advancing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Western New York economic-development policies.
...The job of economic-development commissioner involves advocating for Cuomo’s job-creation policies, wooing companies to locate and remain in New York and advising the administration on new policies – from taxation to land use – that might serve as a catalyst for economic development in a diverse state with urban, suburban and rural areas.
Zemsky has been the co-chairman of the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, one of 10 across the state created by Cuomo in 2011 and given the responsibility of devising long-term job-creation plans to tap into different attributes of an area. The councils also compete for state funding each year for specific projects. Zemsky said he will have to step down from that post to take his new job.
Zemsky said he will take a $1-a-year salary from the state for the full-time job and will not step away from his development company or move from the Buffalo area. “I’ve got partners, family members in the business. I often say there are 168 hours in the week,” he said “… I’m not giving up my ownership or interest or involvement in advancing the Larkin District,” he said in an interview Monday.
...He said the $1 salary for the new state job was his idea. “It wasn’t anything (Cuomo) asked for, but it’s the way I’m most comfortable with approaching the community aspect of this job,” he said.
That dollar-a-year salary cuts both ways. With Richard Ravitch, as I wrote, it was seen a statesmanship, but with Dan Doctoroff, it was a disconnect.

The Buffalow News reported that Zemsky, a Democrat, and his wife, Leslie have given nearly $340,000 to in political contributions in about four years, including $87,000 to Cuomo.

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