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Times: ESDC hiring significantly based on ties to Cuomo (what else is new)

The Empire State Development Corporation is the purportedly independent agency--or, to be technical, authority or entity--overseeing Atlantic Yards. It's well-known that the ESDC is under the control of the governor, which is why opponents and critics of Atlantic Yards have called for a less dependent entity--along the lines of the Battery Park City Authority--to oversee Atlantic Yards and allow for public input.

A front-page New York Times article, headlined Many Openings at State Agency Go to Those With Ties to Cuomo, raises further qualms about the independence and quality of the agency.

Note that agency hiring based on political ties is hardly novel; notably, the official overseeing Atlantic Yards, Arana Hankin, was appointed by previous Gov. David Paterson in 2010 to a new, unadvertised position.

Or, if we go back a few governors, let's remember that a 2007 consultant's study called for reform of ESDC's parent organization, blaming agency failures on "political patronage," "political convenience," and the "practice of favoring political over economic criteria."

So should we really have expected Gov. Andrew Cuomo to act differently?

The Times's investigation

Today's article begins:
ALBANY — New York State’s economic development agency created a new position last June, and then found a candidate to fill it: a young man named Willard Younger, who had just graduated from Colgate University with a degree in classics and religion. He became a special projects associate, at a salary of $45,000 a year, according to state personnel records.
His father, Stephen P. Younger, is a lawyer and power broker in legal circles who was a member of one of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s transition teams. He has also donated $26,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s campaigns over the years, disclosure records show.
The next month, the agency hired 23-year-old Andrew Moelis, a University of Pennsylvania graduate, for another new position, strategic planning associate, at a salary of $75,000 a year.
Shortly before Mr. Moelis’s first day of work, his father, Ron Moelis, a prominent real estate developer, gave $25,000 to Mr. Cuomo’s re-election campaign, according to the records.
Since taking office in 2011, Mr. Cuomo has repeatedly pledged to bring a new approach to Albany, where politicians of both major parties have long rewarded supporters with jobs that are not open to the general public.
But an investigation by The New York Times into hiring by the agency, the Empire State Development Corporation, shows how Mr. Cuomo’s administration has engaged in some of the same patronage practices that have often prevailed here.
... While some of the new employees at Empire State had experience in economic development, others did not. Some of the jobs were not open to competition, and were filled with little input from the agency itself.
Empire State has also hired friends of Mr. Cuomo who may help form his political brain trust should he decide to run for president in 2016.
James P. Rubin, a former State Department spokesman, was hired at the agency in 2011 as counselor on competitiveness and international affairs, with a salary of $150,000 a year. Mr. Rubin’s appointment was seen by political consultants as a move by Mr. Cuomo to add a foreign policy hand to his stable.
Empire State hired 49 people in the first 20 months of the Cuomo administration, according to personnel records obtained by The Times. Nearly a third were the governor’s political associates, donors and friends, or their relatives, the records and interviews show.
At least seven of the new hires with connections were placed in newly created positions.
As the Times explains, ESDC has only 300 employees, but can be used for patronage because it's outside the executive branch. Kenneth Adams, who heads the agency, wouldn't comment.

It's well-known that hiring in state government has to go through Cuomo's office. That's likely why it took so long for the ESDC to hire Derek Lynch last September as Government and Community Affairs Manager, filling the position long left open by the June 2011 departure of Forrest Taylor, once billed as an ombudsman.

There's no evidence that Lynch was a political hire along the lines of those named in the article, but the push for political hires likely slowed the effort to fill that position.

Some comments from the Times web site
DJS New York
The fact that Empire State's job openings were "advertised" hardly disproves the allegations of patronage.My cousin ,who works for New York State, has told me that jobs are routinely posted after they have already been filled by "insiders" in order to protect against just such allegations.
What are the statistical odds, ,that nearly ONE-THIRD of 49 new hires, purely by CHANCE,happened to be"political associates, donors, friends, or relatives" ?!!

att A Manhattan
Should we all be aghast that a politician makes political appointments to friends and cronies? Perhaps the Times can find a single example of a politician who does not. That would be a newsworthy story! There is only one way to have fewer political appointees and that is to have less government. Don't hold your breath in New York State.

Waldwick, NJ
Not remotely close to being a scandal. And actually, not even any story hear. Headline says "many openings" then identifies 16 or fewer positions out of 49 new hires over a two year period. I would have expected much higher numbers if NY was to be consistent with the way government operates in the rest of the US, from the smallest towns all the way through the Federal government.

And an Ivy league graduate was being paid $45,000. So? Where's the story? Another Ivy league graduate, with financial experience in the private sector, was paid $75,000. A scandal!!!, Really? From what I've seen, the Governor is able to attract many top notch people to State Government - people who did, and could be again, earning many times more working in the private sector. According to an article in the paper last year, Governor Cuomo only put in about 5 people at the Port Authority, while his NJ counterpart, Mr. Chris Christie, put in about 50 people there. But Mr. Christie's popularity is at 78% or so, and Mr. Cuomo is being vilified. The Times should report that, given the dismal state of affairs in government in this country, NY is very fortunate to have Mr. Cuomo as its Governor.


  1. Anonymous1:58 PM

    It's still a big mystery what Joe Chan does at this agency.

    Someone needs to investigate L&M Management, Moelis who seems to continue to get HPD contracts. How?

    How did an employee for Moynihan Station have the title of VP and then end up as Chief of Staff? Is that a demotion?


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