It’s not surprising that Governor Andrew Cuomo places the blame for Amazon’s decision not to proceed with a headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, squarely on the Democrats in the State Senate. Our uber-confident governor has never been one to admit to possible mistakes.
But the Buffalo News editorial board owes its readership a more nuanced assessment of the governor and his handling of development-related matters. Its February 17th editorial, “Senate Dems poison Amazon deal and hurt the rest of New York,” is a perfect example of the easy-on-Cuomo approach.
The recent opinion vilifies the State Senate for what the editorial board characterizes as “reckless conduct,” calling out its Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, for her “unfortunate leadership.” But no mention is made of the governor’s arrogant style and secretive decision-making process. Cuomo unnecessarily alienated legislative leaders, as well as the public, by failing to involve them in the formulation of the nearly $3 billion package of state and city tax breaks offered to Amazon.
The editorial board ironically suggests that the actions of Senate Democrats will adversely impact all of New York State by discouraging other companies from engaging in “a rigged game.” Such commentary, devoid of any mention of the blackeye the Empire State has suffered from the Buffalo Billion bid-rigging scandal, belongs in a Cuomo press release, not a regional newspaper’s editorial.
Equally disappointing is the editorial’s take on the Buffalo Billion and Buffalo’s underachieving Tesla plant and unimpressive job creation figures.
To simply opine that, “Western New York is better off for Tesla’s presence,” begs the question: Would Buffalo be worrying about Tesla and its Buffalo solar business if the Buffalo Billion plan had been skillfully and thoughtfully planned and implemented in the midst of Gov. Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign?
The facts reflect poorly on our governor.
The November 2013 plan for the RiverBend site envisioned – not the “silver bullet” of a million-square-foot single-purpose building – but seven smaller structures used by a variety of businesses. [See Model of original RiverBend plan Nov. 2013.]
The original “anchor tenants” touted by Cuomo for RiverBend were two long-forgotten California-based manufacturers, Solevo (solar panels) and Soraa (LED lighting).
The concept of a one-million-square-foot plant came, not from the Cuomo administration, but from SolarCity, a solar panel installation company owned by two cousins of Tesla’s Elon Musk. SolarCity announced plans in June 2014 to purchase Solevo.
A month before the September 2014 Democratic primary, lured by the image of the largest solar panel manufacturing facility outside of China, Gov. Cuomo embraced SolarCity’s massive plans for RiverBend. Overlooked was SolarCity’s almost $50 million second quarter loss.
An unplanned event brought Tesla to Buffalo. Elon Musk’s company purchased the bankrupt SolarCity in 2016.
Given this reality, the Buffalo News editorial board should be asking: With proper planning and public input, how else could the Cuomo administration have invested $750 million in Buffalo’s future, and how much better off might Western New York be today?
With All Due Respect,
Arthur J. Giacalone