Cuomo accuses fellow Democrats of ‘corruption’ on Amazon

Gov. Andrew Cuomo went on perhaps his harshest and strangest tirade yet against fellow Democrats who opposed the deal to bring Amazon to Queens—even accusing the state Senate of “corruption.”

The governor called an afternoon press conference in Albany Friday to address a hate crime in upstate New York—after which he took questions about the ongoing debate with the state Legislature over the budget. With little prompting, Cuomo revisited the controversy that may have precipitated Amazon’s decision to drop its plans to construct a new office campus in Long Island City.

State Senator Michael Gianaris publicly attacked the project after its announcement in November, and in February state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins nominated him to the Public Authorities Control Board, where he would have had power to block certain of the proposal’s facets.

“Amazon, we’ve talked to death. I believe the tactic on Amazon violated the law, and I believe it was a form of government corruption. And I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said, provoking a flurry of questions from reporters. “The position was, ‘We’re going to appoint someone to the Public Authorities Control Board who is politically opposed to the project, and will use that position to veto the project because he is politically opposed.’ That exceeded the legal authority of that position.”

Cuomo then had his counsel read aloud a section of the statute governing the PACB, which states “the board may approve applications only upon his determination that, with relation to any proposed project, there are any commitments of funds sufficient to finance the acquisition and construction of such project.”

“Period! Sufficiency of funds. That’s all! You go beyond that, you exceed your legal authority,” he said “We don’t say ‘PACB is what you want it to be.’ We say ‘We have a law that defines it.’”

Pressed about his allegation of “corruption,” the governor launched into several scenarios, most of which did not seem to relate in any way to the Amazon project. He added that the nomination of Gianaris—which the governor had power to block, though he did not exercise it—established a precedent dangerous to New York’s economic viability.

“They exceeded the legal authority of the position. The position is not, ‘I don’t like it, I, uh, uh, my sister lives too close to the project, it’s politically not helpful.’ The PACB is only the financial sufficiency,” he said. “Forget Amazon. It was yesterday. Yesterday is but a memory. The PACB approves all these authority projects. If you start to politicize every project’s approval, we will be out of business. Period! Belmont proposed arena comes up, if they think they’re going to put on the local senator from Belmont, who says ‘Well, I’m asking the developer for a contribution to my neighborhood association, otherwise I won’t approve’—you’re out of business!”

The governor talked around repeated questions about why he did not obstruct Gianaris’s appointment, though he hinted he believed any Senate nominee would block aspects of the incentive package. He then again denied that the conflict over the canceled office complex would impact the budget deliberations.

“I just want to make sure going forward that we recognize the error and we correct it. If anything it makes it more urgent to get a good budget done, because we just did a negative, we need a positive to correct it,” Cuomo said.

The fiscal plan is due April 1. The governor has characterized the Assembly and state Senate’s demands for increased social spending as untenable given falling state tax revenues. Sources Crain’s consulted last month said that the governor would look for opportunities to damage Gianaris and Stewart-Cousins as revenge for the Amazon project’s failure.

A spokesman for the state Senate majority conference wrote on Twitter that he “disagreed” with the governor’s characterization of the chamber’s actions as corrupt. He did not respond to requests to elaborate on that statement.

SOURCE: Section Page News – Crain’s New York Business – Read entire story here.