With Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration coming under investigation for its economic initiative in Buffalo, we're taking a closer look at another state project, the planned overhaul of LaGuardia Airport. As statehouse reporter Zack Fink notes, many companies that stand to benefit from the LaGuardia project also happen to be big donors to the governor.
Agreeing with Vice President Joe Biden's contention that LaGuardia Airport makes people feel like they are in a "third-world country," Governor Cuomo announced a $4 billion overhaul of the airport last year.
The construction will be overseen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the area's airports. But it turns out that many companies already contracted by the Port Authority, and who stand to benefit from the airport's overhaul, are also big campaign contributors to the governor.
"There are a number of businesses that are involved in the La Guardia redevelopment, and the public-private partnership that have also made donations of various sizes to Governor Cuomo," said Jonathan Reznick of Competitive Advantage Research.
Peter Tully of Tully Construction owns 11 subsidiaries, all of which operate out of the same building in Queens on the edge of the redevelopment site. Tully and those related companies have donated more than $221,000 to the governor.
"This is a fairly significant financial committment to Andrew Cuomo's political career, while at the same time, they are already awarded a $70,000, two-year contract," Reznick said.
OTG, a company that handles concessions at LaGuardia, has given more than $110,000 to the governor.
Cuomo's administration is currently under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for possible bid rigging as part of the Buffalo Billion project in Western New York.
NY1 asked Cuomo at an unrelated event Thursday if the LaGuardia connections to his campaign warchest might also draw scrutiny or raise red flags about a pay-to-play culture.
"No, look, I don't think any reasonable person would say government shouldn't operate, which is basically the extension of your question. They would say government should operate carefully," the governor said.
Cuomo says one of this top priorities for the end of the legislative session, which finishes next month, is campaign finance reform, but Republicans who control the state Senate, and who already agreed to a minimum wage increase and the establishment of a paid family leave program as part of the budget in March, have already indicated they are not eager to give the Democratic governor any more of his top priorities.
The Port Authority later issued a statement saying, "The selection and procurement of any contractor or subcontractor related to the redevelopment or operation of the new Terminal B will be made by the private developer under existing rules of procurement. There are protocols in place, including the oversight of the Port Authority IG and an integrity monitor for the project, to guard against preferential treatment of any vendor to LGP [the private developer]."