Gov. Andrew Cuomo has collected at least $650,000 in campaign contributions from recipients of tax credits to redevelop industrial sites during the past four years, a review of state data show.
Related Cos., its executives and entities controlled by the New York-based developer of Time Warner Center were the biggest donor, giving at least $262,700 to Cuomo, who is running for a second term. Syracuse shopping-mall magnate Robert Congel, members of his family and executives at his Pyramid Cos. contributed $143,250.
Critics of the incentives, which have cost taxpayers more than $1 billion since 2006, say they benefit wealthy developers and have done little to clean up contaminated industrial sites. Unlike other states, New York doesn't limit the program to cleanup costs, and a study found that 94% of its brownfields tax credits have been used for redeveloping properties instead of remediating blighted land.
"It's all too common in Albany for recipients of aid from the state government to be among the biggest campaign contributors," said Bill Mahoney, who studies campaign-finance data for the New York Public Interest Research Group, a government watchdog. "Even if decisions aren't being directly influenced by checks, there's definitely an idea in Albany that interest groups will be less successful if they don't find a way to funnel money to elected officials."