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After months of delay, regional recovery plans to be released, official says

Eric Gertler, president and CEO of Empire State

Eric Gertler, president and CEO of Empire State Development, said the recovery plans written by 10 Regional Economic Development Councils will "soon" be given to the state legislature. Credit: Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo/Kevin P. Coughlin

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s economic development czar promised on Tuesday to make public the COVID-19 business recovery plans submitted last fall by 10 regional groups appointed by the governor.

Eric Gertler, president and CEO of Empire State Development, said the recovery plans written by 10 Regional Economic Development Councils will "soon" be given to the State Legislature. The plans were filed with ESD on Sept. 25 because it oversees the councils.

The Long Island council and nine others spent late summer coming up with suggestions, at Cuomo’s behest, for state actions to spur economic activity and hiring during the pandemic. The recovery plans haven’t been released or discussed publicly by the Cuomo administration in nearly five months.

Legislative hearing

"Let me figure out a timing of what we can do about those reports and see how we can share those," Gertler said during a virtual legislative hearing on Tuesday. He said ESD "relies on the work [the REDC] do and the reports that they provide in order to guide our thinking."

In terms of the recovery plans, Gertler said, "that work had never been finalized."

Gertler’s comments were in response to a question from state Sen. James Skoufis (D-Woodbury), chairman of the investigations and government operations committee, during the hearing on Cuomo’s proposed 2021-22 state budget.

Skoufis said the Senate has been asking for the recovery plans for "at least the past four months." He said senators believe the plans will be used in awarding up to $750 million in state grants and tax credits in this year’s REDC aid competition.

Newsday first requested a copy of the Long Island recovery plan in September but has yet to receive it.

Last summer, Cuomo commissioned the REDC plans when the ballooning state budget deficit forced cancellation of the yearly business-aid competition. He asked the councils to identify building projects that should receive quick governmental approvals because they would employ hundreds of construction workers and to recommend ways of helping struggling downtowns and minorities.

Changes for NY innovation centers

Separately, on Tuesday, Gertler defended Cuomo’s proposed changes to business-related research centers on college campuses, which state lawmakers said would lead to the closing of some centers.

There are about 25 Centers of Excellence and Centers for Advanced Technology across the state, including four at Stony Brook University for biotechnology, energy, integrated electrical energy systems and information technology.

Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), chairwoman of the economic development committee, said the centers should be continued because their inventions lead to new businesses and jobs.

Pravina Raghavan, ESD’s point-person for the research centers, replied, "We’re moving one program into another, so there is confusion, but we’re not reducing the number" of centers.

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