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LI company sues state over development contract at Republic

The sign for Republic Airport in East Farmingdale

The sign for Republic Airport in East Farmingdale on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Photo Credit: Chuck Fadely

ALBANY — A Long Island company is suing the state over claims that agencies “created an uneven playing field” that was “directed toward” awarding a $50 million development contract to a competitor owned by a major contributor to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

LI Clean Tech of Huntington, which filed the lawsuit this month, lost a bid to develop five parcels at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. The contract has been tentatively awarded, pending a comptroller’s review, to an affiliate of Talon Air of Farmingdale. Talon is owned by Adam Katz, who along with relatives has donated more than $200,000 to Cuomo’s campaigns since 2009, state records showed.

“The process was tainted due to the influence of campaign contributions given to New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo,” according to the civil lawsuit filed by LI Clean Tech.

Cuomo, state agencies and Katz deny any favoritism in the contract bidding. They blame LI Clean Tech for failing to cooperate with the state even as agencies tried to award part of the contract to the company.

The state plans a response to the lawsuit, which claims the state acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in awarding the bid. A court will hear arguments as early as Dec. 28, which is the tentative date for both sides to make their case to a state Supreme Court justice in Albany.

“Clean Tech’s suit consists of baseless, frivolous allegations by a disgruntled bidder who failed to make good on key provisions of the RFP and ignored our good-faith attempts to work with them,” said Amy Varghese, spokeswoman for the Empire State Development agency. “This process was fair, equal and transparent to all applicants and was evaluated under the highest ethical standards by agency professionals in accordance with all regulations. It’s unfortunate that Clean Tech continues to waste the public’s time on sour grapes,” she said.

The lawsuit details claims by LI Clean Tech that the state economic development agency and the state Department of Transportation kept Talon Air’s competitors as well as the public, local residents and the airport’s commission in the dark while the contract was steered to Talon. The lawsuit also accuses the state of changing the kind of development sought from commercial, which is a specialty of LI Clean Tech, to aviation use, which is a specialty of Talon Air.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli is continuing a review of the bidding following a formal challenge filed by LI Clean Tech.

Neighborhood groups and state Sens. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and John Brooks (D-Seaford) have called for a rebidding.

The Cuomo administration said the deal with Talon will create 73 permanent jobs at the airport and bring $1 million in annual revenue to the airport for the next 50 years. The airport has been losing $250,000 a year, according to the administration.

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