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DiNapoli rejects protest, OKs Republic Airport development

The control tower at Republic Airport in East

The control tower at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale is shown Tuesday, April 28, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely

ALBANY — State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Friday rejected a protest of a bid to develop Republic Airport in Farmingdale and awarded the $50 million contract to a major airport operator whose owner is also a contributor to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s campaigns.

The losing bidder, a development consortium called LI Clean Tech, filed a formal complaint May 10 with the state Department of Transportation and the state comptroller’s office.

The complaint came after the state selected Stratosphere, an affiliate of the Talon Air aeronautical company headquartered in Farmingdale, for the contract to develop five parcels of land. Talon Air’s CEO, Adam Katz; and his relatives have donated $200,000 to Cuomo since 2009.

LI Clean Tech accused the state of steering the contract to Stratosphere because Katz has been a big contributor to Cuomo. In November, LI Clean Tech filed suit against the state claiming it created an uneven playing field for the contract. Cuomo, state agencies and Katz denied any favoritism in the contract bidding.

The comptroller’s office, in a determination released Friday, said, “The issues raised in the protest are not of sufficient merit to overturn the contract awards.”

LI Clean Tech “fails to provide any evidence linking Mr. Katz’s lawful campaign contributions in 2012 and 2013, and any alleged favorable treatment to Stratosphere in the 2016 procurement,” the determination stated. “Our office has conducted a detailed review of the [Department of Transportation’s] procurement process and has found no basis to support this assertion.”

“This is a victory for the airport, the local community and Long Island’s economy,” said Greg Zucker, spokesman for Stratosphere and Talon on the issue. “We are excited to be a part of it.”

LI Clean Tech did not return calls seeking comment.

Department of Transportation spokesman Joseph Morrissey said the project that will create $27 million in private sector investment and dozens of jobs.

“Republic Airport is a crucial engine for Long Island’s continued economic growth and now that the comptroller has confirmed what we’ve said all along, that the procurement process was fair, equal and transparent, this project can move forward,” Morrisey said in a statement.

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