ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo received approval to use a billionaire’s private airplane to visit the storm-damaged U.S. Virgin Islands, days after the governor signed a bill that would benefit the businessman, according to a report Thursday.
The Albany Times Union reported the Joint Commission on Public Ethics sanctioned Cuomo’s use of the plane owned by John Catsimatidis, a grocery chain magnate, owner of a real estate, refinery and aviation group and host of a radio show on which the governor sometimes is a guest.
Cuomo and some staff members flew to the Virgin Islands last week following Hurricane Irma to offer assistance and Thursday night his office said he would be flying down this morning to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, leaving from JFK airport.
The ethics commission told the newspaper it approved the use of the plane to the Virgin Islands in part because it didn’t personally benefit the governor and noted that the trip was a humanitarian mission.
On Sept. 13, just before the trip, Cuomo approved a new law that adds Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties to downstate jurisdictions that must blend biodiesel into all home heating oil. Assemb. Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) sponsored the bill.
Catsimatidis, a former Republican candidate for New York City mayor, had been advocating the biodiesel mandate since at least early 2015, according to a New York Post report at the time.
More than a dozen lobbying groups also worked for or against the bill in 2017, according to ethics commission filings.