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Empire Outlets Gets $47M From State After Developers Fund Cuomo Run: Report

By Nicholas Rizzi | February 16, 2016 6:17pm
 The large outlet mall headed to St. George's waterfront, Empire Outlets, was given nearly $47 million in state subsidies after the developers donated $85,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's re-election campaign.
The large outlet mall headed to St. George's waterfront, Empire Outlets, was given nearly $47 million in state subsidies after the developers donated $85,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's re-election campaign.
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Empire Outlets

ST. GEORGE — The large outlet mall coming to Staten Island's waterfront was granted nearly $47 million in state subsidies after developers donated more than $85,000 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's re-election campaign, Politico New York reported.

Empire Outlets was approved for $21.9 million in subsidies by the Empire State Development Corporation (ESD) last month and a $25 million grant by the state's Dormitory Association in April, according to the ESD.

The new subsidies include $16.5 million from a criticized $400 million fund created by former State Sen. Minority Leader Dean Skelos, who resigned from his post after he was arrested for a bribery and kickback scheme, Politico reported.

A source close to the project said the state funds would be used only to build the infrastructure of the project — like the public parking garage and storm protections — not any of the buildings or the hotel.

Aside from the state money, the $304 million project also got $25 million in grants from the city and $1.5 million from the Staten Island borough president's office, according to the ESD.

The project also got a $13.7 million in loans from the city's Economic Development Corporation, a spokesman for the agency said.

The funds were criticized by several groups because the subsidies cover a larger chunk than the developers BFC Partners put into the project themselves, despite being on a waterfront with lots of competitive real estate activity, Politico reported.

1/4 of #StatenIsland mall is taxpayer-funded! This is a raw deal, #transparency needed stat. https://t.co/VKt9AXgP9y @JimmyVielkind

A spokesman for the ESD said the project has wide support in the state and city and would be a boon to the borough's economy when it opens.

"This has long been a priority project for the state and the city — beginning back in the Bloomberg administration — that has widespread support within the community and region because it will transform the economy of Staten Island’s North Shore," said Jason Conwall, a spokesman for ESD.

"By attracting residents and travelers to its 340,000 square-foot retail complex, with more than 100 designer stores, and 200-room hotel for visitors, Empire Outlets is going to be an economic engine for the area, as well as a key employer when it creates more than 1,800 local jobs."

A spokeswoman for developer BFC Partners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The three partners of BFC —  Brendan Baron, Joseph Ferrara and Donald Capoccia — have donated more than $85,000 to Cuomo between 2011 to 2014, according to states Board of Elections records.

In 2011, Capoccia donated $25,000 to Cuomo and Ferrara donated $25,000 to his campaign in 2014.

Between those years, Capoccia, Ferrara and Baron made between $5,000 and $7,500 in contributions to Cuomo.

A spokesman for the governor told Politico the campaign contributions had no effect on the state funding given to Empire Outlets.

Empire Outlets will be the city's only outlet mall when it opens in late 2017. It is one of several large developments headed to the North Shore's waterfront, including its neighbor the New York Wheel.