ALBANY, N.Y. — Three top state leaders faced a dilemma over potentially tainted campaign contributions last week, while eight local governments received a disquieting update on their financial health. Meanwhile, efforts to overhaul Penn Station took another step forward and the state stepped in to help New Jersey deal with a deadly train crash.
A guide to the week’s top stories in New York government:
CORRUPTION CASE, CAMPAIGN CASH
An ongoing corruption case relating to state economic development initiatives poses a conundrum for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and two other statewide officials: what to do with campaign contributions from developers now facing criminal charges?
Cuomo, a Democrat, said Wednesday that his re-election campaign created a separate account for $350,000 it received from sources tied to LPCiminelli and COR Development, two firms whose executives face charges. Cuomo said the money will be available in the event of federal forfeiture.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s campaign, meanwhile, plans to return $23,700 in contributions from LPCiminelli and COR.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also received $15,722 in contributions from LPCiminelli, as well as from a third developer, Columbia Development, facing charges in a related state probe. His campaign will donate the money to a charity.
Five executives at Buffalo-based LPCiminelli and Syracuse-based COR face federal allegations they worked to rig bids for lucrative contracts awarded by the Cuomo administration. Attorneys for COR Development executives Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, as well as LPCiminelli executives Michael Laipple, Kevin Schuler and CEO Louis Ciminelli, have said their clients are innocent.
Joseph Nicolla, president of Columbia Development, faces state charges that he took improper steps to ensure his company won the contract for a student housing project. He pleaded not guilty on Monday.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS UNDER STRESS
Eight municipalities were under “significant” fiscal stress last year, with low fund balances and operating deficits, according to a new report on the financial health of local governments from DiNapoli’s office.
The eight facing significant stress are the counties of Monroe, Broome, Franklin and Rockland; the cities of Port Jervis and Albany; and the towns of Tuxedo and Parish.
DiNapoli says the report released Tuesday shows it can be difficult for localities to overcome problems years in the making.
PENN STATION OVERHAUL
The state announced the selection of three contractors in the massive and ambitious overhaul of Penn Station and the nearby Farley Post Office.
Skanska AB, Vornado Realty LP and Related Companies will work together on the historic post office, set to be transformed into the Moynihan Train Hall. When completed in 2020, the facility will serve passengers on Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road trains.
The $3 billion project also involves the rehabilitation of the existing Penn Station. On Tuesday, Cuomo said of the aging station: “It is dirty, it is dingy, it is dark… it’s decrepit and it’s an affront to riders.”
“The new train hall that we are building will be magnificent,” he said at the announcement of the contractors. “New York will not have seen anything like it in decades and decades.”
RESTING (EASIER) IN PEACE
Two new laws signed by Cuomo this week are consumer-oriented measures aiding the dearly departed. One will allow non-religious cemeteries to offer people the option of being buried with the cremated remains of their pets. The other prohibits phone, cable and utility companies from charging people an early termination fee in the event of their death.
TRAIN CRASH RESPONSE
Cuomo’s plans to attend the funeral of Israeli leader Shimon Peres were canceled following Thursday’s commuter train crash in New Jersey. Cuomo toured the site of the crash with Gov. Chris Christie, and said state law enforcement and transportation officials would assist in the response to the incident.
One person was killed and more than 100 people were injured when the New Jersey Transit train crashed into the station in Hoboken.