The outlook for New York’s mega-real-estate projects looked pretty bleak at the end of the Pataki administration, caught up as they were in a partisan game of chicken and devastated by inflation in the construction industry. The Moynihan train station plan had collapsed, the Javits Center expansion was running over budget and Atlantic Yards could not shake off controversy.
Enter Patrick J. Foye, Governor Eliot Spitzer’s pick to co-chair the Empire State Development Corporation, the state economic development agency. Mr. Foye, a Long Islander who once ran in far more conservative circles, has deliberately chosen to slow these projects even more.
He’s decided that the best thing to do is to give them a thorough going-over, redesigning the projects that were in tatters, replacing the previous administration’s project managers with his own picks and even questioning the endeavors that seemed, outwardly at least, like they were all set to go.
“Each project is different,” Mr. Foye told The Observer in an interview at Empire State Development’s Third Avenue offices. “We want to be able to convince ourselves and the governor and the Legislature and the taxpayers that we are getting the highest return on the resources that are made available to us.”
In his short time in office, Mr. Foye has gained praise from business leaders for his down-to-earth manner and emphasis on fiscal accountability. But he has also engendered criticism from others who are still waiting to see the outcome of all of this furniture rearranging.
This past March, for example, his office said that a new plan to expand the Javits Convention Center was expected in early May. In early May, Mr. Foye said a new design would be out soon. On Aug. 10, he told The Observer, “In September or October we’ll be making an announcement as to which direction we’ll be moving in.”
Oddly enough, one of the first fruits of Mr. Foye’s labors to emerge publicly has been his decision to keep Empire State Development exactly where it is. He has sold off an office condominium that his predecessor, Charles Gargano, had bought in lower Manhattan in order to move closer to Ground Zero. Instead, Empire State will extend its stay at its midtown location, one floor below the governor’s Manhattan office.
Due, perhaps, to a bullish commercial real estate market (or perhaps to shrewd negotiating), he has sold part of the Maiden Lane condo at a profit compared to how much his predecessor had paid for it just a few months earlier.