Avi Schick, the prosecutor-turned-development official who has served as downstate president of the Empire State Development Corporation for the past two years, will leave his job this week. Mr. Schick emailed a letter on Monday evening to colleagues announcing his departure (a copy of the letter is below).
Mr. Schick’s departure comes more than seven months after the Paterson administration announced he would resign his position; in May, the state announced he would leave in September.
At the ESDC, Mr. Schick, once a top prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office under Eliot Spitzer, oversaw state involvement in projects such as Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, the development of Governors Island, and Columbia University’s West Harlem expansion.
He was also known as Governor Spitzer’s man downtown, running the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation and attempting to attract and retain large financial firms including JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Schick was involved in getting the bank to agree to build a new tower by the World Trade Center site, a nonbinding commitment that seems highly unlikely to happen at this point. He pushed—ultimately successfully—for candor with dates and deadlines at the World Trade Center, and he also has overseen the deconstruction of the Deutsche Bank building by ground zero following a fatal fire in the summer of 2007, a demolition that has taken far longer than expected.
Particularly during the Spitzer administration, Mr. Schick showed a tendency to spar with other officials, bringing a prosecutorial style to skirmishes both within state government and outside of it. In turf battles and other fights, he routinely clashed with then-ESDC downstate chairman Pat Foye, then-Port Authority executive director Tony Shorris, then-Lower Manhattan Construction and Command Center director Charlie Maikish, and numerous city officials. He was also said to have clashed with Marisa Lago, the new chief executive of the ESDC, according to a person familiar with the dynamic.
Still, he forged important alliances in his time, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—a powerful voice in Lower Manhattan—has repeatedly advocated for both Mr. Schick and the LMDC, which the mayor has attacked as an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy.
Ms. Lago has been conducting interviews with candidates to oversee the agency’s downstate operations, according to people familiar with the situation.
Mr. Schick’s e-mailed letter to colleagues, sent this evening:
As most of you already know, this week will be my last at ESDC.
The past two years at ESDC have been a terrific adventure, and I am proud to have had the opportunity to work together with each and every one of you. Working together, we were able to keep employers large and small — from IBM to the small industrial manufacturers from Brooklyn to Batavia — committed to New York State. We were able to create a workable and equitable plan for Columbia University’s Manhattanville expansion and shepherd it through the public approval process. We were able to get construction started at Brooklyn Bridge Park. We were able to begin the design of a world class park on Governors Island. And we were able to begin to restore the I Love NY campaign to its former prominence and glory and to make New York State — the entire State — the tourist destination it deserves to be.
It is the nature of the job that the credit and attention tends to flow to only a few. But the reality is that it was the contributions of each of you that made these (and other) accomplishments possible, and I’d like to publicly acknowledge the professionalism, hard work and dedication of the entire ESDC staff. Thank you.
Of course, there is much more to be done, especially in this challenging economic climate. I am leaving comfortable in the knowledge that under the executive leadership of Marisa and with the guidance of Chairman Wilmers you will meet those challenges.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank Bob and Marisa for their graciousness during the past few months.
I entered government nearly a decade ago with three small children, the oldest of whom was in third grade. I am leaving ESDC with five, the oldest now a senior in high school. And so fond memories and all, it is time to move on to the next chapter in my professional life.
I am looking forward to a few weeks without early morning meetings or late night conference calls, after which I suspect the cycle will begin anew.
Once again, thank you all.