ALBANY — State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced Thursday that she was caught unawares by a deal Gov. Kathy Hochul reached to provide a whopping $850 million in public funds for a new Buffalo Bills stadium .
Under the agreement, announced Monday after weeks of closed-door meetings with Hochul, Erie County officials and the owners of the franchise, New York State will pay $600 million of its proposed $216 billion budget for 2023 provide for construction of the venue, Erie County will cover $250 million and The NFL and the Bills will pay $550 million.
When asked if she knew of the details of the $1.4 billion project before they were made public, Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) replied, “No.”
“Well I mean we talked about it. I think we’re still trying to figure out what the parameters are,” she told reporters inside the Albany Capitol outside her office when asked about her reaction to being left in the dark. “So we discuss it.”
The Post reported earlier this month that state and county officials would spend nearly $1 billion on a new Bills Stadium. In order for the project to break ground, state legislatures must approve stadium funding when they vote on the annual budget.
The Bills’ new home stadium, set to replace the decades-old Highmark Stadium by 2026, is one of the key sticking points in the soon-to-be-delayed budget negotiations, along with New York’s casinos and bail reform.
When asked about criticism that the project was a publicly subsidized handout for billionaires – let alone those living in Florida – Stewart-Cousins declined to throw a penalty flag – and vowed to “look” at the details while emphasizing the importance of the Bills to Buffalo and Empire State.
“So actually we have the parameters, I’m not in a position to really talk about that other than the fact that it’s clearly being discussed now. We’ll get the language. We’ll look at that,” lawmakers said Thursday afternoon. “But I think we all know that the Buffalo Bills are important, not just to Buffalo but to the state, so let’s look at that, but I don’t have the language yet.”
Adding to the opaque process leading up to the deal’s announcement and complaints about the well-being of the companies, the project has come under fire over the potential benefit for the governor’s husband, Bill Hochul, The Post reported on Tuesday.
Bill Hochul is Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Delaware North, the largest food concessionaire at the Buffalo Bills current Highmark Stadium. The agreement provides for the team to remain in Buffalo for another 30 years.
“One of the biggest winners from this bad stadium deal is Delaware North. Delaware North will make a lot more money with additional new food and beverage businesses at the new stadium,” John Kaehny, executive director of state watchdog group Reinvent Albany, previously told The Post.
On Wednesday, former state officials who worked for the disgraced ex-gov. Cuomo Andrew Cuomo screwed Hochul for agreeing to give the owners of the Buffalo Bills $600 million in taxpayer money to build a new stadium that won’t be in New York’s second largest city. A state official familiar with the preliminary talks for a new Bills Stadium said Cuomo wanted it to be built in the city of Buffalo rather than in suburban Orchard Park where the current stadium is located.
“We wouldn’t have made a deal with a stadium in the suburbs. It had to be in downtown Buffalo,” said a former Cuomo official familiar with the discussions. “We would never have given so much. The deal makes no sense.”
The Stewart cousins’ comments on Thursday come as lawmakers and hochul will miss their midnight budget deadline as state lawmakers prepare to leave Albany for a long weekend until they meet again next week. If they approve a budget by 4 p.m. Monday, New York will avoid “any problems with pending payrolls” of state employees for the new fiscal year, according to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/31/andrea-stewart-cousins-says-gov-hochul-blindsided-her-on-bills-stadium/ Andrea Stewart-Cousins Says Gov. Hochul Blinded Her At Bills Stadium