Cuomo orders Hochul to lead ‘Tiger Task Force’ on Amazon distribution center

Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul late this evening to lead what is being colloquially referred to as a ‘tiger task force’ of civic leaders that will be tasked with the objective of landing the world’s largest logistics and distribution center inside the City of Niagara Falls — where a structural budget deficit of $15 million could be nearly cut in half by property tax revenue and economic spin off expected to be generated by the project.

In recent days, Amazon, the world’s largest digital retailer, pulled the plug on a $300 million project near Buckhorn Island State Park on Grand Island — a site within eyeshot of Niagara Falls State Park. That has been raising the ire of the Town’s residents, who have long opposed large scale industrial development in the leafy waterfront community.

“Governor Cuomo is committed to enabling and accelerating the growth of Western New York’s economy, which we know requires unique public-private partnerships that can cut through layers of government and red-tap, particularly with regard to brownsfields and industrial remediation,” a source close to the Governor tells The Chronicle.

“Environmental remediation will not be an obstacle,” he insists.

But officials acknowledge that redeveloping a formerly industrial site in Niagara Falls could be a complicated regulatory maze, made impossible by bureaucratic inefficiency — which is what the ‘tiger task force’ is expected to preempt.

The Governor plans to appoint nine Western New Yorkers to the panel, which is rumored to include: Mayor Robert Restaino; John Koelmel, the Chairman of the New York Power Authority; Matthew Driscoll, the Executive Director of the New York Department of Transportation; Basil Seggos, the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation; Congressman Brian Higgins; and Congressman Christopher Jacobs; Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt; Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes; and former Economic Development Commissioner Howard Zemsky.

The task force is expected to convene by conference call weekly, and immediately following and communication or correspondence with the company.

Advocates of an Amazon distribution center point to various sites immediately adjacent to Interstate 190, including a vast 415-acre agglomeration of industrial parcels that require considerable environmental remediation and the relocation of a local cemetery. The New York State Power Authority’s underground aqueduct and overhead transmission lines present design challenges, though engineers are confident they can be addressed. The site is located just a mile from the Canadian border, and could serve as a major cross-border logistics hub.
Amazon’s strongest supporters want the firm to utilize the Niagara Falls International Airport as a major logistics hub for air cargo — perhaps in addition to the trucking-oriented distribution center that has been proposed. They imagine that Niagara Falls could be a major port of entry for transatlantic air cargo.

As Amazon expands into additional foreign markets, transatlantic air cargo is expected to become an increasingly important spoke in its global logistics network.

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