When Spitzergate split the state in two, the first person to resign from the administration—on the same day, March 17, that Governor David Paterson was sworn in—was Pat Foye, the downstate chairman for the Empire State Development Corporation. Days later, Paterson would ask nearly every cabinet member and department head to follow suit.
One of the few retained was Avi Schick, who served as president of the corporation, chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and, after Foye’s departure, as his interim replacement. What was not known until Schick told the press on May 20 was that he had asked to leave. The new governor requested he stay through September to maintain order at what has been a disjointed agency. “His decision to remain gave us time to identify a successor who can ensure an orderly transition,” Paterson said in a statement.
Schick will, however, remain in charge of the LMDC and Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation. There had been some suspicion in the press that he was looking to take over the ESDC for good, especially following public pronouncements about moving the Ground Zero performing arts center to the site of Grimshaw’s Fulton Street Transit Center.
But Schick’s decision put any such speculation to rest, and at a time when the job would have been all the more promising. On May 5, Paterson said he was consolidating the role of upstate and downstate development czars—divided under Eliot Spitzer—back into one chairmanship to oversee development statewide. “There is one HUD chair, one secretary of commerce that covers the whole country,” Paterson told reporters at the time. “I’m sure one person can be sensitive to the issues all around the state.”
It is widely believed that Spitzer’s bifurcation had ground the agency to a standstill. A committee of business leaders is currently looking to fill the reconstituted position, and one possibility is Spitzer appointee upstate chairman Dan Gunderson, though Paterson favors new blood.
Meanwhile, with ESDC projects sagging, perhaps Schick’s move was a prudent one. He got blamed for the state’s development ills in a May 27 editorial in The New York Post. “Schick is officially responsible for the inexcusable lack of progress at Ground Zero and surrounding sites—not to mention the collapse of such big state projects as the Javits Convention Center expansion,” the board wrote.
Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, who chairs the committee that oversees the ESDC, called Schick a capable leader. “I think he knows the legislative process well enough, and certainly better than others, to be respectful and productive, which is important,” Brodsky told AN. “The projects didn’t move forward fast enough, but that has more to do with city and state politics than with Avi Schick.”