The criminal bribery charges recently filed against two owners of COR Development Co. could severely impact the future of the project at Inner Harbor.
Owners Steve Aiello and Joseph Gerardi currently face federal corruption charges for allegedly bribing one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s former top aides. The criminal complaint asserts that Joseph Percoco was paid by COR in exchange for the state’s assistance in development projects and a $5,000 raise for Steve Aiello’s son, who works for the Governor’s administration. Payments were purportedly funneled through lobbyist Todd Howe in an effort to avoid exposure of the deal.
Furthermore, court papers allege that Howe and COR developers conspired with the head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Alain Kaloyeros, to ensure COR would be selected as the winner for a nanotech development contract that the Institute sponsored. They claim that COR made large donations to Cuomo’s campaign in order to fix the competition in their favor.
COR is currently in the midst of a $350 million rejuvenation of previously unused land at the Inner Harbor in Syracuse. The 134-room Aloft Hotel has already been completed on the lake shore, and COR broke ground for a mixed-use building that was intended to contain retail space and 54 apartments for rent.
But now that the criminal charges have been filed, Mayor Stephanie Miner has expressed concerns about the future of the Inner Harbor project. Miner stated that “this is going to take a major evaluation of where we are as a community with economic development projects.”
Mayor Miner has an interesting history with COR. She received $25,000 in campaign contributions from the development company, but later sued COR last December after the company sought tax breaks from Onondaga County. Miner alleged the company had promised not to seek those tax breaks. Although COR won that particular lawsuit, the development company later sued the city of Syracuse after a refusal to sell the last of five promised parcels of land at the Inner Harbor.
Although the Inner Harbor project was not one of the projects questioned by federal authorities, its interruption or cancellation could have a major impact on the Syracuse area. It’s expected that by 2017, the condo and apartment construction industry will generate an annual revenue of approximately $42.9 billion. At this point, it’s unclear as to how or if the criminal charges would impact the construction that is already completed or is underway at Inner Harbor.
However, if all development is ceased, the city will have to deal with the financial repercussions.