In visit to Schenectady, Pataki discusses state, national politics
Former New York Governor George Pataki toured downtown Schenectady on Tuesday, more than two decades after he signed legislation that kickstarted the Capital Region city’s revitalization efforts.
Under the Proctors Theatre marquee in Schenectady, Neil Golub, local philanthropist and executive board chair of the Golub Corporation, which operates Price Chopper/Market 32 supermarkets, welcomed former three-term Republican Governor Pataki back to the Electric City.
“It's great to have George back here and take him through a tour of the city...”
In 1998, Golub was one of the main boosters of legislation at the county and state levels to create the Metroplex Development Authority – the economic development agency that has focused on Schenectady’s downtown for more than two decades.
Anchored by Proctors – itself once considered for demolition – State Street is home to new apartment buildings, restaurants, and businesses in a city that was hit hard following the exit of ALCO and the downsizing of General Electric, which no longer calls Schenectady its world headquarters.
The Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor was awarded one of the state’s first full-scale gaming licenses and sits on what was for decades a contaminated former industrial site.
Considering the story of Schenectady, Pataki, 77, reflected on his tenure as mayor of Peekskill in the 1980s, when the Westchester County city undertook an effort to rehabilitate the dilapidated Paramount movie theater.
“People were telling me you're nuts, nobody's going to come downtown to a decrepit old theater, even if he fixed it up. We have the first concert, everything sold off, the orchestra is warming up and the plaster in the roof collapses, and I saw my life passing before me. But we fixed it up. And that became a cornerstone for the revitalization of the downtown of my hometown,” said Pataki. “Because you get a thousand people on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night, they're gonna go to restaurants, they're going to take a look around, they're gonna say, ‘Hey, it's nice down here.’ And Proctors has been an important part of that as well.”
Pataki also took time to speak with reporters about the issues of the day.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ex-governor, through his non-profit George E. Pataki Leadership Center, has traveled to Hungary and Ukraine to participate in humanitarian relief efforts.
WAMC asked Pataki for his latest assessment of the U.S. government’s response.
“When it comes to the U.S. government, we still, as of a week ago, haven't seen the billions in promised humanitarian aid showing up at all in Ukraine. And it's just very disappointing to see how slowly this promised aid to help the 7 million people who are homeless and displaced inside Ukraine…the aid just isn't there yet,” said Pataki.
Pataki’s visit to the Capital Region came after President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law. The $280 billion law is meant to support the semiconductor and high-tech manufacturing industry.
Pataki’s administration shepherded the arrival of GlobalFoundries to Saratoga County, where it employs 3,000 workers. The company is now planning to build a second fab at its world headquarters in Malta, with federal support.
Pataki was pleased to see Washington take action to support the chip industry.
“I remember when we got GlobalFoundries, we were competing not with other states, but with other countries. And one of the impediments was the company was going to have to pay taxes on the benefits at the federal level that we were giving them at the state level. So getting rid of those impediments to allow the chip industry to continue to grow, I think is the right thing. And I just hope that New York, which should be better positioned than any other state in the country, is able to take advantage of that,” said Pataki.
During a campaign season where Republicans are seeking to reclaim leadership status in New York State government, a pillar of the GOP strategy has been public safety.
Asked about Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin’s focus on public safety, Pataki, who campaigned in 1994 on re-establishing the death penalty, said the Long Island Congressman’s run was reminiscent of his first bid for governor 28 years ago.
“We’re going to be one of the most dangerous places in America. And we need to change the laws in Albany, we need to change the rules that the police are operating under. And it's just, to me, it's tragic,” said Pataki.
Pataki was also asked about the FBI’s recent raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The Republican said he was “shocked” by the unprecedented search, but echoed concerns from GOP leaders about a politicization of the federal law enforcement agency.
“I think there are two possibilities. Either they have clear evidence of a various serious crime like treason, having been committed, in which case, it's an appropriate act, or it troubles me enormously that the Justice Department has evolved into a political operation with a double standard depending on your partisanship or politics. We don't know yet,” said Pataki.