NY Governor Pataki bashes Cuomo over control of HUD grants FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 26 Dec 1999 18:13:45 -0800 (PST)


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FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 24, 1999 23:07

SHARP WORDS BY PATAKI ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL TOWARD CUOMO


By JOEL STASHENKO
Associated Press Writer

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Disagreement over who controls an economic
development program has a top Pataki administration official
accusing federal Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo of treating state
bureaucrats in a ``patronizing'' way.

Charles Gargano, the state's economic development chief who is
close to Gov. George Pataki, told Cuomo to immediately turn over
the responsibility for the Small Cities Community Development Block
Grant program _ previously run by HUD _ to New York state. Such a
transfer of authority was authorized by President Clinton's
signature on Oct. 20 on a massive federal spending bill.

Nearly three weeks later, however, Cuomo's department put out a
Notice of Funding Availability for a program that the U.S. Housing
and Urban Development department no longer administers.

When officials from the Empire State Development and the state
Division of Housing and Community Renewal met with Cuomo's aides on
turning the program over to the state, Gargano said they got
``patronizing treatment'' from the housing secretary's staff.

Gargano said the state officials are ``skilled professionals
with great expertise in the fields related to this program'' and
they deserved better.

``Any desperate attempts by HUD to hold on to administration of
this program will only harm the very New Yorkers this program was
designed to serve,'' Gargano said.

Gargano said he was writing Cuomo at Pataki's behest.

Cuomo aides Friday denied that they mistreated the Pataki
administration officials in anyway and said they have bonafide
reasons for maintaining participation in the program for now.

``It was a very professional and very straightforward meeting,''
HUD spokesman David Egner said.

However, HUD is obligated by law to make sure states have the
proper approval to spend money under the program before turning
over authority to state officials. Egner said there are still steps
the Pataki administration has to make to get that authority _
including working out whether it has the power to spend the money
or whether the state Legislature also has to give its approval.

Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer, both Democrats, have said the Legislature must also be
involved in appropriating the federal funds.

HUD wants to collect applications for the next round of grants
so the paperwork will be there for the Pataki administration when
it's ready to take over, Egner said.

About $60 million a year is at issue in the program. The money
is used for local purposes such as economic development projects
and sewer upgrades. Prior to Clinton's signature on the budget
bill, New York and Hawaii were the only states in the country not
distributing the federal money.

But politics is also fueling the dispute between Albany and
Washington.

Pataki is a Republican who unseated Cuomo's father, Democrat
Mario Cuomo, as governor. Andrew Cuomo has indicated he may run as
a Democratic candidate for governor in New York in 2002 if Vice
President Al Gore doesn't win the presidency next year. Pataki may
run for a third term in that same race.

Republicans have acknowledged that they are concerned Cuomo
could have gotten political mileage during a gubernatorial campaign
by taking credit for projects under the block grant program if it
had remained in federal hands.

Andrew Cuomo is also embroiled with the Republican Giuliani
administration in New York City over the allocation of federal
funds. Cuomo has barred the city from transferring federal money
for the homeless to shelters and other service providers because
Cuomo says Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has inserted politics into the
process.

AP-ES-12-25-99 0007EST
Received  Id AP9935856737C61 on Dec 24 1999 23:07

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