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By David Andreatta

June 21, 2011

Labor and community activists gathered today in Irondequoit to press the Cuomo administration on the status of statewide Regional Economic Development Councils, which the governor created to spur job growth.

Speaking against a backdrop of the near-vacant Medley Centre, which has emerged as a local symbol of the problems associated with economic development efforts that trade tax breaks for the promise of quality jobs, demonstrators called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to unveil the strategy of the councils.

“These councils need to provide meaningful change … and they need to ensure that taxpayers get a good bang for their buck,” said Jim Bertolone, president of the Rochester and Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation.

The rally of about 25 demonstrators was one of five protests around the state organized by the Alliance for a Greater New York, which released a report that was critical of awarding taxpayer subsidies to create jobs without strong accountability measures.

The report cited the Medley Centre as a failure of those policies, as the developer, Scott Congel, has not delivered on his pledge to invest $260 million into remaking the mall into a tourist destination with 900 new jobs despite receiving tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks over 30 years.

“The Medley Centre is an example of a good idea gone bad,” said Bob DeNoto, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 86.

In Syracuse, demonstrators gathered at the Carousel Center, where Congel’s father, Robert, has not realized longstanding plans to revamp the mall into a tourist mecca called Destiny USA that would include a 1,300-room hotel and an 18-hole golf course.

“New York spends $8 billion a year on corporate tax breaks in the name of economic development with precious little show for it,” said Paula Hansen, president of Metro Justice.

To read the full article, visit the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.