Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s running mate, Kathy Hochul, stopped by Villa Italia Bakery in Schenectady on Friday, praising the city’s small businesses and the Galesi Group's plans for development along the Mohawk River.
The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor spoke with Mayor Gary McCarthy about the challenges facing small businesses in the city. She stressed how just one business — like the bakery — could be a catalyst for economic development.
“We have seen a transformation here in Schenectady, and Governor Cuomo has done a phenomenal job making sure we have the resources to continue the growth that is so necessary here in upstate New York,” she said. “I’m excited about what is going on with [Proctors] in town here and the development.”
Hochul, a former Buffalo congresswoman, said her mother started her own flower shop, and when she graduated from law school she worked there with her mother.
“So I know what it is like to be an entrepreneur and start-up business owner,” she said.
Italian music played in the background as Hochul got a tour of Villa Italia, which is owned by the Mallozzi Group. She tried some of the torrone — an Italian nougat candy — that Bobby Mallozzi said the bakery only recently introduced.
Cuomo named Hochul as his running mate in May after Robert Duffy said he would not seek another term. Before holding the 26th Congressional District seat, Hochul served as Erie County clerk.
“I am spending a tremendous amount of time just reaching out to the constituents all across New York state,” she said, with Friday marking her first visit to the Capital Region.
Hochul said the Galesi Group’s plans to revitalize the former Alco site off Erie Boulevard — now called Mohawk Harbor — with apartments, hotels, retail and a possible casino would be “spectacular” for Schenectady.
“I know one of the contenders was disqualified, so that certainly narrows the focus,” she said. “There is a lot of excitement about what that can do for the Mohawk region here.”
On Thursday, the state Gaming Commission’s Facility Location Board disqualified a proposed casino project in Montgomery County for failing to provide adequate application materials. That leaves four other sites being pitched for a casino in the region — Cobleskill, East Greenbush, Rensselaer and Schenectady — with one expected to receive a casino license in the fall.
Rotterdam developer the Galesi Group is partnering with Rush Street Gaming of Chicago on a proposed $300 million casino and hotel called the Rivers Casino and Resort at Mohawk Harbor. Plans for the site also include a $150 million investment for apartments, a second hotel and office and retail space. The Galesi Group will move forward with those plans even without a casino license, according to the developer.
“Independent of whether or not the casino comes to this area, I think there is great potential to continue utilizing the tourism opportunities and drawing people to celebrate our history,” Hochul said. “So a lot of good things are happening.”
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss are challenging Cuomo and Hochul, respectively, on the Republican line in the November election. Astorino and Moss have made several stops in the region over the past few months. In May, Astorino picked up endorsements from local Republican legislators during Assemblyman Jim Tedisco’s annual breakfast in Scotia, while Moss attended Schenectady’s Juneteenth celebration in June.
Zephyr Teachout and her running mate, Tim Wu, are also challenging Cuomo and Hochul in a Democratic primary on Sept. 9. Teachout is a law professor at Fordham Law School, and Wu is a professor at Columbia Law School. Wu knocked Hochul last month for not appearing on the campaign trail.
“I’m not concerned at all,” Hochul said of Wu. “I am out here talking to people that I believe are going to want to support somebody with the experience, the aptitude and the knowledge that it takes to run a state like this.”