New ESDC Chief Emphasizes Unity

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The New York Sun

The Empire State Development Corp. has been without a downstate president for seven months, but its new president and CEO, Marisa Lago, is not yet ready to say when the executive charged with overseeing New York City’s economic development projects will be appointed.

In her first comments since assuming the job on Monday, Ms. Lago, who will be working out of a Manhattan office, pledged to spread her attention equally across New York State and to end a perception created under the Spitzer administration that the ESDC suffers from a confusing, bifurcated leadership structure that pits upstate versus downstate.

“We want to send a message that this is one entity — I am heading this as CEO and president of a united entity, but this doesn’t mean that all of a sudden there is going to be a loss of focus on upstate,” Ms. Lago said yesterday in an interview.

Ms. Lago is working with the ESDC’s chairman, Robert Wilmers, to find a downstate president to help coordinate financing and construction for a number of development projects, including Forest City Ratner’s plans for 16 skyscrapers; an 18,000-seat basketball arena for the Nets; thousands of apartments at a site at the corner of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues; the redevelopment of Penn Station, and the proposed expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The position has been vacant since Patrick Foye resigned in March. Dennis Muller was appointed upstate president last month.

Ms. Lago formerly served as the head of development for the city of Boston and worked in two mayoral administrations. She has spent the last seven years in international finance as global head of compliance for Citi Markets & Banking.

Ms. Lago declined to comment on the future of the Atlantic Yards Project and the redevelopment of Penn Station, both of which have been stalled. She said the timing of her appointment, which coincides with Wall Street’s woes, made the ESDC’s work that much more important.

“Sure, one can say it is great to be in flush times, there are more dollars. But on the other hand, the need for strategic economic development is actually keenest in a down economy,” she said.

The New York Sun

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