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Source: Elmira Star-Gazette

Cuomo promotes from within for NYPA post


Posted: November 8, 2011
Originally Published: October 31, 2011

ALBANY -- The public authority overseeing 17 of the state's power plants will promote from within to fill its vacant presidency, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

Cuomo nominated Gil Quiniones, the New York Power Authority's chief operating officer since 2008, to take over as president and CEO of the White Plains, Westchester County-based authority.

"(Quiniones) is a dedicated public servant who knows every aspect of the Power Authority -- from the power lines to the extraordinary potential to harness New York's energy resources to support economic development and job creation," Cuomo said in a statement.

Pending confirmation by the state Senate, Quiniones will replace Richard Kessel, who led NYPA from October 2008 until he resigned in July amid a state investigation into the authority's donations to politically connected non-profit groups.

Quiniones, who previously served as senior vice president of the New York City Economic Development Corp., has been acting president since Kessel's resignation. The authority had $3 billion in net assets at the end of 2010, taking in $181 million in income that year, according to its most recent financial report.

Cuomo's nomination drew praise from NYPA's current chairman Michael Townsend, a Fairport, Monroe County, resident who works as an attorney for Pittsford-based Harris Beach LLP.

"He's served as interim (president) before, so we've had the chance to evaluate him in that capacity," Townsend said. "We've been very pleased by his performance, and he's more than capable."

The nomination comes after the Power Authority in September pulled the plug on a Kessel-backed offshore wind farm project in the Great Lakes in western New York, citing high-costs and a difficult fiscal climate.

The move was praised by opponents of the long-debated wind project, but knocked by environmental groups that had viewed the project as a crucial step toward promoting renewable energy in New York.

"We're hopeful that the new president and CEO thinks big when it comes to renewable energy, in particular wind energy and solar," said Brian Smith, program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. "We think that NYPA needs to play a critical role in advancing both efficiency and renewable energy in New York state."

Moving forward, Quiniones will be faced with dealing with the authority's aging infrastructure, including transmission lines that in some cases are 60 or 70 years old.

Townsend said the authority is currently conducting a detailed analysis of its infrastructure needs.

"Transmission is going to be one of the major issues for us in the near and long term," Townsend said. "It's a major project, potentially costing $1 billion or more, to replace with state-of-the-art transmission lines and integrate the most recent technological advances."

Quiniones was not made available for comment Monday. His new salary was not disclosed, but he earned about $238,000 in 2009, according to the website seethroughny.net.

In a statement, Quiniones said his time at the Power Authority has been "both challenging and fulfilling."

"I thank Governor Cuomo for nominating me for this prestigious position at the authority, and together we will continue providing the best in class and crucial service to New Yorkers across the state," he said.

Townsend, who was appointed to the NYPA board by then-Gov. George Pataki in 2004 before he was elevated to chairman in 2009, declined to speculate on his own future. His term on the board expired earlier this year, but he hasn't heard whether he will be replaced or reinstated.

NYPA controls 17 power-generating facilities across New York, including the Kensico Project hydro-power facility in Westchester County and the Niagara Power Project in Lewiston, Niagara County.

Cuomo also announced he would tap Leecia Eve to serve as his deputy secretary for economic development.

Eve, a one-time candidate for lieutenant governor who had been the senior vice president of the Empire State Development Corp., replaces Patrick Foye, who Cuomo selected in October as the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.