Cuomo names successor to Zemsky

Update: When Investigative Post asked Howard Zemsky about his potential replacement as CEO of the Empire State Development Corp. on Friday, he said someone would be named “soon.” Today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated ESD board member Eric Gertler to take over for Zemsky, once he is confirmed by the state Senate. Gertler, executive chairman of US News and World Report, previously served as executive VP of New York City Economic Development Corp. and as co-chair and co-publisher of New York Daily News.


Howard Zemsky announced in May he was stepping down as the state’s economic development chief, but he remains on the job more than three months later pending the appointment of a successor. Zemsky told Investigative Post he doesn’t expect to remain on the job much longer, however.

Zemsky, recovering from knee surgery, seemed to relish his position as CEO of Empire State Development Wednesday while speaking during an event touting the state’s commitment of $10 million for the Niagara Falls Bridge District, as part of the agency’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Zemsky at Niagara Falls event last week.

“Governor, you have believed in Western New York and Niagara Falls like no governor has previously,” Zemsky told Gov. Andrew Cuomo from behind the podium after Cuomo announced the investment.

For the time being, Zemsky is expected to continue to make the rounds as CEO with the governor as they continue their funding tour, but his replacement could be imminent. When asked about the status of his position, Zemsky told Investigative Post he intends to step down when the governor announces a new CEO “soon.”

His signature dry wit was on display in Niagara Falls. He got some laughs when, after slowly ascending the steps to the stage, he told the crowd he’d been recuperating for a couple of months. “I added the handrail to add some extra drama, although I couldn’t remember which leg to limp with.”

He proceeded to tout what he described as Niagara Falls’s economic growth, noting private sector job creation, worker wage growth, establishment of new businesses and a hot real estate market.

Zemsky even had a prop: a large cookie tin featuring an image of the Falls, a product of the city’s longtime purveyor of Italian goodies, DiCamillo Bakery, a family business started in 1920.

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Zemsky took the reins at ESD in 2015. As expected, he will remain in his position as chair of the agency after his CEO stint ends. An ESD spokesperson provided no further information regarding a timeline for his replacement.

In May, The Wall Street Journal reported, “Top aides to the governor have spoken to several potential candidates to run the day-to-day operations of the authority. They are seeking someone with private-sector experience and Mr. Zemsky is assisting in the recruitment, several people familiar with the administration’s work said.”

Zemsky also heads up Buffalo’s Larkin Development Group, the firm behind property renovation and land development projects around the city, including the Larkin at Exchange Building and Larkin Square.


Editor’s note: This is Kate Kaye’s first story for Investigative Post. Readers can follow her on Twitter at @KateKayeReports and email her at kkaye@investigativepost.org.