As iPark 87 continues to secure funding and to seek tenants at the long-abandoned former IBM plant in the Town of Ulster, one Ulster County legislator, the ever-suspicious Joe Maloney, has called into question the transparency of the project due to a rumored unofficial deal between former county executive Pat Ryan and National Resources, the Connecticut-based developer.
In an interview on May 30, Metzger addressed the subject of an unofficial agreement Maloney had said he’d heard Ryan had made. “It’s entirely irrelevant what conversations were had between the previous county executive and National Resources Inc,” Metzger said. “I wasn’t part of any conversation beforehand, so I can’t make any kind of firsthand comment on it.”
That doesn’t mean there weren’t such conversations, only that Metzger didn’t feel bound by them.
It would be up to the county legislature to approve any lease between the county and iPark 87, Metzger added. If they weren’t happy with any such plans, they could collectively say so.
In an e-mail to Metzger on May 9, Maloney (D-Saugerties) said he’d heard that Ryan and National Resources president Joe Cotter had made an unofficial verbal deal that Ulster County government would lease 100,000 square feet of space at iPark 87. Maloney added that he’d heard that Metzger had agreed to honor a portion of the deal, which would involve relocating some county departments and a revenue-generating lease with the State of New York.
“As a legislator, it is my right, as well as that of the taxpayers, to know whether this information, or any of its components, is accurate,” wrote Maloney. “If such a deal was indeed reached, it raises concerns regarding the fairness and transparency of the agreement made with Mr. Cotter, the amount of taxpayer funds that were forfeited, and the county’s leasing, procedures and whether they were conducted in the best interest of taxpayers.”
In a follow-up e-mail dated May 10, Maloney acknowledged having spoken to Metzger on the telephone, and that the county executive had denied knowing anything about an unofficial agreement between Ryan and Cotter.
“Given that sources indicate Mr. Cotter and National Resources are becoming impatient for this side agreement to come to fruition, I anticipate that we will soon be presented with a formal presentation on the amount of space the county will be leasing from National Resources,” Maloney said. “At that time, I plan to ask about this topic.”
County is considering iPark space
It’s not that Metzger thinks Ulster County taking space at iPark 87 is a bad idea. In fact, the county executive said her office has been working with leaders from SUNY New Paltz, SUNY Ulster and Ulster Boces to help design the concept for a Workforce Innovation Center, which would involve the county moving its Office of Employment and Training, Ulster County Tourism, and the Department of Economic Development into a single 40,000-square-foot facility at iPark 87. That is common knowledge.
“Those three intersecting departments are located at three different buildings in the county, which makes absolutely no sense,” Metzger said. “They’ll all be combined on-site at the same location to take advantage of the natural synergies between them.”
A similar idea was part of congressmember Pat Ryan’s Ulster County Green New Deal, introduced in April 2019 during his time as county executive, as necessary for transitioning to an equitable green economy.
“There was a whole discussion about creating a center and preparing the workforce, creating the pipeline of jobs,” Metzger said. “These aren’t new concepts. All that really matters is, look, this is an opportunity, let’s take advantage of it.”
Metzger said federal legislation under president Joe Biden’s administration including the Inflation Reduction Act, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the CHIPS for America Act all support an industrial policy supportive of a transition to clean energy. In order to capitalize on that, local workers will need training.
“We want to be a magnet for that kind of investment here in Ulster County,” Metzger argued. “And we want to be able to capture a share of those great jobs that are coming here …. The single most important ingredient to attracting companies is the workforce. And this is a huge challenge for Ulster County. It’s a huge challenge for New York State. The analyses that have been done are showing that, um, you know, we basically need a whole new workforce. and there will be hundreds of thousands of jobs created in this shift to a clean-energy economy. The job potential has not existed since maybe World War II.”
Shifting to a sustainable economy
Metzger found something poetic “from an environmental perspective” about a clean-energy economic and education hub growing on the site of a former IBM facility.
“It’s redeveloping an industrial site,” she said. “It’s very symbolic of where we’re heading as a county, where we’re heading as a state in terms of fundamentally shifting our economy in a more sustainable direction. So the long and short of it is, to me, iPark 87 creates a huge opportunity for Ulster County to play a major role in this clean-energy transition and to realize all the benefits from it in terms of job creation. And we have an opportunity to demonstrate how to create the workforce to fill those jobs.”
Ryan declined to respond to Maloney’s claim, but joined Metzger in sharing his enthusiasm for the future of iPark 87.
“I’ve proudly fought to turn around iPark 87 since my first day as county executive, leading the revitalization effort alongside National Resources and county executive Metzger,” Ryan said. “This site will bring thousands of good-paying jobs to the region, and the investments here send a statement that the Hudson Valley will be at the forefront of economic development in New York State for decades to come. I couldn’t be more excited for the future of this project and what it means for Ulster County families.”
Cotter could not be reached for comment.