NYS Exposed: Contracts expose costs of FLX Welcome Center; $1,014 for a 10'' frame

September 07, 2018 03:12 PM

The new Finger Lakes Welcome Center opened in Geneva a few months ago. 

New York State leaders promise it will help boost tourism but if you're a taxpayer and not a tourist, you shelled out millions for what's inside and outside that building. 


There's no doubt, the center is impressive.

"I think it's great, it's clean, it's very bright and welcoming. Outside and all the way through to the water is fantastic," says Dannylee Rosa who lives in Rochester and took a walk through on her day off.  

George Farris, who grew up in New York but moved to Florida after retirement, was visiting the area for a week with his girlfriend when he stopped in to check it out. 

"People are traveling, they see this, they gotta stop," he says.

When the center opened in late May, Governor Andrew Cuomo joked that he was behind the entire design. 

"The truth is, it was all me…upside down canoe light fixtures, when I first said it, they mocked me--look how well they worked out," he laughed.

But how much did those fixtures and some of the other highlights of the center cost taxpayers? 

At the grand opening, the state would only say the entire project was around $5 million but News10NBC wanted a breakdown of costs so, under the Freedom of Information Law, we requested all contracts for the project.  

Last week, Empire State Development provided one contract it had with a marketing company to decorate the inside.  

It shows $434,365 in fabrication costs for items like an artifact wall, kiosks, gallery walls, AV equipment, LED screens, Walk of Fame plaques and soffit graphics—all of that seems fairly standard. 

But, among the itemized list of expenses are a number of smaller items with price tags that are raising eyebrows.  

The upside down canoe light fixtures Governor Cuomo was raving about, the boats themselves were donated, but the rigging and lighting was around $12,500 each for a total of $49,806.        

A  7" by 5" printed map of New York State mounted to a frame was $9,900. 

A "selfie" wall, which is printed wallpaper of a waterfall with the I Love NY logo on it, was $13,153. 

Two signs that point to the bathroom cost $6,240.

A single-sided "Community Room" sign with steel letters and a wood backer was $3,000 and the placement of that sign is about two inches away from a plastic sign that says the same exact thing, but also has braille.   

It was the cost of a single picture frame, however, that seemed to irritate taxpayers the most.

The 10'' by 10'' stainless steel frame with a plexi panel that's intended to tell people that the boats hanging above them have been donated cost NYS taxpayers $1,014.  

Keep in mind, those numbers are just the fabrication costs.

Installation was another $158,496 and the "management" of the decorating process which includes travel and salary costs for nine separate employees of the marketing company was $131,960.  

Farris says while the center may encourage tourism, taxpayers are shelling out a lot on the welcome wagon. 

"That's one reason why I got out.... the taxes are everything," he said.  

A spokesman for Empire State Development tells News10NBC this $750,000 contract was the only one that went directly through ESD. 

The other $4.5 million spent on the center was funneled to the City of Geneva through an ESD grant. So, all other contracts for work need to come from the City of Geneva. 

When asked whether ESD was keeping a close eye on the line items, spokesman Jason Conwall said a competitive bid process was followed and without commenting directly on the spending, he offered this statement, "Each Welcome Center has been designed with regional assets in mind, ensuring an engaging experience for the many visitors who have and will continue to enjoy the beautiful facilities across the state. The feedback from New Yorkers and visitors has been tremendous – as WHEC reporters know first-hand – and we're proud to promote the Finger Lakes and all the region has to offer."

News10NBC has filed additional FOIL requests with the City of Geneva to review the remaining contracts which should include costs for the flooring (which has a map of the Finger Lakes region etched on it) the bar, the interior and exterior furniture, the waterfall, the interior chandeliers which are made out of glass bottles, the "I Love NY" signage and the exterior playground.  

View the contract for this work below.

Empire State Development pr... by on  S cribd


Jennifer Lewke

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