Behind The Buffalo Billion: Kaloyeros Suspended Without Pay

Sep 23, 2016

The head of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, is one of the key targets of criminal complaints by federal and state officials.

Until recently, though, Kaloyeros, was a highly favored state official, earning far more pay than any other employee, and running Governor Cuomo’s signature economic development programs.  

Dr. Alain Kaloyeros was recruited to New York over 20 years ago by the current governor’s father, former Governor Mario Cuomo, in the 1990’s, to develop the then experimental Nano computer chip technology, as part of the State University at Albany. He’s been tight with the state’s leaders ever since, including Governors  Pataki, Spitzer, Paterson,  and now, at least until recently,  Andrew Cuomo, whom Kaloyeros is quick to praise.

“The man I’m proud to call my mentor, our leader, your governor,” said Kaloyeros in an introduction during a July 2015 in Rochester with Vice President Joe Biden,  announcing a SUNY designed and owned photonics lab. 

Governor Cuomo’s been eager to return the compliments , as he did during a speech at the topping off ceremony at the giant Solar City plant in Buffalo, also last summer, where he called Kaloyeros his “economic guru.”

“He has economic visions that other mere mortals can’t actually see,” Cuomo said.

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Under Andrew Cuomo, the prestige and the autonomy of what’s now the independent SUNY Polytechnic Institute, grew. President Obama visited during his 2012 re election campaign. Kaloyeros is President and CEO and is paid over a million dollars a year from SUNY and the University’s Research Institute. He’s been a key player in designing the state’s Buffalo Billion and other projects, and credited with inventing the opaque not for profit management model that drew scrutiny by the US Attorney, Preet Bharara. It’s estimated that he at one time oversaw over $43 billion dollars in economic development projects.

John Kaehny, with the reform group Reinvent Albany, says it’s grown into a system that is ripe for corruption.

“It’s out of control, basically,” said Kaehny.   

Kaloyeros, who did not agree to talk for this story, was born in the late 1950’s and grew up in war torn Lebanon. According to a 2012 profile in the Albany Times Union, he survived a terrorist attack as a teenager and for a time joined the Christian militia before emigrating to the United States and eventually getting a Ph. D in Experimental Condensed Matter Physics from the University of Illinois.

During the past two decades in the Albany area, the colorful and charismatic Kaloyeros has often been seen driving to the local Starbucks in his Ferrari, with custom license plates that read “Dr. Nano”.

But, since the federal probe and an additional investigation by the State Attorney General began, Kaloyeros fell from grace within the Cuomo Administration. In May, he was stripped of all authority in making economic development deals, and forced to resign from the development boards.

And now that he’s been charged in criminal complaints by both federal and state officials, Kaloyeros has been suspended, without pay.

SUNY Nanotech Center on the campus of SUNY Polytechnic.

Cuomo, who said in a statement that he was “saddened and disappointed” by the criminal charge,  for months now has publicly distanced himself from Kaloyeros.

They have not appeared in public together, and when  governor was asked about the contracts awarded to politically connected campaign contributors, Cuomo said he didn’t make those decisions, “SUNY”, did. 

“They are the ones who ran the contracts,” said Cuomo “And I had absolutely nothing to do with it.”

And Kaloyeros, who’s credited with brilliance  for his ground breaking vison on the future of nanotech engineering, is now being called “stupid” and “brazen” by the state’s Attorney General for his alleged participation in the corruption schemes.