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Officials urge inclusion of $750M Wadsworth Lab funding in NYS budget

Dave Lucas / WAMC News
Officials gather at Rosemont Park in Albany.

Elected officials, business and labor leaders are pushing to include $750 million in the New York State Budget for the Wadsworth Lab consolidation.

Speaking in Albany's Rosemont Park, Democratic state Assemblywoman Pat Fahy says officials are looking to restore Wadsworth to its former glory as a national epicenter of health, science and technological research at its new home on the Harriman Campus, a stone's throw from the University at Albany's uptown campus.

"Wadsworth Labs right now employ about 800-1,000 people, depending on whose numbers you use and how long they are," Fahy said. "Early projections said that just by consolidating and renovating and upgrading those labs, they could go as high as 1,200. That was all pre-COVID. And that's not the construction jobs. Those are the full-time permanent employment jobs."

Both Senate and Assembly one-house budget resolutions included full funding for the lab. UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez says the pandemic demonstrated how critical relationships between public agencies and university researchers are, especially during public health emergencies.

"A state of the art Wadsworth facility, directly next door to the region's largest public research university, leverages the best of both sides on these important assets," Rodríguez said. "This facility is good for the state of New York. It's good for New Yorkers. It's good for the city of Albany. And it's good for the University at Albany."

Mike Elmendorf, President & CEO of the Capital Region Chamber and Center for Economic Growth, says the Wadsworth project is "a real big deal."

"This would be the largest public construction project by our math in the Capital Region since the Empire State Plaza was built," Elmendorf said. "Think about that. Think about that, right. And it nearly disappeared without a peep. But more than that, this project is critical to New York, because if a decision was made several years ago that we were going to spend three quarters of a billion dollars on a new public health lab. The need for that today is far more clear and present than it was back then, given what we've been dealing with."

Fahy says the Assembly and Senate are still waiting to hear from the governor.

"I did reach out to DOB [Division of the Budget] when it had fallen out of the budget," Fahy said. "It was quite a surprise because this project originated with the governor a number of years ago and they have spoken in support about it in previous years. So no since then, we have not heard anything new since January when it was not in, other than I know there is an interest in expanding public labs and we have heard there's some interest in expanding downstate. Expansion is fine. And we're happy to work with our federal partners because I think we've all recognized the importance, but we want the primary investment here right behind us, right on Harriman. The site has been developed with that in mind."

Cuomo administration officials responded to a request for comment, saying only that "budget negotiations are ongoing."

Fahy says the investment in Wadsworth is critical to New York's post-COVID recovery.

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