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New Thruway boss heading today for confirmation

ALBANY -– The billionaire nominated by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to head the Thruway Authority sailed through his first Senate confirmation hearing this morning.

Howard Milstein, a banking and real estate executive from Manhattan and a major donor to Cuomo’s campaign, fielded mostly softball questions and compliments from members of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Aides to Cuomo cut off two reporters trying to question Milstein after the committee meeting, saying he would be available if confirmed later today by the full Senate.

A protest against Milstein is planned for later today in Niagara Falls by religious leaders concerned about the hundreds of parcels of land Milstein and his brother have acquired over the last 12 years in the city. Milstein has not publicly said what he will do with the land, much of which sits vacant or with boarded up buildings on the lots.

Milstein’s nomination has been controversial, beginning with the Cuomo administration quietly sending his name to the Senate for consideration without making it public. Far lesser titles than the head of the state’s major road and canal systems have been featured in press releases throughout the past six months.

Also, Milstein is a major donor to Democrats and Republicans, including many of the senators who will be voting to confirm him.

And this week, New York Times columnist Michael Powell checked in with this item about Milstein.

In his transportation meeting, Milstein talked several times about wanting to use more private companies as partners with the Thruway Authority in future projects, especially larger construction and economic development endeavors.

He said private/public partnerships "will be high on the agenda" if he is confirmed.

Cuomo has said Milstein will avoid conflicts of interests that may involve the businessman’s real estate interests downstate and in Niagara Falls and the Thruway Authority.

Milstein provided no specifics to the committee about potential deals with private developers or financiers, or any details about tolls along the highway.

UPDATE: The full Senate approved Milstein's confirmation shortly after 4 pm today.

--Tom Precious

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |