ALBANY — A $15 million state-built film studio outside Syracuse, which promised to produce hundreds of jobs and bring Hollywood’s glitter to Central New York, hit an inglorious milestone on Friday with its sale to a new corporation set up by Onondaga County to manage it.
The price? $1.
The flop of the Central New York Film Hub, built by frequent and generous donors to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo who are facing federal corruption charges, had been presaged almost since its announcement in 2014, when the governor wondered aloud the miracle of the concept.
“Who would have ever figured: Hollywood comes to Onondaga, right?” Mr. Cuomo said. “You would have never guessed. But it has.”
It actually never did.
Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat facing re-election in the fall, had promised that the project would create “at least 350 new high-tech jobs” and would be “a hot spot” for cutting-edge filmmaking techniques. But beyond temporary construction jobs, sporadic shoots and a lucrative contract for its builder, COR Development, the film hub has been anything but a success. It sat rarely used and became the subject of lawsuits by COR, which said the state owed it back rent.
The lawsuits were not the film hub’s only brush with scandal: In 2016, two executives with COR, Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, were charged in a federal bid-rigging case along with Alain E. Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute.
All three men have pleaded not guilty, as has a fourth co-defendant, Louis Ciminelli, another developer who has given money to Mr. Cuomo.
Mr. Aiello was found guilty of conspiracy in March during a separate corruption trial that also saw the conviction of Joseph Percoco, once one of the governor’s closest aides and friends. Mr. Percoco was found guilty of three corruption-related counts, including conspiracy and solicitation of bribes.
Mr. Cuomo, 60, has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the taint of corrupt associates has become an issue in his re-election campaign, used by both his Democratic challenger, the actress Cynthia Nixon, and his Republican opponent, Marcus Molinaro.
A 2016 investigation of the film hub by The New York Times found that the producers chosen to anchor the project by the Cuomo administration were entangled an array of lawsuits, tax liens and legal judgments. Their company, FilmHouseNY, used a misleading website to suggest it had offices in Albany and the Los Angeles area; it had neither. (The website listed its New York headquarters as “Suite 263,” the number of the company’s mailbox at a U.P.S. Store in a suburb outside Albany.) And despite the governor’s promises of jobs, the film hub had only two employees.
No major productions were ever shot at the film hub, and on Friday, the board of the Fort Schuyler Management Corporation, a nonprofit affiliated with SUNY that owned the 52,000-square-foot structure, opted to cut ties and essentially gift it to a newly created entity, Greater Syracuse Soundstage.
Development officials characterized Friday’s action as a transfer, not a market-value sale. Howard Zemsky, the president of Empire State Development, the state’s principal development agency, said that the $1 transaction to the county development entity came after an evaluation that the hub was “a bit of an outlier” to other state investments in high-tech industries. “It didn’t really fit or build on that ecosystem,” Mr. Zemsky said. “Its best path forward was in local hands.”
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
At his peak, Mr. Kaloyeros, a flamboyant physicist praised as a genius by Mr. Cuomo, had wide sway over the Buffalo Billion, the governor’s signature upstate economic development program that will play a major role in an upcoming federal trial.
At the film hub’s announcement in 2014, Mr. Cuomo called Mr. Kaloyeros “New York’s secret weapon” and praised him effusively. “We are blessed to have him,” the governor said.
Mr. Kaloyeros’s trial is slated to begin June 11.
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