January 5, 2016
Albany, NY

Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces Proposals To Transform Downstate Infrastructure And Bolster New York's Legacy Of Environmental Protection

TOP Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces...
WYSIWYG

Earlier today, Governor Cuomo unveiled two signature proposals of his 2016 agenda: a comprehensive plan to transform and expand vital infrastructure downstate and make critical investments in the region, and a number of initiatives to bolster New York’s legacy of environmental protection. These proposals include a major expansion and improvement project for the Long Island Rail Road and $300 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund – the highest amount ever for the fund and more than double the fund’s level when the Governor first took office.

More information on the Governor’s announcements is available here and here.

VIDEO of the press conference is available in TV-quality (h264, mp4) format here and on YouTube here.

PHOTOS are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

AUDIO of the Governor’s announcement is available here.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below:

“Well thank you very much. Good morning to all of you. First, it’s a pleasure to be with you. It’s a pleasure to be with the LIA. I am old enough to remember as a Queens boy, when the conversation was that Nassau and Suffolk had to start to work together because they were really two parts of Long Island and either Long Island was going to go up or Long Island was going to go down and there was also a friction between the two. And there were also politics between the two. The LIA, as a vehicle to facilitate that, has done extraordinary work, and frankly, the political leaders have done extraordinary work. You have a Nassau County Executive who is courageous enough as a public servant to reach across the boundary. You have a second County Executive who reaches across the boundary to figure out how to work together and how to work with partners for the betterment of all the people they represent. So let’s give County Executive Mangano and County Executive Bellone a big round of applause.

I do have a bone to pick with County Executive Bellone that I will do after this presentation. I was the victim of a vicious assault. In Suffolk County there were no police anywhere to be found. I was left to my own devices. I can file a police report, I can tell you exactly how it happened, where it happened, and who did it. It happened on a basketball court. The perpetrator was my brother Christopher. I have his address. He’s my baby brother. Well not really a baby brother. Plus he’s a journalist which is a whole different situation. But I expect you to do your justice.

I am also here with a team of representatives who have worked very hard on a plan for Long Island that you are going to hear today and I’d like to acknowledge them.

First, our Commissioner of Parks, Rose Harvey who is here. Rose, who don’t you stand? Basil Seggos, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, matt Driscoll, Commissioner of the Department of Transportation and we have Tom Prendergast as Chairman and CEO if the MTA. And Rick Cotton, who is Special Counsel who has been working on this plan for us.

I do the State of the State Address next week. The State of the State is like a mini State of the Union and it lays out that year’s agenda for the state. And this State of the State is going to be a little different. We’re going to be talking about a legislative agenda – laws we need for the entire state. But we’re also going to be talking about regional development plans, which is a new function for the state. It’s a new paradigm for the state. And today we want to talk to you about the plan that we envision for Long Island that we’re going to propose, that we’re going to discuss that will go through the legislative process and hopefully becomes a reality.

We start with a different perspective and we take a step back. The state of New York and everything we have around us that we now take for granted, that many of us just inherited. It didn’t just happen. New York was not a situation of evolution. New Yorkers made it happen. What we see, what we experience, that was all exercise and that was all ambition. This was a function of shaping and designing and constructing and willing New York to be built.

The founding fathers of New York said, “Look. What New York could do well – the future of New York is based on business and commerce and facilitating the growth of business and commerce.” You look at the State Seal you have in the center of the State Seal is what? Two sail boats on a body of water. That body of water is the Hudson River. The mountain behind is Mount Beacon. There are two sailing ships, one is a smaller schooner for intrastate commerce and the other one is a larger sailing vessel for international commerce. What they were saying was that the heart of the state is business and commerce. The Seal has Lady Liberty and Lady Justice on the sides. But it’s about business and about growing business because the people who were coming here were coming here for one thing – opportunity. And opportunity is one thing – jobs. So get that economic machine running. Government was then to facilitate the private sector economy by building the platform that the private sector could then expand upon.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we lost that rationale. We lost that reasoning and we lost it for decades. And we violated the first rule, which is do no harm. We made the business community an enemy of the state. The government itself became part of the problem. We increased taxes and we increased taxes and we actually increased taxes for fifty years – listen to this – at a rate higher than the people of the state were earning money. We were literally spending more than people were earning. So when you have that sense of people complaining, “You know, I feel the taxes are getting worse and worse and they’re going deeper into my pocket,” it wasn’t a feeling. They were going deeper into your pocket. And this was the whole story of New York for fifty years. We spent too much money, year after year.

By the way, Democrats and Republicans – “Well if we get a Republican, they don’t spend money.” Baloney. They spend more money than the Democrats – Rockefeller and Wilson. 11 - percent more every year. Hugh Carey – 7.9-percent more every year. Mario Cuomo – over 12 years, 6.0- percent. George Pataki, Republican - 5.2-percent. You know what I love about this? Mario – great liberal. “How much did the great liberal spend?” 6.9. “Oh, we have to get George Pataki – a great conservative. How much more did he spend per year?” 5.2. So the difference between a great liberal and a great conservative is a .7.

Now, all of this was at a rate too high. This is 50 years when inflation for 50 years was just about 4 percent. It didn’t make sense and that’s why the state is in the estuation it’s in. we came in four years ago and we said we were going to do something dramatic, we were going to cut spending and everyone said, “Oh you can’t do it. The Legislature is not going to allow you to do it. Every politician says it but then they go to the Legislature and the Legislature increases spending.” We said no. we said we were going to stop the tax increase that had happened year after year because if you spend more, you tax more. It’s a very simple equation. It’s the same way your business or your household runs. You spend money, you’ll have to earn the money. If you can’t earn the money, you borrow the money.

For government it’s easier. You don’t have to fill out a loan application, you just raise taxes to finish the spending. The spending caused a tremendous problem and I believe it chased businesses and people from the state. We said we were going to fix it. We have. We called for a two-percent limit on spending on the state side. And we actually did it. Five years of spending were at 1.4 percent additional per year. That has not happened in over 50 years. When you spend less, good things happen. When you reduce your caloric intake, good things happen. Right? And that’s how it is. As long as you’re spending less, good things happen. And we are spending dramatically less. And because we spent less, we could tax less and we have taxed less – all across the board.

Every person in this room pays a lower income tax rate than the day I was elected governor. We cut the middle class tax down to the lowest level since 1953. Corporate income tax is down to the lowest level since 1968. Manufacturing tax is at the lowest level in history – zero. Now we have more work to do in cutting taxes, especially when it comes to small business and we’re going to be working on that this year.

We then also attacked the main tax in New York because the main tax in New York is not the income tax. It’s not even the state tax. FDR used to rail about this because everyone would say to FDR, “Oh your taxes are so high.” And he would get defense. I don’t get defensive. It’s just water off the duck’s back. FDR was a different story. He would make the point that it’s not the state taxes that are high, it’s the local governments’ taxes that are high. How many local governments are in the state of New York? 10,500 local governments. County, town, village, water district, fire district, sewer district, another district to count the other district just in case you missed a district. You add them all up. Those are the property taxes. We collect more in property taxes than we collect in income taxes. Property taxes are about $50 billion a year and income taxes are only $40 billion a year. So it’s not really a state income tax. It’s a property tax and the state doesn’t control the property tax.

Now, property taxes on long Island have gone through the roof nationally, twice the rate of inflation. Some of the highest property taxes in the United States of America are on Long Island. Nassau and Westchester go back and forth for number one and number two as the highest property taxes in the United States of America, believe it or not. So that’s been a challenge. But it’s a challenge state government couldn’t get near. We attacked it a few years ago. We came up with a two percent limit on the property tax. I said look, “If I could live within two percent, you could live within two percent.” So we passed the two percent cap and most localities have lived within the tax cap and it is saving thousands and thousands of dollars. On average, in Nassau, depending on what you pay in Nassau, but the average household saves$5,000, average household in Suffolk - $4,000.

And we didn’t just extend the two-percent cap, we actually gave a homeowner’s rebate the next year. We’re pushing a concept that we have been and we’re going to continue this year called entrepreneurial government. I love that expression because when you say entrepreneurial government, people say that’s an oxymoron. You can’t have entrepreneurial government. Yes you can.

Why does government have to be a bureaucratic, slow, wasteful, inefficient piece? Where does it say that? In the Old Testament or the New Testament, can you find, “Government must be a hindrance to the private sector?” No. The Founding Fathers – in the middle of the seal, they intended government to be a partner with the private sector because that’s how we were providing opportunity. What do you do as an entrepreneurial government? You cut taxes and then you actively partner in business development and economic development, as an active investment partner. We call them Regional Economic Development Councils that we set up all across the state, made up of business leaders in that region – not politicians, business leaders. And we tell them, “You come together and you tell us how we can grow your region.” And we will then invest in your region.

Kevin Law has done an extraordinary job, as well as the other members of the REDC and it’s working. We’ve done it for five years, the Long Island REDC has been a top performer in four out of the five years. One year they didn’t do so well, but you know, it happens. Kevin swears it wasn’t his fault. The state has invested over half a billion dollars in long Island, 468 projects, 37,000 jobs leveraging $3.5 billion dollars. That is entrepreneurial government. A government that not only reduces the barriers, taxes, etc., but then invests to actually grow the jobs. We’re doing it all across the state and it’s working all across the state

The average unemployment has gone from 8-percent down to 4-percnet and unemployment is down all across the state – especially in upstate New York with has long-lagged downstate New York.

Now the second part of government’s role was to build. Government built the template that the private sector could then expand upon. On Long Island – transportation, our education facilities, Cold Spring Harbor, Stony Brook and Hofstra, and the research capacity. New York was all about ambition and daring to build, right? Look at why we are where we are. The Verrazano Bridge – impossible. The George Washington Bridge, impossible. Northern State Parkway, LIE, all ambitious, creative, creative proposals. The aqueduct to fund – to get New York City water, 60 miles of underground aqueduct to get New York City water. We are just from a history of brave engineering projects. The most visionary is the Erie Canal. It is the arrogance of downstate New Yorkers. You think that everybody came to New York, no, they were coming to New York in part because they were going up the Hudson to the Erie Canal which got them to the western part of the country.

The Erie Canal – Governor DeWitt Clinton 1817 to 1824 – DeWitt Clinton says, “I have a great idea, I know what is going to make New York’s future.” What? “We are going to build a canal across New York so that New York becomes the access to the west.” At the same time Jefferson and Washington were trying to get access to the west from Virginia because they knew that that port would be the dynamic port. So Clinton had a great plan, another great governor. Your ship comes in comes to Manhattan, goes up the Hudson River gets to Albany makes a left, goes across the state comes out in Buffalo and then you are in the Great Lakes. Once you’re in the great lakes you can come down the Ohio River and you’re in the western part of the country. Someone said, “Well governor one question when the ship gets to Albany to make the left, how does it come out in Buffalo?” He said, “Oh, no problem we are going to build a canal.” They said, “Dig a canal?” Yes. We are going to dig a canal in 1817. No hydraulics, just men and women, donkeys, we are going to dig a canal 524 miles. They built it in seven years. On time and on budget. And that is what exploded New York as the harbor. It was that daring, it was that courage. When he announced it, they moved to impeach him because they believed he was insane by the definition of proposing the idea.

That is New York that is who we are and that is what brought us to where we are today. But we can’t now just sit today on that daring and the accomplishments of a hundred years ago. This year in the state of the state we are going to propose the largest construction project program in modern political history in the state of New York. We are going to take the dream and the gift our founding fathers gave us and we are going to update it for a new generation.

Roads and bridges upstate, airports upstate and downstate, new mass transit, new attractions, new rail transit and new mass transit downstate which is desperately needed. And we are going to do it region by region. Why? Because the economy doesn’t work the way it used to work anymore. There is no New York State economy. We have ten regions in this state and they are regional economies and depending on what that region does, that region is going to rise or fall. Buffalo and western New York is a different economy than you. Adirondacks is a different economy. Hudson Valley is a different economy and Long Island is no longer just a bedroom community to New York City. And it is not, “as goes New York City so goes Long Island.” You have to determine your own future. You are going to go up or down. The new economies are very discrete. Palo Alto, California. Palo Alto, California it is the size of a postage stamp it is a very discrete economy so the question is for Long Island, what are you going to do on Long Island to make your economy work? You have to build on your assets and you have to reduce your liabilities.

What are your main liabilities? It is the infrastructure on Long Island and it is out of date. The Long Island Railroad began in 1834 as part of a ferry length to Boston. Why did they build the LIRR? To get people out to Montauk to get out to the ferry. That was the point of the LIRR. Population then was 35,000 at the time. The Northern State Parkway, 1931, population 464,000. Now the population is 2.9 million people here on Long Island. They have the worst commutes in the country on Long Island. Average commuter spends nearly three work weeks sitting in traffic every year. Current rate, congestion is going to increase by 25 percent by 2040 either you get ahead of that problem or that problem is going to consume you. I believe that is the frank and candid truth.

Some people say, “Well we need to build more roads.” You cannot build more roads. The answer is not more roads, not to get more people in cars burning more fuel and creating more traffic. The answer is improving your mass transportation system. The Long Island Railroad only has two tracks for most of the LIRR route. Some sections run only one way at peak times because the two tracks are not enough to handle the volume. A reverse commute is impossible because on rush hours the trains are just going one way. Intra-island transportation is impossible because the trains are going just one way and zero flexibility means less reliability on the system overall. Two tracks is no flexibility. This morning there was a broken rail on the main line at Westbury. Tom says he didn’t do it on purpose just to make this presentation. 40,000 commuters were delayed by up to twenty minutes in both directions. Why? Because there is no alternative track. If you have a problem on that track that cuts down 50 percent of the volume. This is just unacceptable and today we are announcing a new plan to increase the transportation services to the Long Island Railroad Expansion Program. It will increase track capacity making it easier to run trains both ways by improving service reliability. We can attract and make mass transit more attractive, faster, more comfortable, people will be more willing to get out of their cars and get into the trains which is exactly what we have to do.

The MTA will work on a new plan that will add a third track to the critical section of the current existing line which goes from Floral Park to Hicksville. Now in the past there have been proposals to expand the Long Island Railroad, they were rejected by political opposition. They were different from this proposal. Those proposals would have expanded the right of way that the LIRR currently owns and the expansion of the right of way would have require taking 250 properties or parts thereof. It would have effected 250 properties. The past rejected proposals was 11.5 miles, there was confusion about communication and the community contact was left something to be desired to be frank. We have a new plan which will keep the new track wholly within the existing right of way. So the construction will be within the right of way. There will be 50 properties which are minimally impacted because the new track will be closer to those properties. We’ve also reduced the amount of mileage of the proposal itself, from 11.5 down to 9.8 miles. On average, it’s a 5 foot incursion on 20 homeowners. I totally respect incursion on any property owner. But here we’re talking on average 5 feet, for 20 homeowners and 30 commercial properties along that 9 mile route. Keeping it within the right of way complicates construction – complicates is an MTA word for costs more money. But, I am willing to complicate the construction to actually get it done, and keeping it within the right of way makes it a totally different project.

It’ll reduce delays on the LIRR system. It is projected to serve 40% more commuters. It’ll save gas and time. It’ll reduce the environmental impact and carbon footprint. It’ll enable reverse commuting, which changes the whole transportation within the island, and promote intra-island commutation, which will then encourage economic development.

We have a four-point plan to get it done. We’re going to have a landowner protection program. If it affects your property we will either compensate you or we will buy out the property. This is going to be a billion dollar project. We’re talking about 50 properties. We can make these properties economically whole, within the scope of the project.
We’re going to have a community outreach program so there is no confusion about what we’re proposing, which happened last time. We’re going to have an environmental study that will fully study the noise impact and ways to reduce the sound absorption – but remember this is the third track. It’s right next to an existing track. These are properties that are already within earshot of the railroad. This train will be 15 feet closer than the existing train, but it’s not like a train is going through a piece of property where nobody had any expectation it was going to exist. We’re funding, in this budget, $7 million to commence the planning and launch he community outreach program.
And the Long Island Rail Road piece is part of a larger transportation vision that we’re doing all across the state. So the Long Island Rail Road will now connect to our new airport at LaGuardia. So if you’re going to LaGuardia from Long Island, you don’t have to drive. You can get on the Long Island Rail Road and take the Long Island Rail Road to LaGuardia airport. What kind of difference does that make? When we finish the East Side Access, you can take the LIRR to the East Side of Manhattan, or you can take it to the West Side, the old Penn Station. If you take it to Penn Station we’re going to change that because we’re going to redo the Farley Post Office, which is right across the street.

We also have an MTA Capital Plan that we’re going to do, if you get off the rail road and you get on the subway – the MTA Capital Plan which has been approved – 1,400 new subway cars, 3,000 new buses. It’s going to totally up the MTA for a next generation. Besides rail and mass, we have a major investment in air travel. We’re redoing LaGuardia, we’re redoing JFK. We’re redoing also Republic and we want to put a customs house at MacArthur Airport so you can have an international flight come into MacArthur. Why do you have to have an international flight that lands at JFK and then you have to come from JFK out to Long Island? Let the international traffic come right to MacArthur. It’ll spur economic development on the island. It’ll reduce commutation time. And MacArthur has great potential, physically. I’m proposing $6 million so we fully fund the federal customs house at MacArthur, and then we get federal approval to have it run by the TSA. At Republic airport – we have a new operator for Republic airport. And then we’re going to develop the surrounding real estate as tax-free zones. No taxes for ten years for any new business in those areas, and it’ll be right next to a new airport, a new 12-acre mixed unit.

Because of Long Island’s geography there are major congestion bottlenecks. Long Island – it’s an island, it’s a peninsula, call it what you will – but the geographic design of Long Island poses assets and liabilities. When we were talking about Shoreham and building the Shoreham nuclear plant, someone had a line I’ll never forget. ‘What’s the evacuation plan for Long Island if something happens at Shoreham? Jump in the Long Island Sound and swim for Connecticut as fast as you can.’ You can’t, by the physical constrictions – there is a problem.

We need to consider ambitious access proposals. Now, this is not a new idea. We’ve been talking about this for 75 years. 1938: FDR talked about building a bridge from Long Island to Connecticut or Rhode Island, understanding the physical constraints. Robert Moses saw it right away – the Oyster Bay-Rye Bridge in the 60s, that was never built. None of them have come to fruition. Long Island has paid the price. Just think about how different Long Island would have been today if either of those bridges would have happened. How much more accessible? You want to go North rather than going all the way into the city, into Queens and then up over the Throgg’s Neck and then 95? It would have taken hours off the commutation.

I want to spend $5 million dollars, I want to do a real feasibility study. I think we can build a tunnel from Long Island to either the Bronx, Westchester or Connecticut. It will save hours and hours from a commutation side. We want to invest a million dollars to study a deep-water port at the old Shoreham power plant. That would also be a way to get goods off Long Island and get goods into Long Island, so they don’t have to go through the city. We also have to invest in the economic generators that are on Long Island, the former Nassau Colosseum site. We will propose to invest $50 million dollars matched by $300 million in private investment to build a state-of-the-art bio-electronic medicine site. We will invest $50 million matched by $300 million with a joint venture with Feinstein, North Shore, Cold Spring Harbor, and Hofstra and Stoney Brooke universities. The bio-electric medicine will support 650 jobs.

The Ronkonkoma hub is on the busiest Long Island Rail Road station and we are talking about expanding the LIRR, it’s located near MacArthur Airport. It could be a great site for continued economic growth. Suffolk will propose investing $50 million for the infrastructure improvements to spur the 2.2 million square foot Ronkonkoma hub and its $600 million dollar mixed-use. This could be a fantastic generator for Suffolk.

And in Long Island, also remember, protect your assets. Long Island has a world-class environment. It’s the water on the North Shore and the South Shore, it’s the parks that are major part of Long Island’s history and attraction, thanks to Robert Moses. But we have to protect. The State’s Environmental Protection Fund is the main state fund that does this. It’s been depleted over the years. We want to increase funding by more than 30% on the EPF to get it up to a level where it can make a real difference and I want to fund it at $300 million, which would be the highest level in history.

You’re two county executives are exactly right, not only are they exactly right, they are happy fellows and they are nice looking gentleman. They have pointed out for a long time the problems of nitrogen and water pollution and it is having an effect everywhere – North Shore, South Shore. I was in the Peconic Bay this year, seeing thousands of dead fish floating, it takes your breath away. It is a problem that we have to get ahead of both in Nassau in Suffolk. We’ve invested $390 million in Suffolk for 10,000 homes, it’s the largest sewer project in 40 years. It’s being spearheaded by County Executive Bellone. We’re actively pursuing the remaining $250 million from FEMA, which is already been approved. Construction is going to begin this year.

In Nassau, we’re investing $191 million for the Bay Park Outflow Pipe and pursuing $150 million from the federal government. The outflow pipe is long overdue, many other states already have it. It brings the discharge two miles out to sea, so you don’t have all that nitrogen right up along the shoreline. The county executive has been a fierce advocate for it, and he’s exactly right. Anything we can do to make Bay Park a reality, we will.

This state is going to be investing in the parks to a more aggressive extent than ever before – Jones Beach, Heckscher, Bethpage as the state-of-the-art park.

And we’re also preparing for climate change. We were all out there during Sandy and Irene, and we know what it was like. I would love to be able to tell you today that this is last time it’s going to happen, it was a fluke, it was once in 100 years. I have had six once in 100 year floods while I’ve been governor. Extreme weather is here, it’s different. We get hurricanes, we get floods in places we’ve never had them before. Long Island is especially vulnerable. It can’t be that every time there is a storm the power is out. We have to retrofit the power grid.

PSE&G is in the midst of an entire revamp – we learned a lesson from LIPA. But we have to harden resiliency of Long Island. And it’s dunes, and its oyster beds, and it’s an entire comprehensive investment. But it is worth it, and we are going to do it from one end of the island to the other, because we don’t have a choice. In short, we are building today for a better tomorrow. That is the obligation of every generation to the next, right?

We are here to leave our children a better home. And our parents left us a better home. And we are to continue that legacy. If we expand mass transit, we expand the airports, we protect the environment, we make Long Island more resilient, we start the new economy, Long Island can be stronger than ever before and I think we can do that – I think we can leave a stronger home going forward.

We have to retrofit the power grid. PSE&G is in the midst of an entire revamp; we learned the lessons from LIPA. But we have to harden the resiliency of Long Island. And its dunes and its oyster beds and it’s an entire comprehensive investment, but it is worth it and we are going to do it from one end of the island to the other because we don’t have a choice.

In short, we are building today for a better tomorrow. That is the obligation of every generation to the next, right? We are here to leave our children a better home. And our parents left us a better home. And we are to continue that legacy. If we expand mass transit, we expand the airports, we protect the environment, we make long island more resilient, we start the new economy, Long Island can be stronger than ever before. And I think we can do that – I think we can leave a stronger home going forward.

Our history as New Yorkers was we took on the big challenges. We never said no. But the last, last point is this: we need – we need to reignite that ambition and that daring. Somewhere along the way – not only did we make mistakes like raising taxes and becoming anti-business. But somewhere along the way, we lost our daring. We got consumed by the opposition. And we got consumed by bureaucracy, and we don’t think big anymore. And we don’t believe we’re capable of doing big anymore. And we don’t believe government is a vehicle to do big anymore. And that, my friends, will condemn any of these dreams if that’s how we start.

When I first became governor, one of my first meetings, I was at a big conference table with a lot of career civil servants and I said “I want to do something very big. I want to do something big because people don’t believe in government, people are down, and the New York State government hasn’t worked in a long time. We want to have a big project that makes a big difference. That’s what I want to do. What is a big project that we can do?” Everybody looked at me like I was from Mars. They had absolutely no ideas. Somebody finally raised their arm and said “you can say that you will rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge.” Now, the Tappan Zee Bridge is a bridge that goes from Westchester to Rockland – it goes across the Hudson River. Twenty five years ago they started talking about rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge. I remember them saying “the Tappan Zee Bridge is falling down.” I remember them saying “it’s dangerous.”

Now, I remember because I have a thing for heights, to begin with. I used to go over the Tappan Zee Bridge and when you would go over the Tappan Zee Bridge, they would have these metal plates on the bridge. You would go over the plate and you would watch the plate with the car in front of you and every time a car went over the plate, the plate moved a little bit. If you looked really closely, you could see air between the plate and the car. I would start to think “that’s it, I’m doing down.” I would take off my seatbelt. If I land, do I open the door? Do I break the window? I was convinced every time I went over this Tappan Zee Bridge. Twenty five years. Governor after governor got up and said “I’m going to change the Tappan Zee Bridge.” Nobody changed the Tappan Zee Bridge. Year after year. It became such a metaphor for government incompetence and inability. If the bridge is dangerous, build a new bridge! If you’re not going to build a new bridge, don’t stand up and say “I’m going to build a new bridge!” You lose your credibility.

So I said to this room “what do you mean I can say I’m going to build a new bridge?”

They said “well, you can say it, that’s what governors do, they say it.”

People will hear it and say “that’s nice, poor guy he’s trying anyway. He’s trying.”

I said “why don’t we just do it?”

They said “oh, you can’t do it.”

I said “why can’t you do it?”

They said “it’s a bridge! It’s big. It goes over the water. It’s the Hudson River. You get sued by everyone. You get sued by the environmentalists. You get sued by the ‘save the fish people.’ You get sued by everybody! Plus, the neighbors on both sides of the bridge don’t want a new bridge because they don’t want the noise of the building of the new bridge.”

I said “guys, it can’t be this way. It’s not going to work this way. If we’re going to get stopped, every project is opposition.”

Building a bridge makes noise. It does. It is going to be inconvenient for the people on both sides of the bridge. Yes, but you can’t let all opposition stop projects. We’re in this political process. NIMBY, NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) and the shortcomings of the bureaucracy have stolen our capacity if we lived like this and worked like this, we wouldn’t be here. Long Island wouldn’t be here. You would all be potato farmers if this was the mentality. There would be no Long Island Expressway, there would be no railroad, there would be none of it. It would all be farms. We have to change that. I said to that room that day “I’m building it. The Tappan Zee Bridge. If we can’t, we are doomed. We are doomed.” I worked every day on that Tappan Zee Bridge. From the day I announced “we were going to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge”, one year later we broke ground on a bridge.

Now I am not saying it was easy. It was hard, politically, it was hard. Those people on both sides of the bridge, they will never vote for me in their lives, their children will not vote for me, their grandchildren will not vote for me. They throw rocks at me when they see me. I get it. I am getting sued by the “save the fish people”, the “save the clams people”, the “save the water people”, and the “bridges are bad people.” That is life. That is it. But the ambition – the daring was: I’m going to do it because I believe it despite that. They told me that when I first said “how long is it going to be when it takes to plan the Tappan Zee?”

They said “maybe seven years.”

I said “seven years? It can’t be seven years. What gets planned in seven years? God made the planet in seven days, how do you get to seven years?”

“Well, we have to do this, we have to do this, we have to do this.” The bureaucracy – it literally suffocates you. Tom Prendergast, God bless him has to fight the MTA bureaucracy every day. It takes them twenty-one days to open an envelope in the MTA. That is the enemy.

I talked to you about this proposal today: there will be opposition to this proposal. There will be. We can say “it’s all of fifty homes, well, it metastasizes. And there will be a lot of politicians that will say “I don’t want that negative, I can’t take that.” There’s going to be a lot of bureaucracies that say “oh, that’s going to be change and we don’t like change.” If we do not grow, then are not going ahead. It is just that simple. We come from a people who are willing to take a risk, who are willing to fight the odds, who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. We have to re-kindle that spirit. You have to re-kindle that spirit. This happens or doesn’t happen because of what you do. This happens if your elected officials vote for it. If your senators and your assemblyman vote for it in my bud get, this happens. If they don’t, this doesn’t happen. This will determine your economic future. You do this plan or most of this plan, it’s going to be a different Long Island. Then we will have fulfilled the dream where our children will have a better home than the home we had. My friends, at the end of the day it gets very simple and it is that simple. Leave this place a better place than you found it. Let’s leave Long Island a better place than we found it. You can make it happen.

Thank you and God bless you.”

Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office

NYC Press Office: 212.681.4640

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