This morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomodelivered remarks at the 2017 Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York Winter Conference in Hollywood, Florida.
Video, audio and photos will be available shortly.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is available below.
Governor Cuomo: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, thank you. I’ll tell you what’s really impressive. What’s impressive is that you are here this morning because I saw most of you at the bar last night at one o’clock in the morning. First; to Gary LaBarbera, who’s done such a fantastic job leading your unions. Let’s give him a round of applause. We have the big boss here today, President Sean McGarvey who’s leading the nation, pleasure to be with you Mr. President. Jimmy Cahill, who is such a good friend to me and my entire family for so long let’s give Jimmy a round of applause. I brought my team down with me and they were here actually before, Secretary to the Governor Bill Mulrow, our commissioner of labor Roberta Reardon, my chief of staff Melissa DeRosa. Well it’s good to be here. I don’t often leave the state of New York, I’m a little superstitious as Governor. I’m afraid if I leave, that’s when something is going to happen. So I don’t leave often. I don’t think I’ve ever come to Florida for breakfast before. Going right back after this. But you were here, and I understand the tradition and because you’re here, I’m here.
And the first thing I wanted to say was thank you. You have always been very, very good to the Cuomo’s. Going back to my father’s time, when he was governor of the state of NY, you were always there with him. You were there with him when I was AG, you supported me for governor, I don’t believe I would be governor if it wasn’t for your support and I want to say thank you, and that’s why I’m here. I’ll never forget it. I’ve been around construction almost all my life – as a young kid, working summers, I carried enough bags of cement to learn that I wasn’t as tough as I thought I was. I was a housing developer who built houses in NY, I was HUD secretary for eight years and HUD basically does all the large construction projects around the country. So I learned a lot. And now as HUD secretary I went all over the country, visited all 50 states, and if I was flying into a city or a state and as we were about to land I’d look down and count the cranes. Count the cranes, count the cranes. And if you count the cranes that are in the sky, it is basically a barometer of how that area is doing. Because you count the cranes and that place is building, that place is growing. And if they are not you know their competitor a few miles away is. And you could get a great sense of who’s building for the future and who’s not and who has a future just by counting the cranes. That was an orientation that this nation had for many years. We believed that you had to build to grow. We believed that you are what you build. America didn’t just become the greatest country on the globe. We built it that way. It was our initiative, it was our energy. We built the railroads, we built the bridges, we built the airports, we built the interstate highways, and that’s what made America, America. We did it bigger and better than anyone else in the world. And that’s what made America.
And New York was actually at the forefront of that entire movement. We were the engine on the train. NY had the gumption, we had the muscle, we had the moxie. They would tell us, you can’t do it. It’s never been done before. And that would make us more incentivized to do it. It started in 1817 with the Erie Canal. When you think even today, what a bold vision – the race in 1817 was who could open up the west of the country. What port would be the access way to the west? And Washington wanted to be the big port in the nation and they were going to have ships coming in through Washington and have a series of canals to get to the western part of the country. And there was a governor DeWitt Clinton, no relation to the other Clinton. Not that he’d admit it anyway. And DeWitt says I have a great idea. The ships will come through the New York port, they’ll come to Manhattan. They’ll stop in Manhattan, have a meal; have a drink, and then they’ll go up the Hudson River 150 miles. They get to Albany, they make a left, you come out the other end of the state in Buffalo, you’re in the Great Lakes and once you’re in the Great Lakes you can go anywhere. You have all the great rivers. And somebody raised their hand and said, “Governor, that’s a great idea, but when you make the left, at Albany, how do you get out at Buffalo? You have to go across the entire state, 400 miles.” He said, “No problem. We’ll dig a canal.” 1817. No hydraulics, no cranes, they wanted to impeach him – saying he had lost his mind. Literally. They tortured him, end of the story, seven years, on time, on budget, they built the Erie Canal. They did what they said could never be done.
Erie Canal is what made New York, New York. And it was that kind of confidence, it was that kind of unbelieve confidence that actually made New York, New York and started the whole nation on that endeavor. We never stopped. We had the confidence, we believed we could do it. 1915 – They don’t know if NYC is going to be a major city or not because there’s no clean water. 1915 – They build a 90-mile aqueduct to the Catskills to bring down clean water. Brooklyn Bridge – 1883. Called the 8th wonder of the world. The longest bridge in the world ever attempted, the Brooklyn Bridge. And that fed our confidence. George Washington Bridge, 1931, again, the longest bridge in the world. Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, 1964, again the longest bridge in the world. And because it wasn’t enough for us to build over the water, then we had to build under the water. And we built the Holland tunnel, 1927, the longest tunnel ever built and the first tunnel to figure out a ventilation system so you could actually build an underwater tunnel that long. 800 mile subway system underground, the most complex subway system in the world and we did it in good times and bad. Even during the most dire of times, that New York spirit did not end. We built the Empire State Building, the Rockefeller Center, the Triborough Bridge in the midst of the Great Depression. When everybody else was scared we said, “No, we’re going to double down because that’s who we are.” That was our ambition, that was our confidence, maybe even a little bit of New York arrogance. But that was New York generation after generation. And that was the American way.
And then something happened in the sixties and we lost that energy and we lost that drive and in the sixties you see spending start to decline on the federal side from a point where it was to today, half of what we were spending in the sixties. The states couldn’t make up the difference for the infrastructure funding and funding is down about a third from what the states were spending at the time. And since the sixties frankly we’ve been posted. We were in many ways like trust fund kids. We’re living off the investment. We’re living off what the old man left us. We’re living off the dividends. We’re living off our construction legacy. Yeah, the problem is, our competitors haven’t been posted and they haven’t been living off the legacy. That’s why there’s no surprise that China has fourteen of the world’s twenty longest bridges, all of which were built in the last twenty years. U.S. has just three, none of which were built in the last twenty years. We’re nineteen out of twenty for high speed rail, putting us behind Uzbekistan and Poland.
And then there are our airports. None of the American airports are in the top twenty five airports in the world. Our nation hasn’t even built a new airport since 1995. An entire generation. Now hopefully the United States has gotten the message. Anyone who travels knows that this country is being left behind. Anyone who drives knows that the infrastructure is crumbling. Anyone who takes mass transit knows that we have a lot of work to do. That’s why I’m glad when I hear president trump talking about a trillion dollar investment in infrastructure. I say, great. Democrat, Republican, I’m an American first and if it’s good for the country, it’s good for me. But, there’s more to just an idea that sounds great. A trillion dollars.
And I have two provisos for a national infrastructure program. Number one: the money has to actually move. We’ve had stimulus programs before. We had a stimulus program in the Clinton administration, we had a stimulus program in the Obama administration, and it took years for the money to actually move. The money should go to projects that are actually ready to get into the ground. I told President Trump, “You want to spend money, you want to create jobs, you want to have something to show for your money? Give the money to New York because we know how to do it better, faster than anyone in the country and we will make you proud.” Second proviso, is that the money, any government funding for construction, has to go to union jobs. Now, it’s something we have to be on guard for, and we have to be on guard for in the Congress and in the Senate and in State Legislatures. And frankly, it’s not as easy as it sounds, even in our own state, New York, that has the highest number of unionized people in the nation. 25% of New York workers are union workers. Average for the nation is 10%. Even in our state, politically it is very hard to get the legislature to support union construction, and that’s in New York.
The 421a fight is so important and 421a is not just another affordable housing program. I feel like I say 421a and people’s eyes glaze over. 421a is not about an affordable housing program, 421a is about the principle that we are fighting. 421a was the City of New York Democratic bastion putting together a housing program where they basically excluded union labor from the program. That’s the fight. Whether government funded programs in New York should be union labor or not. And New York City sent a bill to Albany saying, “We’re going to build affordable housing and we’re essentially going to exclude union labor.” And I said, “Over my dead body you’re going to exclude union labor.” Thank you. It is short sighted. It is a misunderstanding of what the union construction jobs actually provide. It means they don’t understand that you’re running apprentice programs to train the next generation.
They don't understand that it takes a level of skill to do these projects. You want a bridge to last 100 years, which is what the Tappan Zee Bridge is supposed to last, you have to have a level of skill unparalleled, and you only get that with union construction. Period. That's why Commissioner Reardon, who is here today, is adamant behind the enforcement of all the prevailing wage laws, that's why New York and the New York delegation will fight for Davis-Bacon and that's why we cannot lose this 421-a fight. It is the camel's nose under the tent. It is the thin edge of the wedge. If you can have New York City saying as a government that they're going to explode construction union, then my friends that is a slippery slope, especially at this time. We're going to win 421-a because I'm not going to sign the bill without union labor, period. And while I hope the nation gets its act together and I hope the president and Congress actually stop the gridlock and pass a trillion dollar program, I tell you the truth, we're not waiting for them. It's not in New York's way to wait around.
We're going and we're building. And as you heard from Gary, we've evolved in a $100 billion construction program, the largest construction program in the history of the state of New York. It's going to make up for those decades when we sat on our laurels and it's going to build a New York for the future. And I'm not just talking about building. I'm not issuing press releases about building. That's not who I am. We are actually getting it done and we are moving faster and better than ever before in getting these projects to come to reality. Just listen to some of the things that we have going on.
Last Wednesday, as you heard from Gary, we broke ground on the new Javits. The new Javits adds one million square feet. It's a $1.2 billion project. It's going to make Javits 3 million square feet. It will be an internationally competitive convention center once again. Same day we've concluded the new convention center in Albany, 80,000 square feet. Last summer we broke ground on a $4 billion LaGuardia Airport, a whole new airport from the ground up. First new airport in this country in 20 years is going to be the LaGuardia Airport. Last month we secured funding for a $6 billion funding of JFK. Upstate, we’re rebuilding four airports for $153 million. Last week, the first cable was spun on the twin span, new Kosciusko Bridge – the first cable stay bridge in New York since the Verrazano opened. Next month we complete the first span of steel across the Tappan Zee, which was the largest infrastructure program in the United States of America. It is a beauty and something to be proud of, thanks to you and what you’ve done. We have a $27 billion MTA capital plan. The largest capital plan in history. We’re redoing 33 subway stations. We’re buying 1,000 new subway cars – 2,000 new buses.
We’re buying them with our Buy America program that says, we want those jobs and we want them here and we’re not using our money to subsidize foreign cash. We’re building a double track on the Long Island Rail Road. Line on the third track on the main line. Four new Metro stations in the Bronx. We’re accelerating East Side access so the trains can go from Penn to Grand Central. A $10 billion gateway tunnel from New York to New Jersey. Penn Station we’re rebuilding the entire concourse with $170 million so it’s no longer going to look like the catacombs when you walk through Penn Station. We’re going to expand across the street to the old Farley Post Office. That’s a $2.5 billion project. We just opened two new resort casinos in Upstate New York, done with a PLA, $100 million. $50 million in the New York State Fair, which is in Syracuse, brings people from all across the region. We’re putting in another $50 million this year to make it a fair that we can all be proud of. We’re leading on the green economy. In Buffalo, we opened the largest solar panel plant in the hemisphere, run by Elon Musk and Tesla.
And, we’re then working with Gary and Vinnie and Cornell to have an apprentice program where we will have the most aggressive solar panel plan and solar panel installation program in the United States of America because that’s the future. On Long Island, we’re putting up the largest wind project that has ever been done on the eastern seaboard to move toward renewable energy because that’s where the future is. In the Adirondacks, we’re redoing Gore and Whiteface. We’ve started open road tolling – all the toll booths are being taken out. All the tunnels and bridges are being redone. It’s going to accelerate traffic, move people faster, and we’re not just building bold and smart, we’re also building bold and beautiful. We’re adding LED lights to all the bridges. It’s never been done before. [Inaudible] thanks for the applause. He’s either ran artist or he’s an electrician. He says he is. There will be no project like it, literally on the world. Some cities across the world have illuminated one bridge and it’s been a great tourist attraction.
We’re going to illuminate all the New York City bridges and we’re going to synchronize the lighting so you can have a light show synchronized to music with all the bridges, all the tunnels lighting up all synchronized. Just imagine how spectacular that’s going to be. And that’s what New York is all about. Let me leave you with this. The 2nd Avenue Subway is probably one of the greatest projects in the New York City area that’s been completed in a long time. And I learned a lot on that job. About a year and a half ago the MTA came to me and said we have to talk to you about the 2nd Avenue Subway. And I said well what do you want to talk about? And they said well there’s a deadline, January 1st, New Year’s Day 2017 is when it’s supposed to open. And this is about a year and a half before. And the MTA said we want to move the deadline. I said why? They said well we can’t make New Year’s Day 2017. And in truth they picked the date back in 2007. They said it was going to take 10 years, they basically threw a dart at the calendar and they picked January 2017. And then the MTA said we can’t get it done.
I said look, first of all there’s no such thing as move the deadline. It means you missed the deadline. And the MTA said no no no, we move deadlines all the time. I said I know you do. I know. But that is missing a deadline. And they really have this construct where they believe you can move a deadline. So we argued for about an hour and a half about it but I gave up. I said we’re not moving the deadline. We’re not. Because I’m trying to get people invested in believing in our capacity once again. I’m trying to say to people we can do great things, we can build big public works, give me $100B to change the world. I’m not going to go out there and say once again government can’t bring home the project on time. I’m not going to feed the cynics, I’m not going to feed the pessimists, because that’s what they believe. A government job, it’s going to be late, it’s going to be ugly, it’s going to be slow, and it’s going to be over budget. I said we’re doing the opposite. Tappan Zee Bridge guys are killing themselves to bring it in on time, on budget so we have a model where we can say to this nation don’t tell me we can’t build, look at what we did. I said I’m not going to give up on the 2nd Avenue Subway, it’s in Manhattan, we’re going to get it done on time. I called up Gary, Chris Erickson, Jimmy, Bobby Bonanza, we sat down at the table I said guys I need your help. We have to get it done. Why isn’t this nation building? Why? A lot of reasons. We didn’t have the money, we thought we didn’t need to do it anymore, and part of it is people don’t believe we can. You don’t have that same spirit of confidence. Why aren’t we taking on big projects? Because people are doubting themselves. And whether or not we can actually pull it off anymore.
I said I’m not giving up on the deadline. And you have to work with me. And we brought in the contractors the Schiavone’s, the Judlau’s. It is New Year’s Day 2017, I had just lost my old man, I lost him on New Year’s Day, the day I was inaugurated in office, I said on New Year’s Day, we’re going to open that damn 2nd Avenue Subway, I don’t care what it takes. A year and a half, they came to the table, we met once, twice, three times a week. I went to the job three, four, five times a week. We put 2,000 men and women working around the clock 24 hours a day 7 days a week, guys worked like I’ve never seen before. They were helping each other, they were working across trades, they were doing whatever they had to do because they got the importance of what they were doing. This was not just another job. You’re building a legacy in the New York City subway system. You’re putting a beautiful new leg on the most complicated system in the globe. And 2,000 men and women worked as one, and they were dedicated. And you can’t make a guy work 7 days a week. You can’t make a guy work nights. He does it because he believes. And they broke their rear-ends for a year and a half, and those last few months coming down to it, guys were hell bent, they were going to get this done.
Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, I go down to the job and there’s a guy working on an elevator and his wife and child are talking to him. And I went over to say hello, and the wife said, oh I’m sorry I didn’t meant to interrupt, I didn’t mean… but you know, he hasn’t been home to see his daughter because he’s working so hard because he says it’s so important. In truth, we don’t need the money, he’s had so much overtime. But he says, it’s so important to get the project done. So I brought her down here to see her father. That commitment, that heart, that soul that pride – we open that second avenue subway with a New Year’s Eve party, everybody showed up, the guys who worked on it showed up, they had on their suits, they brought their wife, she had a new dress, they brought their kids. They were part of something great. They were part of something great. It was not just laying brick, they built a cathedral. It was not just laying conduit, they built a monument to New York. I said, New Yorkers are a little down, the city’s down, the state is down, the country’s down. We needed a shot of mojo that says, remember who were are, remember our capacity, remember what we’re made of. This is New York, we are New Yorkers, there’s no challenge too big for us. We built the world, we built this state, and we can build another future.
New York needs to lead this motion to believe in America again. Believe in our capacity to lead that. And I will tell you the god honest truth – I’m a believer. I saw what those 2,000 mina and women did. I see what the guys and girls do on the Tappan Zee Bridge every day. You are the heart and the soul and the skill and the guts and the courage that built New York, that built this nation and we’re going to do it again and we’re going to lead in NY not by talking, yelling – by doing. We’re going to build an entirely new city and an entirely new state better than ever before. We’re no legacy kids – we’re going to build the legacy that our kids are going to say, “Look at what they left us. They took a NY that was great, and they made it even greater.” That’s what you represent to me. I believe in you. I believe in your capacity. I believe in your strength. I believe together, there is nothing that we cannot do. And we’re going to do it and we’re doing it right now. Thank you, God bless you.
This morning, Governor Andrew M. Cuomodelivered remarks at the 2017 Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York Winter Conference in Hollywood, Florida.