October 29, 2017
Albany, NY

Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces $354 Million Resiliency Project to Dramatically Reduce Nitrogen Pollution in Western Bays

Video, Audio & Rush Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces $354 Million Resiliency Project to Dramatically Reduce Nitrogen Pollution in Western Bays

New York State and Nassau County Invest $277 Million for Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant Connection to Existing Ocean Outfall at Cedar Creek Treatment Facility

Upgrades to Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant Will Reduce Nitrogen Pollution, Dramatically Improve Bay Ecology and Strengthen Coastal Resiliency

Earlier today, on the fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today a $354 million project to significantly improve the water quality of Long Island's Western Bays. This innovative solution to a persistent problem will divert treated waste from the Bay Park Wastewater Treatment Plant—through an abandoned aqueduct under Sunrise Highway—to the existing Cedar Creek outfall, which diffuses treated sewage nearly three miles into the Atlantic Ocean. The project will prevent the discharge of 19 billion gallons of treated sewage into the warm, shallow Western Bays each year, eliminating harmful nitrogen pollution to jump start the rejuvenation of vital marshlands that protect communities from waves and storm surge. New York State and Nassau County are investing $277 million in the project with the remaining funds being provided by federal sources. More information is available here.

VIDEO of the Governor's remarks is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

VIDEO of Superstorm Sandy 5th anniversary progress is available on YouTube here.

AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS will be available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is included below.

First, to all my colleagues who are here on the state level, let's give them a round of applause. Our senators and assemblymen. County Executive Ed Mangano and his DPW team. Senator Chuck Schumer who's doing a great job for us fighting the state and local deductibility, which will end life as we know it on Long Island. Our DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, let's give him a round of applause. And to our brothers and sisters of the labor movement who rebuilt Long Island and built it back better.

You know, it's almost hard for me to believe that it's been five years since Sandy. Because in some ways it was just yesterday. Because it was traumatic. And everybody has a memory that's just sealed in their mind off that occasion. I remember being on Staten Island watching houses get washed out to sea like driftwood. I remember standing on a block in Lindenhurst, and we were just watching the water coming up the block and there was nothing we could do, and we're throwing sandbags to block the water, which was like throwing pebbles into the ocean. I remember being in a warehouse with Ed Mangano and Steve Bellone with flashlights, looking at a map with the LIPA personnel to try to locate which transformers needed to work to put the power back on, and LIPA having no idea what they were talking about. It was frightening. It was frightening. I remember the powerless feeling of hugging people who had lost everything. Nothing to say, nothing to do. It was a trauma. And that's why it feels like it was just yesterday. Sixty lives lost. 300,000 homes destroyed or damaged. 2,000 miles of roads. And then, the afterwards, was compounding chaos. We have to get the power back on.

I remember the powerless feeling of hugging people who had lost everything. Nothing to say, nothing to do, it was a trauma. And that's why it feels like it was just yesterday. Sixty lives lost, 300,000 homes destroyed or damaged, 2,000 miles of roads, and then the afterwards was compounding chaos. There's no power. We have to get the power back on. We need 6,000 crews to get the power back on. We don't even have the poles, we don't even have the material. There's no power, so there's no gasoline. How can that be? Because the fuel is delivered through a pipeline that has pumps that run on electricity. Well, we'll use the gas that's in the gas stations. You can't. Gas stations have pumps that run on electricity. And one after the other, after the other - it was just a situation where the chaos compounded itself over and over and over. And you wondered what was going to happen. People were angry, people were frustrated, and people were scared. You wondered what was going to happen.

I've been in Puerto Rico twice the past couple of weeks. I was there a few days ago. The feeling is the same feeling that Long Island had. That feeling of despair, that feeling of isolation, that feeling nobody cares. What's going to happen, is my life every going to come back together. But five years later, we're here, we're better, we're stronger than ever before. Why? Because we remember the golden rule.

Today is October 29. On October 29, 1941, Winston Churchill gave one of his most famous speeches. They call it the never give up speech. It was after the war, he went back to a school, to Harrow School that he attended, and they sang him the school song and they changed the school song to say the years of darkness to refer to the years of the war. Churchill got up hearing the change in the song and said I don't want to say years of darkness. It was challenge. It was a learning experience. But we're the better for it, because as long as you never give in, and you persevere, you will overcome. And his quote was, "Never give in. Never, never, never give in." And that was his motto.

And that was exactly what we did here in Long Island. We didn't give in and we learned. And we're the smarter for it. And Long Island is the better for it. We have a new recognition: Climate change is real. Period. To deny climate change is to deny science, is to deny reality. I mean how much more proof do you want? One year after the other, every year hotter. The worst hurricanes. Highest number of hurricanes. Let's put it this way: either there's climate change or Mother Nature is having a nervous breakdown. Either way we're going to have to deal with it. But we learned that lesson. We learned that Mother Nature designed the landscape for a reason. There were marshes for a reason. There were grasslands for a reason. There were islands for a reason. And when your design it to be close to the water, don't be surprised when you're close to the water, right? We learned that if you're not prepared for a storm, the day after is too late to prepare for it. We learned that homes that are built on wetland and floodplain, they are on a temporary lease, the land is owned by Mother Nature and she's going to come back and reclaim it and those homes are going to be gone. We learned to build with resiliency, and put homes on piers and buildings on piers. We learned to set up fuel reserves. We learned to have backup generators where we need them. We now have backup generators at all the key gas stations on Long Island. We learned to make our power rid more resilient. And we learned the fragility of the Earth, and how really delicate this entire balance is. But, when we stick together, we can do things that are hard. And all the great things we have done, have been hard. Building a new LaGuardia Airport is hard. Building a new Tappan Zee Bridge is hard. We just got the plan to modernize the Long Island Rail Road approved, after 70 years, it was hard. Planting 200,000 shellfish is hard. It's all hard. Building a $400 million sewer system in Suffolk is hard. But it's necessary.

Bay Park was hard - $800 million in hardening expense, $800 million. And then for yeas the riddle of, we need to change the discharge. You can't discharge the effluent in Reynolds Channel, right behind Long Beach. I mean, what were we thinking? 20 years, 50 gallons per day of effluent in those shallow bays. All of those beautiful communities that wanted to live by the water that great magnet that makes Long Island, Long Island. 50 gallons of effluent per day and 20 years ago we knew we had to do something. But nothing happened. Why? Because it's hard, it's expensive, it's complicated, it's hard. Yeah I know. But we have to be willing to take on those things that are hard and that are difficult. It is a sin that we allowed that plant to operate for that length of time. So then we kept going back to the drawing board and back to the drawing board, and Senator Schumer is exactly right, we tried to get the Federal government to pay. It was some astronomical number that wasn't eligible. But Nassau County never gave up. DEC never gave up. DPW, Nassau County DPW found the aqueduct, unused aqueduct belonging to New York City or whoever. I don't even want to know who owns it. All I know is we're taking it. And they wouldn't give up and now they've come up with a sensible plan. Build a pipe up to that aqueduct. A liner across and then come out the Cedar Falls outflow, which was exactly the intention we wanted to do at Bay Park. It will change the nature of all those bays and all those communities. No effluent. Just imagine the difference in the quality of life. Imagine the kids who are now going to go swimming and not have to worry about it. Imagine how the fish can recover. And if you can do what we did in Bay Park, we should take that today, on this 5th anniversary and say, you know what? We can do these things.

There is nothing written in stone. There is no challenge that we can't overcome. Nothing has to be that way. Even on Long Island. "Well, NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY." I know NIMBY. See these scars? That's called NIMBY for the Long Island Railroad. I get it. But I also get we can't let the Bay Park's operate for 20 years. I also get we can't allow these brown tides to continue year after year after year getting worse. I also get that we can't allow the algae blooms to continue year after year after year by dumping more nitrogen into the water. It has to stop. I also get that we have to stop talking about the Bethpage plume and do something about it and do something about the pollution. We have to preserve the Pine Barrens, we have to preserve more open space, we have to get ahead of this issue on the quality of drinking water and the testing of drinking water because we want to make sure every Long Islander can trust their faucet when they turn on that valve that that water is clean to drink. That's a challenge that we can't back down from.

We can do all these things. We survived Sandy. We built back stronger than ever before, we worked together. Senator Schumer got the federal government to deliver, the county, Nassau, Suffolk, the state, all worked together and we built back a better Long Island. Bay Park is a perfect example of it but it's all across Long Island, it's better. Let's say on this fifth anniversary, we proved to ourselves that we can do things that we had given up on. We can do things that we thought were impossible because they were just too big, too complicated, they were too expensive. That's not who we are. That's not the blood that's in our body. That's not the DNA that's in our cells. We are New Yorkers. We made this place out of nothing. There is nothing that we can't do if we stick together and we are committed to doing it. That's Churchill's saying, "Never give in." And that's what Bay Park says and that's what everyone in this room says who stayed on Long Island and built it back better than ever before.

Thank you and God bless you.

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