January 8, 2016
Albany, NY

Video, Photos & Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces 8th Proposal of 2016 Agenda: Bring the MTA into the 21st Century to Dramatically Improve the Travel Experience for Millions of New Yorkers and Visitors

Video, Photos & Transcript: Governor Cuomo Announces 8th Proposal of 2016 Agenda: Bring the MTA into the 21st Century to Dramatically Improve the Travel Experience for Millions of New Yorkers and Visitors

Governor unveils latest proposal of 2016 agenda at event in Brooklyn

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled the eighth signature proposal of his 2016 agenda: modernize and fundamentally transform the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, dramatically improving the travel experience for millions of New Yorkers and visitors to the region.

The Governor’s proposal includes a new approach to rapidly redesign and renew 30 existing subway stations across the system. It also includes a number of technology initiatives to bring the system into the 21st century, including expanding Wi-Fi hotspots, accelerating mobile payments and ticketing to replace the MetroCard, and providing USB ports on subway trains, buses and in stations to allow customers to charge their mobile devices. The Governor detailed this proposal at an event earlier today at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn, where he was joined by MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast.

More information on the Governor’s announcement is available here.

VIDEO of the Governor’s announcement 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:

“Thank you. Thank you very much! Pleasure to be with all of you. How exciting a presentation was that by Tom Prendergast? Let’s give him a big round of applause. We have a lot of friends here, a lot of colleagues. Let me recognize Jo Anne Simon from the Assembly, pleasure to be with you, Jo Anne. Ydanis Rodriguez, pleasure to be with you Ydanis. Velmanette Montgomery is here. Pleasure to be with you. We have Gary LaBarbara who’s here, who’s one of the greatest labor leaders in the history of the state of New York. Unfortunately, nobody is here from the TWU, I can tell. Let’s give the TWU a big round of applause. A special council to me, who’s been working on this project, been doing a great job: Rick Cotton is here, let’s give him a round of applause. Ronnie Hakim is just joining the family at New York City Transit, pleasure Ronnie. Let’s give her a round of applause.

Well, this is exciting. First, we’re at the Transit Museum. Why are we in the museum? Because you can learn things in a museum. I have three young daughters and I remember I was trying to get them to go to a museum one Saturday. One of them, who shall not be named – who is the wise guy of the bunch – she said “I don’t want to go to the museum.”

I said “why don’t you want to go to the museum?”

She said “I’m not into what was, Dad, I’m into what will be.” I thought, it was a beautiful line, it’s great. She’ll be a politician with that line.

I said “you go to a museum because you can learn about who we were which will educate who we are and who we will be.” She didn’t buy it then, she’s now 21, I don’t think she’s buying it now. But it is her loss. It’s the museum who tells us who we were, what we accomplished, what our character was, what our personality was. It informs us going forward and just remember who we were as new Yorkers.

This transit system – early 1900’s. Somebody says “I have an idea: we will build hundreds of miles of tunnels underground by boring through rock – which is basically what Manhattan is – we will connect the five boroughs with these underground tunnels and then we’ll run trains all through them.” What an amazing, outrageous, audacious idea! The 1900’s – without the modern day equipment and the hydraulics, and everything we learned since. We said “oh yeah, that’s a good idea! We can do that! Were New York, we can do anything! I want to build the George Washington Bridge: longest bridge ever. I want to build the Brooklyn Bridge. I want to build the Verrazano Bridge. I want to build the tallest building in the world: the Empire State Building. Why? Because we’re New York. We can, we should. We’re the best.” There’s nothing that we can’t do, we raised the bar high, we meet it, and then we raise it higher. That’s what made New York, New York! This place didn’t just happen. It happened because of New Yorkers, New Yorkers’ personality and our character and our ambition. You know how they said “oh, you New Yorkers. You’re so high strung, you’re so ambitious.” They’re right! We’re high strung, we’re ambitious. We built the greatest city and the greatest state on the globe because we are. That’s an important lesson to remember. We never took no for an answer. We were never told “you’re not that good, you’re over reaching on that project. That’s a little bit too much, you can’t go that far.” No, they told us we couldn’t do it, it just made us angry. And then we were going to do it and we were going to do it even faster.

I love the story of the Erie Canal. You don’t hear about it much downstate New York. But, formative time for this state, for this nation – 1800’s. The big question in the 1800’s was what port would be the big port on the Eastern Seaboard? The ships are coming over from Europe. Where are the ships going to dock and where are the ships going to unload? The port that was going to win was the port that could offer access to the west. What was the west? Basically, the Mississippi at that time was the west. So George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are big landowners in Virginia and Washington. They said “we’re going to make Washington and Virginia the number one port. We’re going to build a series of canals that go from Virginia on the Eastern Seaboard and connect to the west, called the C&O Canal and that was their plan. And they start and they are building and Virginia and Washington says they are going to be the number one state and the number one place in the nation.

New Yorkers get wind of this and they say, “Oh well that can’t happen. We have to be the number one port. We have to be the gateway to the west.”

Governor of New York at that time is Governor Clinton. He says, I have an idea, I know how to do it. Ships come in at Manhattan, the go up the Hudson River, they get to Albany, 150 miles north and the make a left. And they go across the state, they will come out in Buffalo and once they come out in Buffalo, they are in the great lakes. They can go anywhere.” Someone raises their hand, “one question governor, when the ships make the left at Albany, how do they get to Buffalo?” It is 524 miles, in 1817.

Governor Clinton says, “No problem, we are going to dig a canal from Albany to Buffalo.” They say dig a canal? Yeah. We are going to dig a canal all across the state of New York and that is how the ships will go. They moved to impeach the governor saying he was crazy to come up with such an idea. While they were moving to impeach him, he was building. Everyday. They started at both ends and they were going to meet in the middle. They started at both ends, he was called doubling crazy because they were afraid he was going to miss and they were going to just keep building.

The long story short, in seven years they built the canal on time and on budget. That canal made New York, New York. Because then the goods came in and it became the portal to the west and that is what brought all the traffic into New York City. That is who we are. We built this entire place out of bravado and skill and daring. New York is the place where ambition meets capacity. Not just ambition but then the capacity and the skill to back up the ambition. Ambition without competence is frightening. If you think you can do it, but you can’t, that is a problem. You have to believe that you can do it and believe in yourself and then you have to have the competence to do it. That is New York. That is what made us who we are. That is why we go to a museum, to remember who we are in here, in here, and that is who we are.

Now somewhere along the way that has faded a little bit. We have lost belief in ourselves, we have lost a little bit of that daring and that spirit which kept raising the bar. And what we are talking about today is rekindling that spirit and that ambition and saying, “the New York we have today was built by our founding fathers and our success is because of what they did.” It is now our obligation to build a New York for the next generation, the next 100 years, so that our children and our grandchildren will have the same home and an even better home than the home that we shared.

The MTA is the heart of it, but we are doing this all across the state. We announced a third track on the Long Island Railroad to get people in from Long Island because it has been too long. One of the worst commutes in the United States of America – is the commute from Long Island into Manhattan there is no reverse commute because they have to run the trains one way. Everyone has known it, it has been that way for decades no one has done anything about it and we said enough is enough. We are actually going to get it done.

We said we were going to rebuild LaGuardia Airport. Why? Because it is a disgrace that’s why. It is a disgrace. For too long we went by LaGuardia and nobody saw anything, just walking around, no one saw anything. Until the Vice President of the United States, god bless him he calls it the way he sees it, it gets him into trouble a lot but he calls it the way he sees it. You know what we said about LaGuardia? “If you were blindfolded and you landed in LaGuardia and you took off the blindfold, you would have thought you landed in a third world country.” That is what he said about LaGuardia. He was right.

We said we were going to rebuild Penn Station. You know why? It is a disgrace. It is a disgrace, Penn Station. Overcrowded, dirty, it is like a rabbit warring, you feel like you are in a maze right? You get out of the train in Penn station you want to do one thing, get out of Penn Station right? And it has been that way for decades. Why didn’t we attack it? Why didn’t we say, “This isn’t New York. This isn’t us. This isn’t who we are.” That is what we are doing.

We are going to build roads and bridges in upstate New York like we’ve never built before. We’re going to re-envision Kennedy Airport, Republic Airport, Stewart Airport, MacArthur Airport out on Long Island, Javits Center. We announced a new expansion to increase it by a third. We announced that yesterday. So we’re going to be doing this all across the state but the heart is the MTA. You know what the future is? The future is mass transportation. You know in the movie “The Graduate” – you’re too young – Dustin Hoffman? He’s having a discussion and goes to see the Wiseman about the future. He says “the future is plastics, plastics is the future! That’s what he said. You know what the future is? Mass transportation. You want this region to grow? The answer is not more people getting in cars and getting on the road and driving. That is not the answer. We’re not building anymore roads. The roads are congested. Gasoline is expensive. We’re polluting the environment. You can’t park. The traffic is terrible. The gridlock is terrible. That’s not the future. The future is mass transit. Now how do we get people out of the cars, into mass transit? Mass transit has to work.

Number one: reliability. Number one: when the trains says it’s coming at 12:07. You know what that means? It means the train has to come at 12:07. Not 12:08, not 12:10, not 12 – 12:07! Its reliability, first. Accessibility, second. Third: the comforts that we expect. I don’t wasn’t to get in a train and feel like a sardine for an hour and a half on the way to work. I don’t want to do that. I want to be able to sit in the seat, I want to be able to listen to my music, I want to be able to make the telephone call, connected to Wi-Fi. I come to expect that. That’s my world. You know why nobody’s cell phone is going off during this press conference? You think it’s because everybody remembered to turn off their cellphone. Tom Prendergast never remembers to turn off his cellphone. I’ve been to 100 events with him – his phone always goes off in the middle of the event. It’s no cell service. No Wi-Fi service. That has to change! That has to change. It should change. That’s going to be part of the MTA of tomorrow. Apps that let you know exactly the trains that are coming, what’s on time. In the future, we’ll have it all linked because now we have Long Island Railroads going to go to the airports. You can be able to get on the LIRR and get out at LaGuardia and have an AirTrain. You could be able to know what time the train is coming and what time the plane is coming. You should be able to know where the plane is going and what concourse where you drop off the bags. That should all be part of the new MTA. We’re going to do it. We have recaptured the daring. We have recaptured the ambition and we have the competence to make it happen. That’s what today is all about. We’re doing it the new way, not the old way. We’ve learned from our mistakes and we have made mistakes. I don’t believe in denial. We have made mistakes. We’re going forth on a new track to get these things done.

One last story but as long as your cellphones aren’t ringing, I don’t feel all those distractions. I become governor, one of the first meetings I have, I bring in all of the top officials of state government. I’m a new governor, I’m all excited, I can’t sleep, I’m energized. I say to them “I want to do something big. I want to do something really, really big because don’t believe in government anymore and people are down. People don’t believe New York has the same mojo that New York used to have and I want to have a big project that we have to get done that shows people what we’re capable of. And let’s people go ‘that’s us, that’s New York, that’s my government, my government works!’” So, we’re sitting around the table and we’re talking and we’re talking and we’re talking and they come up with nothing. Finally, because I’m not going anywhere, finally somebody says “I have an idea. You can say you’re going to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge.” First idea.

I said “I can say we’re going to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge, yes.” I said “that’s a funny use of words: I can say we’re going to rebuild. You mean: ‘we’re going to rebuild it?’”

“Oh no, no, no, no, no. you can say you’re going to rebuild it. You can’t actually rebuild it.”

I said “why can’t I actually rebuild it?”

They said “oh, it’s very complicated. It’s a bridge that’s goes across the Hudson River. The people don’t want a new bridge. On both sides, they don’t want the noise, they don’t want the dust, they don’t want the traffic of the new bridge. The people who care about the river are very protective of the river, they don’t want anything to be dropped in the river. You have to do an Environmental Impact Statement. It’s never going to happen.” So I look into the Tappan Zee Bridge. The Tappan Zee Bridge goes from Westchester to Rockland across the Hudson River. Beautiful spot on the river. About 20 years ago, a Governor gets up to a podium just like this one, it probably was this one, and says “The Tappan Zee Bridge is falling down. We have to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge because it is falling down.” 20 years ago. The Governor says “We have emergency patch work that’s being done on the bridge, but it’s dangerous and we have to rebuild the bridge.”

I remember going over the Tappan Zee Bridge and the Tappan Zee Bridge would have these big heavy metal plates in the middle of the roadway and the plates would be covering holes were you could see right down to the water. I remember this because I have a thing with heights, you know, I’m not really good with heights and you’d see the car in front of you go over the plate and the plate would jump just a little bit. You know how when a car or truck goes over that plate just dances an inch or two and you’d see just a little bit of light come through. I was sure I was the guy who was going through that hole. That that plate was going to move and I was going down. Do I take off my seatbelt? Do I open my window? Am I going to swim up? Do I swim out there? I’m going through all of this in my head because I was going to be the guy.

20 years we talked about replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. I said, “No, we’re going to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge.” Because if you say we can replace a bridge, then we’re gone. You admit and you believe that we’re not capable of replacing a bridge after everything we did? What happened to us? Who are we? What happened to those New Yorkers who wouldn’t take no for an answer? No we can’t even replace a bridge. We’ve come to a point where we are so bureaucratized where we suffocate in our own red tape. Our own bureaucracies strangle us. “Well we have to do this, we have to do this, we have to do this.” The bureaucracy that we created to do big projects becomes the bureaucracy that now suffocates progress. We said we’re doing it a different way.

To make a long story short, we went out, did a design-build, we did the contract, we got a private developer, we took the political heat. There was political heat. People on both sides of the bridge did not want the bridge rebuilt. Noise, traffic, etc. That’s political heat. Politicians don’t like political heat. I don’t like it, but I’ll live with it because it’s my job. You have people on one side of the bridge, people on the other side of the bridge, they will never vote for me as long as they live. They won’t vote for me, their children won’t vote for me, their children won’t vote for me. Generations won’t vote for me, but that’s ok. One year after we announced we announced we were going to rebuild the Tappan Zee Bridge, we broke ground of the Tappan Zee Bridge. When you go past now, you see that bridge coming out of the water and going across the river, it is a beautiful thing to see. Because it’s not just about the Tappan Zee Bridge, when I see that bridge, you know what it says, “Yes we can. Look at us, yes we can.”

And that is what we are going to do with the MTA, 30 stations put them out all at once, design build whole new station, let people walk in there and say, “Wow, this is the MTA.” This is the train station – amazing. Yes, we can. We do what we need to do at the MTA, it will drive a different New York, it will allow a growth and an expansion that far exceeds anyone’s expectations, because it is the future. The transportation system determines the economic growth of the future. When they designed this system originally, they had 1 million riders, they designed it for 10 million riders. Look at the foresight, we now have to expand on that vision, and it all comes back to the MTA. We are going to do it. Because that is the DNA we are made from, that is the blood that is in our veins, we are New Yorkers, we don’t take no for an answer, the New York workforce is the best on this planet, the TWU is the best on this planet, and we’re going to rebuild New York better than it’s ever been before. And we’re going to leave it to our children and we’re going to be proud of what we left for our children.

Thank you and god bless you. ”

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