Tag Archive: Andrew Cuomo

A step toward a new Hudson River railroad tunnel

A new trans-Hudson train tunnel is absolutely essential, but the estimated cost, as high as $20 billion, is huge by any standard. As NJ and NY Governors Christie and Cuomo said in a letter yesterday to President Obama, “The key step is to secure federal funding and design a viable financial plan.”  The governors’ request is that the feds provide grants to pay for half of the cost ($10 billion) with NY, NJ and the Port Authority to fund the other half. While in previous conversations U. S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx had suggested he could help with federal loans, Governor Cuomo has emphatically said in the past he seeks grants from the federal government instead.

This is a positive step forward. President Obama is supportive, but he can not commit to grants of $10 billion. Getting a Republican/dysfunctional congress to agree will be difficult. Our senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez along with Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of NY and both NY and NJ representatives will have to lead the effort. Booker is on the Senate Transportation Committee. On the House Transportation Committee there are five NY members and two NJ members – Frank LoBiondo and Albio Sires. As Amtrak needs the tunnel to enter and leave Manhattan on its Boston to Washington route, legislators throughout the northeast should be concerned.

News Roundup and Open Thread for Wednesday, August 19, 2015

TRANSPORTCLUSTERF*

  • After yesterday’s Summit Meeting in Newark on a new trans-Hudson Tunnel, Christie, Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez and U. S. Transportation Secretary Foxx said in a joint statement that they had a “substantive and productive meeting” and “all of us are committed to working together on a path forward on this critical project.” In other words they told us nothing.

  • Christie’s office followed up with a statement on the Governor’s press release site. In an unusual move, instead of a Christie press release, there appeared a reprint of NJ Transit Executive Director Veronique Hakim’s letter to The Record of August 13 in which she says, “Governor Christie and his administration support building a new tunnel.” She goes on to enumerate the same conditions that Christie has mentioned before. In effect our governor, trying to thread his way through a campaign in which he now ranks 11th, is not speaking forthrightly and “telling it like it is,” but rather  letting someone else provide a vague and unsatisfactory statement.

  • A NY Times editorial says clearly and simply, Build a New Hudson River Tunnel. In this editorial its second photo of the tunnel is scary: decrepit, crumbling concrete, and exposed wiring.

  • Another rush hour in Hell: An NJ Transit train broke down on the Amtrak line under the Hudson River Monday at 7 a.m.

  • How to make the tunnel a reality: Elect a majority Democratic Congress next year. (Some NJ incumbent Republican Representatives would not be missed.) But first some agreement on the estimated total cost and a reasonable buy-in from those affected. That includes NY whose governor did not attend the summit.

    As if his position on Cuba is not bad enough, Sen. Menendez yesterday “went on offense savaging the Iran nuclear deal backed by President Barack Obama.” Sen.Booker appears undecided so far. Rep. Donald Payne (D-10th) endorses it, and Rep. Albio Sires (D-8th) opposes it. The opposition at this point is substantial, but less likely to be sufficient to over-ride a presidential veto.

    More about 14 year old Radazz Hearns, voter expansion, a Christie paradox, Moody’s credit rating, and what would you pay for this meal?  

  • Senator Weinberg on Port Authority Transparency

    promoted from Deciminyan’s interview earlier today, by Rosi

    After Governors Christie and Cuomo vetoed legislation that both states’ legislatures passed overwhelmingly for transparency in the Port Authority, the two men proposed their own approach. In the dark. Without input from the legislatures. Senator Loretta Weinberg, never one to mince words, commented today:

    New PA Reform Bill: This could be the start of something big

    NJ Governor Chris Christie and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday patted themselves on the back and each issued a one-paragraph press release of praise for a bill introduced in the NY Assembly on NY/NJ Port Authority reform. The full bill does not appear available yet on the NY legislative website, but I received a summary of the bill from the sponsor. Although what benefits the governors may not benefit the public, it appears to be a positive step forward. It may lead to a long-sought resolution of the impasse following the Cuomo/Christie vetoes of reform legislation jointly passed by the NY and NJ legislatures last year.

    The NY Sponsor Assemblyman James Brennan is a Democrat from Brooklyn. In March he called NJ Senator Tom Kean’s alternative Republican reform bill a “nonstarter” because it did not include such items as independent oversight of large capital projects, requirements to disclose the compensation of top officers and an obligation on the part of the chief executive to certify that financial statements are true and accurate. He further faulted the bill for weaker-than-hoped-for protections against toll increases.”

    The Star-Ledger today quotes NJ Senator Bob Gordon commending “Brennan for negotiating a bill with Cuomo’s office that contained some of the reforms they worked on together in the vetoed legislation.” But he said the new Brennan measure lacks a requirement that Port Authority officials appear before lawmakers “as needed” to answer questions. That is a reasonable request but should not pose a barrier to a bill we very much need. Sen. Gordon was also concerned “that the proposed leadership structure, starting with a New York chairman, might let the Empire State dominate the agency.” Given the fact that the current and prior Board Chairs have been NJ appointees and that the bill proposes bi-annual rotation between NJ and NY appointees, it seems fair that under the new bill it should be NY to appoint the first chair.

    A lot of time and effort has been spent by legislators on both sides of the Hudson River with no result so far. The process is complicated and made more difficult by the power of the two governors to veto. It’s time to move forward and get some legislation passed in order to curb the Port Authority. Additional new provisions are always possible in the future.

    See key new provisions of the bill below the fold.

    A plan but no action for the Port Authority

    Instead of signing off on the specific NY/NJ Port Authority reform laws embedded in the joint bill (S2181) of both legislatures, the governors of the two states have decided to support a plan created by a panel of six people – three close to Governor Christie and three close to Governor Cuomo. KEEPING THE REGION MOVING – a 102-page report – reads like a corporate long range business plan. There is a mission statement with lofty recommendations and action steps. Many are worthwhile, but like any business plan, they are aspirational and not law. They maintain the strong role of the two governors and they postpone meaningful change in the PA.

    A good recommendation is to “Pursue the construction of a new Port Authority Bus Terminal” but “pursue” is a vague word, and will it be carried out, if so by when and with what anticipated outcomes? Other recommendations are even vaguer: “Deliver a more efficient and modern organization.” Unfortunately business plans all too frequently turn out to be more fiction than fact.  

    Good tidings of great joy from our Governor

    The Star-Ledger has reported that Chris Christie dined privately with Andrew Cuomo yesterday. There is no mention of what they discussed or what decisions were reached. As this is the season to bring good tidings of great joy, here is what I hope transpired:  

  • The two governors jointly decided to sign off on the identical NY/NJ Port Authority Reform Bills which the Legislature of both States approved. It must be signed by the end of this year or else a new bill needs to be introduced in the NY legislature.  

  • Governor Cuomo recently announced he will ban fracking in NY. He convinced Governor Christie to ban the waste products of fracking from shipment into New Jersey.

  • Gov. Cuomo in October loosened some of the restrictions in a mandatory 21-day Ebola quarantine that he had ordered along with Christie. He convinced his counterpart to modify the initial ill-conceived Christie policy.

  • Gov. Cuomo’s state has a lower unemployment level (NY: 5.9% – NJ: 6.4%) and has rebounded from the recession much better than NJ. He passed on some tips which Christie plans to follow.

  • Gov. Cuomo’s state has handled its state pension funding much better. Its unfunded liability per capita is lower (NY: $16,000 – NJ: $23,000), its unfunded liability as a per cent of gross State Product is lower (NY: 23% – NJ: 37%) and its funding ratio (assets to liabilities) is higher (NY: 44% – NJ: 30%). Cuomo suggested  and Christie agreed that to strengthen NJ’s position our state should contribute its full fair share into the plan.  

    May you all receive good tidings of great joy in our Holiday Season, even if the above do not come true.