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Posts from the Andrew Cuomo Category

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Is Cuomo Ready to Rid Downtown Syracuse of I-81?

Governor Cuomo seems eager to teardown Syracuse's crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Governor Cuomo seems ready to tear down Syracuse’s crumbling I-81. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

Speaking in Syracuse yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to indicate support for the removal of 3.75 miles of Interstate 81, the aging elevated highway that cuts through the heart of downtown.

“That could be a transformative project that really jump-starts the entire region,” Cuomo said, according to the Post-Standard. “I-81 did a lot of damage — a classic planning blunder. Let’s build a road and bisect an entire community. That’s an idea, yeah, let me write it down.”

With the elevated portion of I-81 fast approaching the end of its useful life and in need of near-constant repairs, state officials have narrowed its future to two options: tear it down and replace it with a surface-level boulevard, or rebuild it — which would most likely require widening the highway. A third option, an underground tunnel, is viewed as costly and infeasible.

The state DOT is in the midst of cost and environmental analyses of the remaining options, and is expected to issue a draft environmental impact statement by the end of the year. Cuomo did not explicitly say he supported a surface-level boulevard, but with the tunnel all but ruled out, if he wants to get rid of the highway it’s the only option left.

Cuomo also indicated a readiness to get things moving. “We procrastinate,” he said. “We wait for everyone to agree. You know when that day is going to come? Never. Never. If you wait for the perfect, you’re never going to get there. You will do nothing. And that’s just what we’ve done on I-81. We’ve done nothing. Find the best solution with the most agreement and move forward.”

Cuomo has been on somewhat of a highway removal kick of late. Earlier this year, the state budget included $97 million to transform the Bronx’s Moses-era Sheridan Expressway into a surface boulevard. And in April, the governor has lent his support to the proposed teardown of Buffalo’s Kensington Expressway.

The governor’s office has not responded to a Streetsblog inquiry asking whether his comments mean the state will go forward with the I-81 teardown.

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Stuck With Slow Bus Service? Cuomo Is Completely Oblivious to Your Pain

You can tell Governor Cuomo doesn’t get on a New York City bus unless it’s for a photo-op about on-board USB ports.

The latest evidence came yesterday, after a coalition of transit advocates released a major report on the deterioration of bus service in New York City. With bus speeds declining, ridership has dropped 16 percent since 2002. In their “Turnaround” report [PDF], TransitCenter and other advocates outline proven techniques to improve bus service, pointedly noting that it will take concerted political leadership to reverse the decline of the city’s bus system.

Cuomo is the politician whose leadership is needed most. But Politico’s Dana Rubinstein reports that the governor blew off a question about improving bus service yesterday afternoon. “If people in Manhattan are choosing to jump on the subway because the subway is faster, because there’s traffic that a bus has to deal with,” he said, “that’s not an imprudent choice, right?”

In one sentence, the governor betrayed his ignorance of NYC’s bus system in several ways. Here are three of them.

Buses and trains don’t do the same things

The subway system is largely a radial network, with lines converging in Manhattan below 60th Street and extending out from there. It works well for an astounding number of trips, but New Yorkers still have to get places that the subway doesn’t reach efficiently. For these trips, there is no parallel subway service that people can just “jump on” instead of taking the bus.

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That’s More Like It: Cuomo and MTA Commit to High-Capacity Subway Cars

Governor Cuomo and the MTA announced today that up to 750 of over one thousand new subway cars will have "open gangway" designs. Image: MTA/NY Governor's Office

Governor Cuomo announced today that the MTA will purchase up to 750 subway cars with open gangways. Image: MTA/NY Governor’s Office

After spending the first half of the year touting frills like Wi-Fi and charging ports on buses, Governor Cuomo finally delivered some news this morning that will make a real difference to transit riders. The MTA plans to buy hundreds of open gangway subway cars, which can carry more passengers and help relieve crowding on maxed-out lines.

Later this week, the MTA will release its request for proposals for the construction of 1,025 new subway cars, up to 750 of which will have the open gangway design, as well as an RFP for the redesign and construction of the first three stations of 31 across the city slated for upgrades.

Open gangways are accordion-like passageways between cars, which create a nearly seamless space inside the train and yield as much as 10 percent additional capacity. The train design unveiled this morning also calls for 58-inch-wide doors, which the MTA said will speed boarding 32 percent compared to the current 50-inch design.

Both design changes should improve reliability by reducing crowding-related delays, which the MTA says account for a substantial share of all subway delays.

Previously, the MTA had said that it would only try out 10 open gangway cars in its next train purchase. A purchase of 750 cars is a vast improvement and should make a noticeable difference on crowded lines, though the MTA has yet to announce where the new cars will be deployed. It also bodes well for future purchases as the MTA refreshes its 6,400-car subway fleet.

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When Cuomo Talks About Transit, He Doesn’t Talk About What Riders Want

In four MTA-related speeches this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo said much more about Wi-Fi and cell phones than fast, reliable transit.

In four MTA-related speeches this year, Governor Andrew Cuomo said much more about Wi-Fi and cell phones than fast, reliable transit.

There’s a huge disconnect between the way Governor Andrew Cuomo talks about transit improvements and the service upgrades that transit riders actually want to see.

You're phone will have plenty of time to get to full battery on NYC's slowest buses in the nation. Photo: YouTube/NY Governor's Office

Your phone will have plenty of time to charge on NYC’s slower-than-walking buses. Photo: YouTube/NY Governor’s Office

Cuomo began the year hyping his “transformative” agenda for the MTA. But to hear the governor tell it, the future of transit in New York City is all about bells and whistles like USB charging stations and underground Wi-Fi. In four major MTA-related speeches or announcements so far this year, Cuomo mentioned “technology,” Wi-Fi, and mobile devices more than twice as much as basics like reliability, speed, and frequent service.

But it’s the basics that matter most to transit riders, according to a major report released by TransitCenter earlier this week [PDF]. In a survey of 3,000 transit riders across the nation, charging outlets and Wi-Fi ranked dead last on their priorities for service improvements.

What improvements do transit riders want? Shorter trip times, more frequent service, and affordable fares ranked at the top:

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Watch Andrew Cuomo’s Bizarre, Rambling Take on the State of NYC Transit

From behind a lectern with a placard that said “Modernizing the MTA,” Governor Andrew Cuomo argued today that the MTA is old and outdated, so he deserves credit for even the most basic upgrades. He sounded like someone ranting to himself on a street corner, not a governor with a sound plan to improve the transit system he runs.

The occasion was a press conference announcing a new ticketing app for Metro-North and LIRR commuters. Cue to the eight-minute mark in the video to watch Cuomo ramble about how, unlike his predecessors, current MTA chief Tom Prendergast must operate the MTA while building a “new system.”

“Not rebuild the existing system, not fix the existing,” said Cuomo. “He has to build anew.”

“Why?” he continued. “Because the MTA system as we now have it was built in a different time and in a different place, and it cannot handle the volume and the scale that we are talking about today in New York. You can’t do it with Band-Aids and you can’t stretch it any more than we’ve stretched it. The system is just too small to manage this population.”

Cuomo pointed out that the population of New York City and the region has grown quite a bit since the first subway opened in 1904. (Not mentioned: The subways grew for a few more decades, and the city’s population wasn’t all that much smaller than it is today by the time the major expansions concluded.)

“You can’t make a system that was designed and constructed for that scale work for the current-day scale,” Cuomo said. “And government’s tried in fits and starts to use bailing wire and duct tape and bubble gum and all sorts of ways to make it work. It’s not going to work. You have to build a new system.”

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Albany Leaders Fail to Act on Speed Cameras as Session Comes to a Close

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

As Albany wraps up its legislative session today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are taking no action to protect New Yorkers from a leading cause of death on city streets — speeding drivers. A bill to expand the number of speed cameras in the city from 140 to 200 and loosen restrictions on how they can be used is not in the final package that Cuomo is negotiating with the leaders of the Assembly and State Senate.

With Cuomo and Senate Republicans permanently at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio, the deck is stacked against any measure in Albany that is perceived to advance the mayor’s agenda. While de Blasio stayed quiet about the speed camera bill, it’s no secret that achieving his Vision Zero street safety goals will be tougher without an expanded automated enforcement program. The fact that more New Yorkers will get maimed and killed because speeding is not consistently enforced on city streets doesn’t appear to factor into the Albany calculus.

Advocates had hoped State Senator co-leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, would provide a path forward by sponsoring a Senate version of Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s speed cam bill. Klein had moved speed camera bills in previous years and has called them “a very smart approach” to traffic enforcement.

In an effort to attract more votes, Glick had significantly scaled back her original bill, which would have enabled camera enforcement by all 2,600 NYC schools, but there was no movement.

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Cuomo’s $27 Billion Transportation Plan Needs Some Sunlight

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Transportation has billions of dollars at its disposal to spend on capital projects but doesn’t tell the public what it plans to do with the money. A bipartisan bill in both houses of the state legislature aims to change that.

Current state law lets New York Governor Cuomo determine state DOT's list of capital projects before the state legislature has gotten a chance to see it. Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr

Current law lets the Cuomo administration determine how state DOT will spend billions before the public gets a chance to weigh in. Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr

Unlike the MTA capital plan, which is open to public scrutiny, the state DOT’s project list for its five-year capital program remains a mystery, even after the state legislature approved $27 billion dollars for it in April.

The process used to be more open, with the legislature and governor openly discussing the DOT’s annual list of projects. But that basic level of transparency ended some years ago, said Tri-State Transportation Campaign New York Director Nadine Lemmon. Now when legislators ask for the project list, the Cuomo administration fails to deliver it.

The opaque process makes it harder to hold the governor’s office and the state DOT accountable. For the last few years, for instance, Tri-State has called on the Cuomo administration to dedicate $20 million annually to complete streets projects. Without a list of projects, there’s no way to know if that request has been met. Lemmon said she’s had to piece together the DOT’s project list from press releases and recent statements by Cuomo and his staff.

A project list that’s shielded from scrutiny is more susceptible to political horse-trading and less likely to reflect public priorities. “There is some public value to seeing [the list] before it gets passed,” Lemmon said. “[Otherwise] it’s behind closed doors. It’s subject to all the terrible things that could happen in a political process.”

On Friday, the Albany Times Union editorial board blasted the budgeting approach. The lack of transparency “makes these decisions too easily subject to unhealthy considerations — like political rewards and punishments,” the paper wrote. “While it may not take the politics out of the process altogether, opening these spending decisions to greater public scrutiny would certainly help. If there’s nothing to hide, there’s no reason to keep it secret.”

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Andrew Cuomo, City Builder

The removal of I-81 in Syracuse could be the defining project of Andrew Cuomo’s city-building legacy. Photo: Onondaga Citizens League

The headline is no joke. In his sixth year governing the state of New York, Andrew Cuomo is on a bit of a roll when it comes to urban planning and city-based economic development. Cuomo and his administration have announced or budgeted for multiple projects over the past few months that promise to heal urban neighborhoods by repairing the damage inflicted by mid-century highways.

Last Wednesday, Cuomo said his administration will study capping a three-quarter-mile segment of the Kensington Expressway, which obliterated the Olmsted-designed Humboldt Parkway in the 1950s, traumatizing Buffalo’s historic East Side.

Cuomo told the Buffalo News editorial board that paying for the full project, estimated to cost upwards of $500 million, is feasible. “It was originally the Humboldt Parkway, it was beautiful, and it was part of the Olmsted design,” he said to an appreciative crowd at the Buffalo Museum of Science, the paper reported. “In the mid-’50s, we had a better idea and it turned out not to be a better idea, which was to move vehicles in and out of Buffalo faster by building a highway. This was not just in Buffalo; this was all over the United States. Most places have reversed their mistakes, and that’s what we are going to be doing here.”

At the same event, Cuomo reiterated his administration’s support for converting Buffalo’s Scajaquada Expressway, a 3.6-mile 1960s-era highway segment that cuts across city neighborhoods and parks, into a surface street where people can safely walk and bike. (Last year, a driver careened off the road and into Delaware Park, killing a 3-year-old boy and critically injuring his 5-year-old sister.) In both cases, the state is responding to grassroots campaigns to undo the devastation of urban highways.

Earlier this week, the final state budget included $97 million for transforming the South Bronx’s Moses-era Sheridan Expressway into a surface boulevard, creating better walking and biking connections to the Bronx River waterfront and opening up land for mixed-use development.

And last month, Cuomo announced that two miles of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls will be removed to improve access to the waterfront.

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Cuomo’s MTA Debt Bomb: How the Pieces Fit Together

NY1’s Zack Fink reports that last week’s Albany budget deal raised the MTA’s debt ceiling to $55 billion (about one-third higher than the previous cap of $41 billion). That’s $14 billion more in potential borrowing that, in all likelihood, straphangers will pay off in the form of higher fares.

The increase in the debt ceiling wasn’t a surprise, since it was included in Andrew Cuomo’s draft budget, but it’s worth taking a quick look at how this fits with the governor’s broader strategy of saddling MTA riders with the burden of paying for the authority’s capital program.

Recall Cuomo’s original bait-and-switch. In October, he agreed to cover $8.3 billion of the MTA’s $26 billion, five-year capital program from “state sources.” Then a few months later he released a budget proposal with no additional state funds for transit, just a notional commitment to pay for the capital program once the MTA’s own resources “have been exhausted.”

With the increase in the MTA’s debt limit, the authority now has $14 billion in new borrowing capacity to exhaust. The point at which the state would have to commit its own resources has been pushed farther into the future. Cuomo will probably be out of office by then. Not his problem.

But for the people who ride MTA trains and buses, especially people whose budgets are stretched tight already, paying off that debt will be a serious problem.

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TSTC: Cuomo and State DOT Need to Get Serious About Pedestrian Safety

state_roads

At the top of the list of roads in the tri-state region with the highest number of pedestrian deaths are routes like Jericho Turnpike and Sunrise Highway controlled by the state DOT. Table: TSTC

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is calling on Governor Cuomo and New York State DOT to increase funding for much-needed safety improvements on the state’s most dangerous streets.

Tri-State’s 2016 “Most Dangerous Roads for Walking” report, released this morning, summarizes the state of pedestrian safety in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut and identifies the streets where the most pedestrians were killed from 2012 to 2014. In those three years, motorists struck and killed 12 pedestrians on both Jericho Turnpike in Suffolk County and Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau, the highest toll in the state.

Those wide suburban roads are followed closely by wide NYC streets. Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens Boulevard in Queens both saw 11 fatalities in the same three-year period. In the Bronx, motorists struck and killed 10 pedestrians on the Grand Concourse.

Tri-State commends the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero campaign while calling for City Hall to commit more resources to it. Both Queens Boulevard and the Grand Concourse are in line for design changes, and many of the other streets cited in the report were identified as high priorities for safety improvements in DOT’s Vision Zero pedestrian safety action plans.

The report is based on federal data that don’t extend past 2014, so it doesn’t capture the decline in traffic deaths last year. “Vision Zero was implemented in 2014 and since then we’ve seen the reduction in NYC’s speed limit to 25 mph, the installation of speed cameras, and the Right-of-Way legislation, so in future analyses we expect to see further decreases in pedestrian fatalities,” Tri-State’s Joseph Cutrufo said in an email.

Here are the streets in each borough with the highest number of pedestrian deaths from 2012 to 2014:

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