Cuomo speech focuses on infrastructure projects

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during one of four parts of his 2021 State of the State address in the War Room at the state Capitol in Albany. Courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

ALBANY — The state will begin ambitious plans for a $306 billion investment in public infrastructure, transportation and education projects to jump start New York’s economy in the wake of financial devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday to complete his 2021 State of the State address.

Cuomo announced Thursday projects to expand and improve the state’s transportation and mass-transit systems across New York — similar to President and former Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s historic New Deal programs enacted in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression, which culminated with the completion of New York’s underground transit system, long suspension bridges and tunnels, and tall buildings.

“History teaches us that when the private economy is lagging the public sector can spur activity, that when unemployment is high the public sector can create jobs and when interest rates are low the public sector should invest, that only the public sector can build the common economic platform for growth,” Cuomo said. “... Once a world leader, this country lost the vision and political willpower to build boldly and bravely. We lost sight of the connection between today’s construction and the prosperity of a thousand tomorrows. We chose to kick the can down the road — a road that was crumbling before our eyes.”

The governor finished his 11th State of the State address Thursday after four days of speeches. He delivered the address virtually over four days from the War Room inside the state Capitol in Albany. The annual speech is traditionally attended by thousands of people in Convention Center inside the Empire State Plaza, but was virtual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Throughout the week, Cuomo detailed the state’s plans to stop the spread of COVID-19, manage hospitals, the challenges of quickly and efficiently vaccinating nearly 20 million New Yorkers with a sluggish federal supply, reconstructing the state’s economy through revitalizing the arts and culture in cities, universal state broadband access and transforming to a green economy.

The state will launch $100 million of a second round of grants to rebuild upstate airports.

“Downstate, we will complete construction of the new LaGuardia Airport next year and continue our transformation of JFK Airport,” Cuomo said.

The state plans to add 40% train capacity and at least eight additional underground tracks to Penn Station by building another terminal through acquisition of the square block to the south, called Penn South.

The new complex is slated to have two new cross-river train tunnels to bring more trains across the Hudson from the west and two existing cross-river tunnels for a total of four train tunnels from points south and west of New York.

“Washington has delayed these tunnels, called the Gateway Project, for years and they must finally move forward,” Cuomo said.

The state’s plans to expand mass transit started New Year’s Day, Cuomo said, with the opening of the new $1.6 billion Moynihan Train Hall at the historic Farley Post Office. The alternative to Penn Station boasts a 92-foot-high skylight dome and 255,000 square feet of restaurants and retail stores.

An elevated park is slated for completion in the Capital Region in 2021. The Albany Skyway will connect pedestrians and cyclists to the Hudson River waterfront.

Work continues on the new Utica Hospital set to open in 2023 in the Mohawk Valley, and the Binghamton University Decker School of Nursing to enhance training for nurses in the Southern Tier.

The new Midstation Lodge at Whiteface Mountain will be completed in the North Country this year.

The Skyway will be removed in Buffalo, with creation of a park overlooking Lake Erie.

“Our construction team is ready to break ground as soon as the federal approval comes through,” Cuomo said.

Rochester’s Riverway Project will be completed by the end of the year, along with a total overhaul of the I-390/I-490 interchange with a new flyover and noise reduction.

Expanding the Javits Convention Center, 1.2 million square feet, or 50%, and a Manhattan Midtown West development project to create a new West Side transit hub spanning 114 acres will also begin in 2021.

The Midtown West project will also transform Pier 76, which has been used as a police tow pound for more than 20 years.

The state will also transform the city’s Port Authority Bus Complex — a $51 billion investment expected to create 196,000 jobs.

All projects, including the new airports, roads, bridges, parks and housing, amounts to a $306 billion investment in the state’s future, the governor said.

“That’s not just the largest infrastructure plan in New York history, it’s the largest, most ambitious plan of any state in the nation,” Cuomo said. “I believe that there is a continuing thread through history — we see the true character of a people not in the good times, but in the hard times. When the pressure is on, small cracks tend to explode, and some people and some places crumble. But pressure also forges strength and that’s how diamonds are formed. In 2020 ... the pressure was on and we all saw New Yorkers under pressure become diamonds.

“New Yorkers were a magnificent chain of diamonds, different sizes, different colors, different shapes, different orientations, but the chain connected all. And the chain is strong, my friends. It will unite. It will forge community. It will combine our strength. We have done it before and we will do it again. Let’s get to work, together.”

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