Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Contemporary New York's Version of Robert Moses?

In a comprehensive look at the New York governor's attraction to big infrastructure projects, the analogy to Robert Moses is made by the Regional Plan Association, while the right-leaning Manhattan Institute faults Cuomo for ignoring MTA.

2 minute read

August 8, 2015, 9:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Will Gov. Andrew Cuomo be remembered by two mega-projects that began under his watch: the replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge and redesign of LaGuardia Airport? That is to say, will that be his legacy?

"Political analysts say the governor’s penchant for large-scale projects is unmatched among his recent predecessors, and is reminiscent of the administration of Nelson A. Rockefeller, the Republican who was elected to four terms as governor and whose lengthy construction resume included state office buildings and college campuses," write Thomas Kaplan and Patrick McGeehan for The New York Times. 

But Mr. Cuomo’s zeal for marquee construction projects has come with some consequences. It remains unclear how, exactly, the state will pay for the estimated $3.9 billion Tappan Zee replacement, and how high the tolls may climb for those who cross it.

Tom Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, said Mr. Cuomo had taken a page from the playbook of Robert Moses, New York’s master builder, by pushing ahead without working out every financial detail. In the process, Mr. Wright said, the governor was bucking the tendency of "policy wonks" who "let the perfect be the enemy of the good and spread their limited resources around instead of concentrating on a couple key strategic priorities."

Other Cuomo projects barely made it to the light of day, most notably the redevelopment of Aqueduct Raceway in Queens into a huge convention center and casino, only to collapse six months later. While the process to overhaul LaGuardia Airport appears to have begun, the word is still out on Cuomo's proposed AirTrain to provide subway access.

Another perspective is offered by Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a right-leaning think tank, who looks at MTA's underfunded capital plan.

“His infrastructure legacy will ultimately hinge on what he does with the subways,” said Gelinas. “Allowing them to deteriorate really harms New Yorkers’ quality of life more so than an airport that’s in bad condition.”

"More than halfway through his first year as governor, he admitted that he had not taken a single ride on the subway during his time in office," note the reporters.

Political science Professor Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz perhaps summed it up best. "You get credit for things you build, not things you maintain."

Thursday, July 30, 2015 in The New York Times - N.Y. / Region

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