As a prelude to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address this coming Wednesday (January 9th), Cuomo has spent the past week travelling around New York, announcing, piecemeal, 10 proposals for his 2016 agenda. Chief among his wish-list is investment in transportation and infrastructure. The projects are exciting — they include construction of a rail tunnel under the Hudson, a new La Guardia Airport, and completing financing of the new TZ Bridge — as they are costly ($20 billion for the rail tunnel; $4 billion for a new La Guardia; $3.9 billion to finish the TZ Bridge); and it’s as yet unclear where the money will come from for these ambitious proposals. But hey, the New Year spirit’s all about setting unreasonable goals, isn’t it?
Nyack News And Views has outlined the Governor’s 10 proposals below, with special attention to how they might affect those living in Rockland.
There’s an unofficial race among states to become the first to be able to boast a $15 minimum wage. In service of the $15 minimum wage contest, the Governor announced that the State University of New York will raise the minimum wage for more than 28,000 employees. “This increase for SUNY employees will mirror the phased-in schedule for fast food workers secured last year, as well as State Workers announced in October,” which, according to the Governor’s website, could make New York first to $15.
The Governor aims to expand and improve the Long Island Rail Road system, adding a third track on the Main Line of the LIRR, between Floral Park and Hicksville. The proposal is estimated to cost $1 billion.
In 2016-2017, Governor Cuomo hopes to dramatically increase the Environmental Protection Fund budget, proposing to allocate $300 million for the State’s Environmental Protection Fund, nearly double the 2015-2016 budget. The State’s EPF serves a number of functions, including trail maintenance, natural resource protection, wildlife preservation, and student education on environmental issues.The Governor also announced two major investments in water infrastructure in Suffolk and Nassau Counties.
How? Reduce taxes on small businesses; fund municipal water infrastructure improvement projects; and revitalize downtown areas throughout the state.
Under the proposal, small businesses that pay taxes through the corporate tax or through the personal income tax would have their tax rates cut; this would allegedly save state small businesses $298 million annually, bringing the total savings statewide from the new program to nearly $1.2 billion by 2021. There are 134,863 small businesses in the Hudson Valley.
Hate paying Thruway tolls? The Governor — with swift support from legislators including Rockland’s representative in the State Senate, David Carlucci, and Rockland County Executive Ed Day — proposed freezing thruway tolls until at least 2020 for all users. The plan also includes cutting tolls in half for 1 million frequent travelers of the Thruway and eliminating tolls for agriculture vehicles
Could Penn Station finally receive the full sale renovations that have long been rumored? In 2016, Governor Cuomo hopes to jump-start a $3 billion public-private project, referred to as the Empire Station Complex, which would feature “significant passenger improvements, including first-class amenities, natural light, increased train capacity and decreased congestion, and improved signage to dramatically enhance the travel experience.” Many are optimistic that this project could finally be the real deal; if so, expect heavy construction to be completed within the next three years.
- Dramatic Expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center to Attract More Events and Stimulate Regional Economy
The $1 billion proposal aims to tack on 1.2 million square feet to the already massive Javits Center, located on 11th Avenue, between 34th and 40th streets, in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan. Javits would become the largest ballroom in the Northeast. A four-level, 480,000 square foot truck garage “capable of housing hundreds of tractor-trailers at one time will also be constructed to improve pedestrian safety and local traffic flow.” Construction would begin in 2016.
- Bring the MTA into the 21st Century to Dramatically Improve the Travel Experience for Millions of New Yorkers and Visitors
In another proposal to foster public transportation, the Governor wants to “rapidly redesign and renew 30 existing subway stations across the system.” Technology initiatives would include “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.”
Nyack, or perhaps greater Rockland, could be awarded $20 million in the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. The initiative aims to reward “local governments that take real steps to make living and working in New York State more affordable.”
Those living north of New York City — Nyack! — are hardpressed to find broadband connection faster than 50 Mbps. This week though, the New York State Public Service Commission voted to approve the merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications. Benefits of the merger include improved broadband availability for millions of New Yorkers and higher broadband speeds (upgrades to 100 Mbps statewide by the end of 2018, and 300 Mbps by the end of 2019), making it all the easier to look up whether Time Warner is creating a monopoly.