by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke of New York State’s economic resilience at the 3.14.14 lunch of the Association for a Better New York (ABNY) held at Cipriani 42nd Street. After a brief introduction by ABNY President William Rudin, the Governor stated that when he took office, “The economy of New York State was in disarray. And we were paying the price: People and businesses were leaving the state.” He noted that “spending out-paced income in New York State for 50 years. You can’t spend more than you make.” Criticizing spending vs. revenue generation by former Governors Nelson Rockefeller and George Pataki, he held back from a critique of the economic policies of former Governor Mario Cuomo, saying, “I’m still close with his wife.”
His talk focused on controlling the State budget, reducing taxes, and decreasing the deficit. But there were some specifics that also related to the built environment, at least in regard to expanding pre-Kindergarten facilities statewide and encouraging charter schools, which, in his words, “provide innovation and creativity, and must be protected and allowed to continue and to grow.”
Affordable housing was referenced as a crisis, and Cuomo announced a budgetary commitment of $100 million to build 3,000 new affordable dwelling units.
He also spoke of what has changed since Hurricane Sandy, saying, “Extreme weather changes everything,” and committed to significant transportation infrastructure improvements as a result. “We will harden our transit system, which is extraordinarily vulnerable, spending $5 billion for the most massive reconstruction of the subway system since it was built 110 years ago. We will re-build the six under-river tubes used by a million people a day and also protect and strength our train-yards.”
In regard to coastal protection, Cuomo noted that New York State is “spending a billion dollars for things like oyster beds, and we are restoring wetlands where homes are not going to be rebuilt.” He announced the establishment of the nation’s first College of Emergency Preparedness, being developed with the State University of New York, and added that “we’ve recruited former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly as special advisor.”
Despite the spending controls, the Governor noted that there were currently “over 1,000 projects, with $16 billion of federal funding,” and pointed out that there “was more construction over the last three years than in all of modern political history.”
Cuomo concluded his talk by saying that “‘Building Back Better’ is our slogan since Sandy; that is the spirit of New York.” Praising the goals of the Association for a Better New York, he ended with the rhetorical question: “How do we make this place a better place, a cleaner, smarter, safer state for the next generation?” And answered it with: “Let’s make New York a better place for those who come after us, and together we will.”