RPA Responds to Governor Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State Address

Governor Cuomo put forth many exciting ideas in his 2018 State of the State address today, and teased a few others that we are eager to see move forward as quickly as possible this year.

Regional Plan Association is pleased to see that Governor Cuomo is urging the Port Authority to “accelerate consideration of relocating its Red Hook maritime activities to free up this waterfront for more productive community use,” one of the ideas that RPA recently advanced in its Fourth Regional Plan. The Governor also called on the MTA to study options for improving transportation access to Red Hook area and surrounding neighborhoods. RPA agrees with many other transit experts that Red Hook needs better transit options and that the Governor and MTA should focus on ideas that line up with a range of future redevelopment alternatives, ensuring that the options considered are right-sized for the Red Hook community of today and the future. If this project proceeds it will need to include plans to re-train and re-deploy the workers that currently staff the Port and associated businesses.

We were also pleased to see the Governor scaling up the use of renewables and growing our green economy with solicitations to promote the development of more power from offshore wind, and the creation of the Zero Cost Solar for All program. We also commend the Governor on his investment to increase energy storage, essential to being able to modernize our grid and continue to scale up our use of renewables. And we look forward to seeing what the Governor puts forth in terms of energy efficiency targets, an essential component of moving the marketplace.

Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make local government performance aid conditional on county shared service plans is a welcome strengthening of the state’s 2017 County-wide Shared Services Initiative. The program should continue to be monitored and evaluated to insure that it results in fair and more efficient delivery of government services. The Governor also announced that the State will be looking into a larger tax overhaul. As they do this, RPA encourages the Governor and the legislature to consider other ideas in the Fourth Regional Plan for reducing local property taxes, including relieving school districts of a higher share of their expenses to create more equitable school funding and giving municipalities greater flexibility to diversify their revenue sources and levy different property tax rates for the value of buildings than for the value of the underlying land.

The focus on Penn Station in today’s speech was a welcome addition that had not been previously announced. RPA agrees with the Governor that the facility, a gateway to the economic opportunities in New York City needs to be modernized to improve passenger flow for both capacity and public safety. The Governor indicated that ESD and the Port Authority would be working with local developers on plans, and we hope that they look at the recommendations we put forth to move Madison Square Garden in the Fourth Regional Plan as well as the proposal by Vishaan Chakrabarti and PAU.

Finally, we are pleased to see Governor Cuomo acknowledge the dire state of the subway system and the need for a complete overhaul of the system. The Governor acknowledge the need for a new funding mechanism, saying “We also need long-term funding that is fair to all and also addresses the growing traffic…problems,”but stopped short of endorsing congestion pricing.

RPA urges the Governor to swiftly release the findings of the “Fix NYC” Advisory Panel and move forward on recommendations that can help break gridlock and provide a new funding source for transportation.  

A plan like the one proposed by the MoveNY coalition that would equalize tolling on the bridges, making tolling fairer to drivers, charge drivers for entering the most congested parts of the City, and create a dedicated stream of revenue to fix and modernize transit for New Yorkers who can’t afford to drive, would be the fairest, most progressive and sustainable solution to New York’s traffic and transit crises.

We also urge the Governor to keep moving forward in his efforts to reform the MTA. Alongside new funding, the MTA needs to find ways to deliver capital investments more quickly and affordably, including the creation of a special-purpose entity to plan, design, finance, procure and deliver a modern subway system in 15 years.

In addition, the MTA should look for ways to capture more of the value created by its transit investments to help fund the system, and prioritize the modernization of the subway system to meet the needs of a growing city and metropolitan region.

Governor Cuomo has shown that when he focuses his attention on major issues, he can accomplish big things. As he said himself today: “Difficult choices do not get any easier by ignoring them.” We hope that despite the absence of the words “congestion pricing” or MTA reform from the State of the State today that the Governor will move these ideas forward swiftly.

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