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Panel Cuts Down Cuomo's Request for Tappan Zee Money

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

(Tappan Zee Constructors)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be getting less money than expected to finance part of the construction of the new Tappan Zee bridge — at least for now.

The governor had initially sought more than $500 million dollars from an environmental loan fund controlled by the New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. But environmentalists, newspaper editorial boards and even federal regulators questioned how much of the request qualified as water quality projects. The Public Authorities Control Board, a state panel made up of representatives from the legislature as well as the governor, approved just $256 million, half of the original amount, Wednesday afternoon.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse, took credit for getting the loan cut in two until next year. He cast the deciding vote to go ahead with the loan, but not before expressing reservations.

“I don’t want a plan to be named later and then the bridge is half way up,” DeFrancisco said. “And then under those circumstances we have to figure out where we’re going to get the additional money.”  

Afterward, DeFrancisco said he thought the loan was part of a plan to postpone any toll hikes on the state Thruway until after this fall's elections. He said he was still unhappy that neither he, nor the public, has received a complete financial plan for the building of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.

“Borrow money and then pay for it out of tolls,” said DeFrancisco. “That’s the total plan.”

But Thruway Authority Executive Director Tom Madison, who attended the meeting, denied that the loan was part of an effort to put off toll hikes, though he added it was “fair to say” there would be an increase in tolls at some point in the future.

“This is about extraordinary environmental protections unprecedented in many ways in New York and across the country,” Madison said. “We’re proud that this is the first time that federal clean water monies are being used on a highway bridge project, which the law allows for.”

A group of 12 environmental and transportation organizations immediately called for an investigation by the state Authorities Budget Office. They say the project was rushed through and there was no way board members could have fully analyzed all the information before they acted.

“We don’t believe they followed the fiduciary responsibilities that they took an oath on,” said Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York.

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Comments [2]

Matthew Schuerman

Thanks for your comment, Carlos. It is clear for several reasons that the Cuomo administration wanted the full $511M now. In late June, the Environmental Facilities Corp. Board voted for $511M and gave no indication they would go to the PACB for only half of the amount:
http://blog.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/215680/environmental-facilities-corp-approves-511m-in-tappan-zee-loans/. Then, the PACB originally posted an agenda that called for approving $256M at 0 percent AND $256M at 4 percent: http://www.budget.ny.gov/agencyGuide/pacb/071614/Final_Agenda_for_7-16-14.pdf. Also,
Shelly Silver and DeFrancisco have both indicated that a deal was made before the PACB meeting. You are right that our article could have been clearer that the Thruway intends to return to ask for more money later but acknowledges that the amount was cut in half "at least for now" and that DeFrancisco only took credit for putting off the second half of the loan request "until next year." We will continue to follow the story and see if, given attention by the EPA and environmental groups, that second request gets made.

Jul. 21 2014 05:45 PM
Carlos D from Westchester

The article is either incorrect or intentionally misleading. The am out requested was approved and the Thursday plans to seek thr balance later.

Jul. 17 2014 08:21 AM

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