Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s promise of millions of dollars in new infrastructure projects for Long Island is a lot like getting socks and underwear for your birthday.
They’re useful, but a bit of a letdown when you’re hoping for a new bike.
And the governor has certainly been handing out Schwinn Phantoms in other parts of the state. $4 billion overhauls of LaGuardia and JFK airports. $1 billion to spruce up the Javits Center. Hundreds of millions in Upstate broadband connectivity.
He’s also pushing a $20 billion Gateway Tunnel to New Jersey and a spanking-new transportation center to replace the out-tuckered Penn Station. There are millions more to keep Western New York’s rebirth alive and years’ worth of Thruway and bridge repairs.
Long Island’s gifts – a sewer outflow pipe and a couple of parking garages – seem like off-brand boxer shorts by comparison.
But let’s remember to smile as we unwrap. The outflow pipe will ship treated waste water at least two miles out to sea, significantly improving life on Nassau County’s southern shore, where the bays are being overrun by effluent-loving sea lettuce.
Fun fact: Decomposing sea lettuce gives off large quantities of hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous, corrosive and flammable gas that belongs to the chemical family Man That Smells Like Rotten Eggs.
The parking garages? Though maybe not on the same scale as the new Tappan Zee Bridge (another $4 billion), they’re still pretty big deals for Long Island. One, to be built adjacent to the Coliseum project in Uniondale, would free up acres of current hardtop for a future innovation zone. The second will help make the transit-focused, mixed-use, keep-our-youngsters-here Ronkonkoma Hub a reality.
And then there are the novelty gifts. Modest state aid to bring a customs station to MacArthur Airport, opening the gates to international flights to the Caribbean, maybe even Reykjavik. $1 million to study the feasibility of a deep-water port at Shoreham. Seed money for a bioelectronics medical center.
There’s also $5 million to look into a tunnel connecting Oyster Bay and Rye.
And local residents will spend at least that much opposing it!
Finally, there is the third track, which is like getting socks and underwear … being modeled by Tyra Banks. Covering about 10 miles between Floral Park and Hicksville, where five major branches of the Long Island Rail Road converge, the added track would alleviate one of the worst bottlenecks in railroading and allow vital West-East commuting.
Simple truth: Opening Long Island to NYC workers is a must if we’re to ever build an innovation economy here. The third track, coupled with the coming-soon East Side Access project, gives us a shot.
The governor has proposed finding $1 billion or so to fund the project, but he’s kicking in plenty of political capital, too. The third track is like the third rail to many local residents, who can’t quite see the region’s future through the trains already zipping past their backyards. Area pols, including a handful of state senators and assembly members, have termed the project dead on arrival.
We’ll see. When it comes to horse trading, the governor usually ends up in the saddle.
In other words, keep your socks on. — JOHN KOMINICKI