This past week the ghost of Robert Moses was revived by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an appearance before the Long Island Association.
If you are too young to remember who Robert Moses is then I suggest you read “The Power Broker” by Robert Caro. If you are too busy to read then I will mention a few of the projects completed by the late Mr. Moses.
Once upon a time, it was possible to build a road or a bridge and get it done over the objection of a small handful of people.
Robert Moses is responsible for the Long Island Expressway, the Northern and Southern State parkways; the Tri-Boro Bridge, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and at least 10 other successes that I don’t remember.
Moses dared to be a master builder and had the backing of most of the important people in New York State, which helps a lot when you are building something.
Moses was not Mr. Nice Guy.
He is said to have been brusque and to the point and didn’t suffer fools easily. Get in his way and you were bound to be run over by a steamroller. The word NIMBY was not in his vocabulary.
Almost completely out of character Gov. Cuomo proposed a possible tunnel from Long Island’s North Shore to Connecticut, a new third track for the Long Island Railroad, a boat landing at Shoreham to take on commercial goods and save long truck rides and a bunch of other projects.
In the case of the Third Track, he proposed spending $1 billion on the effort, but didn’t define where the moneys would come from.
It is no secret that the state Legislature, which once spent barrels of money on mass transit, has retreated from that effort to the point where almost nothing is currently going on.
The latest five-year plan for mass transit has been cut and cut and there are few if any advocates to increase that funding.
The promise of new funds by the governor isn’t pie in the sky because of what he did to the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Four years ago, Mr. Cuomo pledged to build a new bridge and quite a few people laughed and laughed.
Neighbors on both sides of the Hudson River cursed and cursed and swore that no such thing will ever happen. Environmental groups promised to sue and sue to stop the new bridge.
If you happen to be going upstate and use the current Tappan Zee Bridge, you will see the pillars and the completed foundations for the bridge that some swore would never happen.
How it was done will be a story in and of itself as all types of financing mechanisms were used. In the meantime, all the naysayers have been proven wrong.
You don’t have to be a road builder or a construction worker to know that very few public projects have been built in this region for many years.
Occasionally the state provides money for a local road improvement but the mega projects of the past no longer happen.
Drivers who are stuck on the Long Island Expressway can attest to the fact that they are stuck in the daily gridlock that adds to our air pollution and costs businesses millions of dollars each day in lost time.The same goes for the Southern and Northern parkways badly in need of modernization.
It is very clear that New York State can’t do everything for everyone when it comes to roads, bridges and tunnels.
But the governor’s bold promise to get some major projects done in the near future is good news for all of us.
The governor’s parting statement at the LIA event says it all.
“NIMBY and the shortcomings of the bureaucracy have stolen our capacity for major projects. If we lived like this and worked like this we wouldn’t be here. Long Island wouldn’t be here. You would all be potato farmers.”