In July 2011, Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino stood on the shores of the Tappan Zee Bridge and urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “Enough is enough. Put the pencils down and let’s build a bridge.”
Now Cuomo’s administration appears miffed that Astorino may be the one slowing down progress on the bridge. Cuomo’s top aide, Larry Schwartz, said today on 1300-AM (WGDJ) in Albany that he doesn’t know what Astorino wants.
“I’m trying to understand what it is that he wants and what kind of commitment he’s looking for,” Schwartz said. “I’m trying to understand if he wants a commitment to spend another $5 billion, which we’re not going to do.”
Astorino has wanted a new bridge — as he strongly stated last year — but has since called for the bridge to have rapid transit, writing a letter to the Department of Transportation for it and saying in testimony in March that the bridge “does need some kind of mass transit component. Otherwise we are not building a bridge, we are building a scenic parking lot over the Hudson.”
Astorino, a potential gubernatorial candidate in 2014, and Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef have held up a vote by a regional transportation council for the new bridge until they said they get more answers about the scope of the project.
Yes, he supports mass transit, but understands it needs to be done in stages, he said. And he’s pleased those stages are starting with bus lanes on the bridge, which Cuomo’s office recently announced.
Astorino said his position is being twisted around. He said he’s not standing in the way of the bridge.
“There are some people who are trying to make this a big controversy where one may not exist,” Astorino said. “We’re on the same page for most of the bridge. It’s just this one part that I feel very strongly that if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right and so I was happy to see the governor’s staff said publicly that they’ll start with dedicated bus lanes, which was one thing I was pushing for.”
Astorino is also taking exception to Cuomo’s estimates that it would cost $5 billion — the same cost as the bridge — to put in mass transit. He said it would be much less.
“We can do this in stages, but let’s make a commitment to do it and let’s do it, as opposed to let’s pretend we’re going to do it and never get it done, which is really the direction the state would be going in if we don’t make a commitment from day one,” Astorino said.