Environmental groups and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political opponents are knocking the governor’s announcement yesterday that a $511 million loan from the state’s Environmental Facilities Corp. will help fund remediation for the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
Cuomo aides said the loan, along with a $1.6 billion federal loan for the project, will help limit toll increases to fund the $3.9 billion bridge over the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties.
The agency is the financing arm for the state to provide low-interest loans to local governments and agencies for drinking water, wastewater infrastructure and other clean-water projects. Last year, EFC financed close to $2 billion in clean-water investments statewide, a news release from Cuomo’s office said.
So now, critics said, a quarter of that annual outlay will go to the new bridge. Cuomo officials stressed that the loan won’t impact other projects.
Reports have shown that New York has nearly $30 billion each in wastewater and clean-water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years.
“Diverting funds meant for clean water to instead supporting the construction of a bridge establishes a deeply troubling precedent and raises many questions,” Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates, based in Albany, said. “There are already enormous unmet needs for sewage treatment clean ups in New York City that could go unfunded because of this significant shift in resources. The Legislature should conduct hearings.”
Brian Sampson, executive director of Unshackle Upstate, a Rochester-based business group, charged that the environmental loan is another sign that the Thruway Authority doesn’t have a clear way to fund the bridge, which will stretch between Westchester and Rockland counties.
“Loans need to be repaid, which is just another indication that they didn’t have a good financing plan in place when they went forward with the bridge,” Sampson said.
Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins said, “Pete Seeger must have rolled over in his grave.”
“EFC President Matt Driscoll’s claim that this loan will not divert from other clean water projects is hard to believe from my city of Syracuse. We have had nearly 300 water main breaks so far this year,” Hawkins said in a statement. “The sewers are just as old, with lots of breaks and cave-ins, overflows when it rains, and backups into homes and businesses. When the Mayor of Syracuse asked Governor Cuomo for just $16.5 million for emergency infrastructure repairs in this year’s budget, he did not come through for us.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino also knocked the deal. On Fred Dicker’s radio show, Astorino claimed that Cuomo has a “padlock” on what the new tolls will be until after the election.
“The dangerous and inappropriate financial shell games we saw in another Cuomo administration are back. Yesterday it was revealed that Andrew Cuomo is engaged in a $511 million gimmick taking money from a fund specifically earmarked for environmental projects, like clean drinking water, to plug a massive budget hole in his plan for the new Tappan Zee Bridge,” Astorino said in a statement.