NY Governor Cuomo says waste at World Trade Center led to PANYNJ toll increases
By Peter Samuel
2012-06-05: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said wasteful spending by the Port Authority NYNJ at the World Trade Center required toll increases. At a press conference this week Cuomo said: "We have spent a tremendous amount of money to get Ground Zero (World Trade Center) built. And forget the blame and the delay and whose fault (it is.) But it's been billions and billions of dollars over-budget and wasted. So much so that we have to increase the tolls on the Port Authority (facilities), and there's no end in sight."
Port Authority officials have recently been at pains to say that toll increases announced last August are needed to improve toll bridges and tunnels and have denied the toll money is going to support the World Trade Center. In handling a law suit against the toll increases by the American Automobile Association (AAA) the PANYNJ insisted the higher tolls are not required by the World Trade Center costs - now estimated at some $11 billion.
Cuomo was speaking forcefully if rather loosely in the mode of a fiscal conservative.
Tolls another way of getting into the taxpayers' pocket
He also said: "At one point, toll increases are just another way of putting your hand in the pocket of the taxpayer. You can call them a tollpayer. Tollpayers, taxpayers, what's the difference? It's the same pocket. At some point, the answer can't be, 'Whoops, sorry, we blew another $500 million, we'll just raise the tolls.' The taxpayer, the tollpayer, is not an endless, bottomless well for government to dip into to cure their incompetence."
The governor, a Democrat mocked the local press, apparently the New York Times which has minimized the cost issues:
"You know, New York City papers, (say), 'Oh, come on it's only $500 million. Oh, it's only $500 million? Go tell Albany it's only $500 million, go tell Syracuse it's only $500 million, go tell Rochester it's only $500 million. Go tell Binghamton it's only $500 million. It's more money than they've gotten from the state in a decade. Only $500m, only $400m, only $300m. You know, we wasted a tremendous amount of money there."
Cuomo is reported in the New York Daily News and in Crain's New York.
The comments complicate the handling of toll issues at PANYNJ, since they echo a theme hit by critics. And coming from one of two governors who appoint the PANYNJ board of directors they add weight to critics' themes.
Big toll projects at the PANYNJ that do need toll money for include:
- $1,500m for a new Goethals Bridge
- $1,000m for raising the Bayonne Bridge for the taller 8000TEU container ships to get below
- $750m for new suspension ropes for the George Washington Bridge
But none of this compares with the costs being incurred at the World Trade Center site and the dubious economics of putting vast tracts of new office space onto the the New York City office market with the economy stagnant.
A factor in the Governor Cuomo's comments is probably rivalry with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg is chairman of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation (known as the 9/11 Memorial) that has been at the center of a lot of controversy about delays and cost overruns at the World Trade Center site.
The Memorial & Museum is costing about $700m vs $500m initially projected.
Gov Cuomo has also been highly critical of the Port Authority under former CEO Chris Ward, and forced his resignation last year. He has been replaced with Patrick Foye who worked for Cuomo running his economic development agency.
The 9/11 Memorial is a tribute of remembrance to the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Islamist terror attacks of September 11 2001 at the World Trade Center site, near Shanksville PA and at the Pentagon.
Some 400 PANYNJ workers died in the attack.
This was the largest loss of life on American soil in US history of any single act of war (Pearl Harbor was next at 2,400 killed), and of course US forces remain engaged in combat with this enemy to this day. Today June 5 brings the report that US forces tracked down and killled Al Qaeda's number two Abu Yahya al-Libi in a successful drone strike in Pakistan's northwest.
The Memorial's twin reflecting pools lay within the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood and suggest an emptiness left behind. Designers were architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker.
The names of the people who died in the attacks are inscribed in bronze panels edging the Memorial pools.