Packed House Tells Cuomo to Build a Tappan Zee With Transit

Photo: Dani Simons

Support for transit ran high at the first of two public hearings on the Tappan Zee draft environmental impact statement at the Palisades Mall in Rockland last night.

A crowd pegged at 500 people packed into the hearing room and spilled out over into the hallway where union members milled next to mayors of Rockland towns, waiting their turn to testify.

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef led off by thanking NYS DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald for meeting with him about Rockland’s transit needs, but said that the county needs a real commitment from the state. His testimony offered many concrete options for both short- and long-term transit improvements, ranging from dedicated bus lanes and a direct connection for buses to the Tarrytown train station to full bus rapid transit and commuter rail service.

South Nyack Mayor Tish Dubow, Nyack Mayor Jen Laird-White and White Plains Council Member Milagros Lecuona all called for transit to be part of the project from the start. Lecouona, an architect and urban planner, took to the podium in a bright red pantsuit and declared that a bridge without transit was “planning for yesterday.”

State Senator David Carlucci thanked Cuomo for fast tracking the project but called on the governor to create a dedicated express bus lane immediately and plan for “full transit capability” as part of the project.

Ross Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester and Hudson Valley, and his cronies continued to keep up the “build it now” drumbeat, claiming that building the bridge right away is the only way to bring jobs to the Hudson Valley. One hopes Pepe’s friends in the unions see through his rhetoric and realize that a bridge with transit will actually bring more jobs, both today and in the future. So far the state has failed to explain why transit is not already under study or being phased in simultaneously with the bridge project. Starting this process concurrently would allow transit to sync up with the bridge construction, providing more jobs and preventing additional construction disruptions in the future.

Several electeds called on the state to extend the public comment period to give their residents more time to parse through the 23 chapters and over thousand pages in the DEIS and provide responses. The second and final public hearing on the DEIS is Thursday night (March 1) at the White Plains Marriott from 4:00-9:00 p.m. There will be an open house starting at 4:00, and a stenographer available to take testimony in a private room, with the state’s presentation beginning at 5:00, followed by public comment and a second round of presentation at 7:00, again followed by more comments. Written comments may also be submitted to: before March 15, 2012.