Focused on Climate Change, Will Cuomo Reconsider the Transit-Less TZB?

In August, three county executives supported Governor Cuomo’s Tappan Zee Bridge plan in exchange for a “transit task force” that would study how to strengthen transit between Rockland and Westchester counties. At the time, advocates greeted the announcement with cautious optimism, awaiting details on the task force from the governor.

Governor Cuomo has said a lot about protecting against the impacts of climate change, but not much about preventing the worst scenarios. Photo: ## Franco/Newsday##

They’re still waiting.

“It’s been three months since the announcement of a transit task force,” said Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has a clock on its website counting the seconds since the governor made his promise.

In three months, Cuomo has not created the task force or announced any appointments. A Cuomo spokesperson did not respond to Streetsblog’s inquiries about the issue.

This stands in contrast to how quickly Cuomo moved in all other aspects of his bridge plan. “We cannot wait any longer,” the governor said about the bridge in June. “Now is the time for action.”

Even before Hurricane Sandy began to consume Cuomo’s attention nearly three weeks ago, he had shown little interest in moving forward on Tappan Zee transit. Today, while the governor has begun to make climate change a signature issue, there’s still no indication that he’s reconsidering the cars-only bridge his administration has been pushing.

So far, Cuomo has spoken aggressively about fortifying against the impacts of climate change, without addressing its causes. “The number of extreme weather patterns is going up. That’s a fact,” Cuomo said at a post-storm press conference on November 1. “We can debate the cause. The effect is the same.”

With this outlook, Cuomo is proposing to storm-proof New York’s subways and electrical systems. At the same time, he’s moving ahead with a highway bridge that does away with years of promises about transit-oriented growth, promoting exactly the type of car-dependent, inefficient development that leads to maximum greenhouse gas emissions.

New York may not be able to build both the fortifications Cuomo wants and the Tappan Zee. For now Cuomo is asking the feds to pick up much of the tab for storm-proofing, while he’s relying on New Yorkers to pay for his new bridge, with or without a massive federal loan. It’s not yet clear exactly where the funds would come from for the bridge’s estimated $5.4 billion price tag — money that could cover a sizable chunk of any storm-proofing initiative.

In the meantime, transit advocates are left with empty promises from the governor. “The public has been patiently waiting, but that patience is being tested,” Vanterpool said.