Posts tagged with "Andrew Cuomo":

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Governor Cuomo unveils $300 million plan to reimagine the Erie Canal

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a $300 million proposal to upgrade the Erie Canal with recreational hotspots and a series of environmental improvements to combat flooding, restore wetlands, and enhance agricultural irrigation across New York State. Revamping the 19th-century waterway, which spans 363 miles from the Great Lakes to the Hudson River, is expected to bring a wave of economic development to the 225 communities that surround it.  The news comes based on research conducted by Governor Cuomo’s Reimagine the Canals task force, a group assembled last May to produce a report on how the Canal’s historic infrastructure could be used to advance the health and well-being of area residents, economies, and ecosystems. BuroHappold Engineering was selected to head up the task force as the lead consultant.  The first phase of funding will be granted this year and will provide $100 million in investment to support projects that innovatively reuse canal infrastructure, according to the governor’s office, and create new ways to enjoy the water. A separate $65 million will go to helping prevent ice jams along the Canal and flooding.  Last restored in 1999 and designated as a National Heritage Area the following year, the Erie Canal has long-been underutilized, the task force noted. Cuomo aims to repurpose it to “fit our state’s 21st century needs.” “This bold and visionary plan to transform this historic waterway will build on the success of the Empire State Trail,” said the Governor in a press release, “grow tourism across Upstate New York, improve the resilience of today’s Canal communities, and ensure the economic sustainability of the waterway into the future.”  The Empire State Trail, stretching 750 miles long, is expected to be finished later this year and will further tie in the Canal improvements as they are built-out over the several years. The second phase of the initiative will involve the remaining $135 million and any further project recommendations suggested by the task force.  In an email to AN, Alice Shay, an associate in BurroHappold's Cities practice, said all phases will heavily involve the input of canalside residents. "It's critical to ensure that local communities are brought into the process and that the reimagining celebrates the history and heritage of the canal," she said. "We're looking at ways to adapt the system's assets for new uses that tap into this heritage, including transforming historic structures into tourism and recreation destinations and celebrating the canal's infrastructure with hydro-powered illumination."
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Construction of Santiago Calatrava's disputed World Trade Center church is back on

Two years after a payment dispute between Skanska USA and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA) shut down construction at the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, things are finally back on track. On January 2, Governor Cuomo announced that work would soon resume under the oversight of a new board. Santiago Calatrava’s $80 million design for the new St. Nicholas in Manhattan's World Trade Center complex was revealed in 2013 and was set to replace the 1916 structure destroyed on September 11th. The structure, a ribbed central space that would be illuminated from within and ensconced between four burly pillars, was intended to seem both resilient and reference the Hagia Sophia. Although the GOA and city had been negotiating for years over the fate of the site and the GOA had signed a $1, 198-year lease, Skanska terminated their contract in 2017 after the Archdiocese failed to pay their outstanding bills. At last estimate, there was still a $40 million shortfall, and in April of last year, the Governor personally intervened—reaching out to potential donors—to try to get the project moving again. Now, construction will be overseen by the new, 13-member nonprofit board, “the Friends of St. Nicholas,” which is aiming to have the church finished in the next two years. The board will reportedly be responsible for raising money, overseeing the construction process, and holding audits to make sure the project stays on schedule. It should be mentioned that many of the board members (including the billionaire Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis, and former Chairman of the Battery Park City Authority Dennis Mehiel) were among those that Governor Cuomo reached out to April, according to the New York Post. Although there was no announcement of when work would resume, or if Skanska would return, a 2022 completion date would be four years after the originally planned opening. Although the project broke ground in 2014 and the church topped out in 2016, the site has sat vacant and draped with a tarp since December 2017.
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Cuomo rejects plan to build offices atop Hudson River Park's Pier 40

In a rare victory for public parks over commercial development, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have allowed increased office space on Hudson River Park’s Pier 40. The bill would have allowed developers to build up to 700,000 square feet of new buildings reaching as high as 88 feet tall on the pier, which currently serves a popular play spot with sports fields, a commercial parking lot, and administrative offices for the entire park. As the largest pier in Hudson River Park and one of its largest sources of revenue, Pier 40 has long been a contentious topic among community members and city officials. Currently generating 30 percent of the park’s budget, Pier 40 is caught in the awkward position of being a neighborhood gem of public space and the park’s cash cow. Revenue from the ill-fated office buildings would have gone to funding the park’s operations. However, other commercial piers, such as Pier 57, remain and will soon house office space for Google and City Winery. Both are set to also contribute to park costs. "We crafted a measure to try to balance their needs for what they claim is their need for development and our strong belief that we had to protect the playing fields at Pier 40," said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who sponsored the bill but supported Cuomo’s veto, in an interview with Gothamist. "This wasn’t something where anybody was particularly happy about the compromises we were making,"  This isn't the first time Pier 40 has been at the center of the tug-of-war between developers and community advocates. In 2016, the city council approved a massive air-rights transfer from Pier 40 to the St. John’s Terminal redevelopment across the street for $100 million. The local Community Board 2 had rejected the recent proposal to bring office buildings to the pier. Often depicted as deteriorating and cash-strapped, Pier 40 has sparked numerous proposals and impassioned pleas for its future. For now, at least, it seems it will remain as park space.  “Money is always the rationale to develop sites in Manhattan, hence the lack of open space, green areas, parks or recreation space. We have so few remaining parcels available for community use,” Cuomo wrote in the veto memo. “The one thing we are not making any more of in Manhattan is open space, and this must be protected.”
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Puerto Rican architecture students design counter-proposals to Hurricane Maria memorial

Architecture students in Puerto Rico have responded with a counter-proposal to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent request for architects to submit ideas for a Hurricane Maria memorial in New York. Francisco J. Rodríguez-Suarez, architect, professor, and former dean of the University of Puerto Rico School of Architecture (UPR-RP), posted a series of photomontages by his third-year students on Twitter (@paco-rsvp) last week—a competition project inspired by a class discussion during the first week of the semester. Some 16 pieces were made public on his feed, each depicting American and Puerto Rican symbols overlayed with contradictory images. One of the most scroll-stopping images features a group of construction workers raising an electric poll atop a pile of rubble. It mimics the famous photograph taken in 1945 of six Marines raising the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima. Rodríguez-Suarez told David Begnaud, CBS This Morning's lead national correspondent, that his students talked about the possibility of participating in Cuomo’s request for proposals, but ultimately decided to pursue making the anti-memorial imagery instead. They “unanimously felt the wounds had not healed enough and also questioned the appropriateness of the politics behind a memorial in New York,” Rodríguez-Saurez said in a quote on Begnaud’s Twitter. The journalist called the students' ideas "protest work" and an "academic critique" of Cuomo's RFP. In an email, Rodríguez-Suarez explained to AN that the project was part of a larger competition studio where emerging designers learn how to present strategy and develop critical thinking skills. They typically engage in four or five competitions per semester, he said, and the Hurricane Maria memorial was the first one they talked about doing. After debating the pros and cons, the students didn't submit work on an official submission but rather ended up experimenting with the photomontages as a set of counter-proposals. "Pedagogically, [the class] highlights the importance of architectural competitions as a means to provide society with better quality buildings and spaces," said Rodríguez-Suarez, "especially in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, where they are not the norm." It’s unclear yet whether Cuomo's memorial competition is gaining traction among professional architects or artists already, but given the support of the many New York-based Puerto Ricans who make up the 10-person commission to get it built, it seems the project will move forward despite criticism—even if it comes from the Puerto Rican government itself.  Regardless of the final chosen design, the UPR-RP students believe it's too soon for a memorial and that the American government doesn't understand their plight. "How does it occur to someone to make a memorial of something that's not finishing happening?" wrote Lourdes Sofia Jimenez-Rodriguez in an email to AN. "Much less in New York City, where I know there is a large population of Puerto Ricans who moved there after Maria and said they have done everything they can to help. But we're still living here every day." Jimenez-Rodriguez said the blue FEMA tarps that still cover homes around the country remind her of how far this disaster is from being over. It's a motif she focused on in her project. "For me, these represent the mismanagement of resources and aid after the hurricane," she said. "I wanted to make a photomontage of the capitol with broken roof and blue awnings because it is very easy to say that everything is fine when the one who is saying it did not really go through the situation."
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New York State approves first-in-the-nation congestion pricing plan

With the $175 billion New York State budget locked in for 2020, so too is congestion pricing on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street. While the specifics have yet to be hammered out, the plan is the first to be imposed in the United States. Charging drivers who enter Manhattan’s central business district (CBD) is expected to have a number of effects: reducing traffic, cutting pollution, and raising money for the beleaguered subway system, managed by the state-controlled Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). That last point had previously caused tension between Governor Andrew Cuomo, who supported congestion pricing as a way to raise money for subway repairs, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who wanted to impose a “millionaire’s tax” on high earning New York City residents. The price that each driver will be charged upon entering or exiting the CBD has yet to be determined, but a six-person Traffic Mobility Board will determine the fee before the plan goes into effect. It should be noted that the board will be composed of one member selected by the mayor, and the rest being residents of areas served by the Metro-North Railroad or Long Island Railroad (LIRR), New York's major suburban train lines, also managed by the MTA. Drivers will only be tolled once per day, through a series of EZ Pass cameras—or, if the driver lacks an EZ Pass, license plate-snapping cameras—mounted in yet-to-be-determined locations. Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel, which released its final report in January of last year, had suggested charging personal vehicles $11.52 to enter Manhattan, charging trucks $25.34, and $2-to-$5 for for-hire vehicles. The program hopes to raise $1 billion through congestion fees annually that the state will use to back $15 billion in bond sales to fund repairs to the ailing subway system. While the budget promises to carve out exemptions for lower-income drivers, 80 percent of the funds raised will go towards subway and bus-related capital projects in the city, and the remaining 20 percent will be set aside for the Metro-North and LIRR. Additionally, the program will be set up and administered by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) part of the MTA, in collaboration with New York City's Department of Transportation. Handing over the program to the state, and, in particular, Westchester and Long Island in the case of the Traffic Mobility Board, has riled up online transportation activists, who feel the congestion plan was a move by the state to take more control of NYC’s streets. Because the Traffic Mobility Board members are appointed by the MTA, they have the discretion to reject the mayor’s appointees. With so much of the plan still left to be filled in, the earliest that drivers can expect to begin paying is the end of 2020, if not sometime in 2021.
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Is the Trump administration holding the Gateway tunnel hostage for political reasons?

It’s no secret that the Trump administration has been much more hostile to the Amtrak Gateway Project than its predecessor. President Obama's team had hashed out a 50/50 funding agreement between the federal government and New York and New Jersey officials to replace the aging tunnel under the Hudson River, but the Trump administration quickly moved to quash the deal last year. According to NBC New York, the nonprofit National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is now suing the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) over concerns that the administration has unduly canceled the project. A federal Environmental Impact Statement for the project was supposed to have been completed by March 30, 2018, but the DOT has failed to produce any materials or answer the Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) filed by the NRDC in September. The suit alleges that progress on the Gateway tunnel is being stymied so that the administration might use it as a bargaining chip to help grease construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The 108-year-old, two-track rail tube that runs between New Jersey and New York services approximately 200,000 Amtrak passengers daily but was severely damaged by saltwater during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. With the looming possibility that one of the tunnels would fail (which Amtrak expects would reduce traffic by up to 75 percent), both New York and New Jersey had upped their commitments to the project to $5 billion out of the required $12.7 billion. The Obama administration’s pledge to fund half of the project would have largely been doled out in loans to the two states, a common method of funding infrastructure.

The alleged quashing of the environmental review isn’t the first time the current administration has been accused of playing hardball with the project to achieve its political aims. In March of last year, President Trump was reportedly meeting with congressional Republicans to kill the project in retaliation against Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Democratic leaders in the affected states. The NRDC suit alleges that USDOT has been intentionally delaying any progress on the project and has gone so far to refer to the project under the codename “mushroom” to thwart FOIA requests. USDOT has denied impeding the Gateway Project for political reasons or using a code word to obfuscate its documentation and has chalked up the delay to what it calls an untenable funding model. The agency also issued the following statement: “It is false to say that DOT is blocking the Hudson Tunnels project, when in fact the project as it stands is actually ineligible to proceed.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had scheduled a sit down with president Trump at the White House over the state of the project in November of last year, as well as several high-profile, live-streamed tours of the crumbling tunnels. It appears that, for the time being, those overtures were for naught. Lending fuel to the NRDC's allegations is the recent decision by the Trump administration to demand the return of $2.5 billion in transportation grants given to California for their high-speed rail project, along with the possible cancelation of another $968 million grant. California's Governor Gavin Newsom has argued that the move is purely political and a result of the state's decision to sue the administration over its recent state of emergency declaration.
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Governor Cuomo presents plan to prevent L train tunnel closure

At a 12:45 p.m. press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans to prevent the 15-month-long L train shutdown that was set to begin on April 27. Seated between a panel of engineering experts from Cornell and Columbia Universities and representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Cuomo repeatedly touted the innovative nature of the proposed solution—as well as his success in building the new Mario Cuomo Bridge. After Hurricane Sandy struck New York City in 2012, the Canarsie Tunnel that runs between Manhattan and Brooklyn was flooded with salt water. The L line, which ferries 250,000 riders a day between the two boroughs, still requires extensive repairs to fix the corrosion caused by the storm. The concrete bench walls lining the tunnel were damaged, as were the wires and other electrical components embedded behind them. The MTA was scrambling to implement alternatives for commuters, including turning an east-west stretch of Manhattan's 14th Street into a dedicated bus lane, but it now looks like the planning was for naught. The new scheme presented by Cuomo, a joint effort between the governor’s engineering team, WSP, Jacobs Engineering Group, and the MTA, restricts the slowdowns to nights and weekends. Instead of removing and rebuilding the tunnel’s bench wall, and the components behind it, only the most unstable sections will be removed. Then, a fiberglass wrapper will be bonded to the tunnel’s walls via adhesive polymers and mechanical fasteners. A new cable system will be run on the inside of the tunnel via a racking system and the old wiring will be abandoned. New walkways will be added to the areas where the bench walls have already been or will be removed. Finally, a “smart sensor” network of fiber-optic cables will be installed to monitor the bench wall’s movement and alert the MTA to potential maintenance issues. Governor Cuomo hailed the move as innovative, saying that this cable racking system was commonplace in European and Chinese rail projects but that this would be the first application in America. He also claimed that the fiberglass wrapping would be a “structural fix”, not just a Band-Aid, and that it was strong enough to hold the new Mario Cuomo bridge together. To increase the system’s sustainability, floodgates would be added to the First Avenue station in Manhattan and the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn. After the presentation was complete, Cuomo passed the microphone to MTA acting chairman Fernando Ferrer, who said that the agency would be implementing the changes immediately. Still, skepticism over whether the MTA would be able to implement the plan quickly bubbled up from the members of the press in attendance and on social media. Because this method of tunnel repair has thus far been untested in the U.S., the question of whether the MTA would be able to find skilled workers to implement the plan was raised. Cuomo, for the most part, brushed the concerns off, claiming that each piece of the repair scheme has been conducted individually before. If the L train repair plan proceeds as scheduled, one track at a time will be shut down on nights and weekends for up to 20 months. To offset the decrease in service, the MTA plans on increasing service on several other train lines, including the 7 and G.
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Amazon's new Queens campus might displace 1,500 affordable units

Amazon’s confirmation earlier this month that it would be dropping one half of its future campus in Long Island City (LIC), Queens, immediately drew condemnation from state representatives and a group of New York City’s elected officials. As the furor grew over Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to rezone a portion of LIC for the tech giant’s campus, Cuomo released an op-ed today where he hit back at critics of the plan and touted the economic growth that Amazon would bring to New York. Housing affordability had been a point of contention among critics of the $3 billion in subsidies that Amazon will be receiving, and a new report from Politico shows that Amazon’s campus will preclude the creation of 1,500 affordable housing units. Amazon’s investment in the city won’t be insignificant. According to the Office of the Mayor, the online retail behemoth is expected to create 25,000 new jobs by 2029, going up to 40,000 in 2034. In 2019, Amazon will take half-a-million square feet of office space at One Court Square (the Citigroup Building) while their 4-million-square-foot headquarters on the LIC waterfront is under construction. Once work wraps up in 2029, Amazon is expecting to potentially add another 4 million square feet to their campus by 2034. The site of this future development? Anable Basin, an industrial enclave currently owned by the plastic company Plaxall. Plaxall had been gearing up to enact a WXY-master-planned redevelopment of their 15-acre site that would have created 5,000 new residential units, 1,250 of them affordable. Developer TF Cornerstone was also set to build their own 250 affordable apartments on an adjacent site owned by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), but that project has also been subsumed. An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed to Politico that the no housing will be built on their Queens campus. Long Island City is home to the Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing development in the Western Hemisphere, but the official line from the de Blasio administration is that the Amazon campus will only be a net positive for the area. A spokesperson for the NYCEDC told Politico that HQ2 will buoy the neighborhood economically, and Mayor de Blasio seemed to agree. “One of the biggest companies on earth next to the biggest public housing development in the United States—the synergy is going to be extraordinary,” said de Blasio.
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Governor Cuomo proposes rezoning in Long Island City as Amazon confirms HQ2 locations

Now that Amazon has officially confirmed that it will split its second headquarters between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, each city is gearing up to address the logistical concerns of dropping in 25,000 new tech employees. To that end, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo is reportedly planning to rezone the 20-acre Anable Basin site in Long Island City (LIC) using a General Project Plan (GPP) to accommodate the online retail giant. Though the area is currently zoned as a light manufacturing district, its owner, the plastic container company Plaxall, had previously tapped WXY for a master plan that would redevelop the industrial zone into a mixed-use redevelopment. Using a GPP, the same process used to rezone Brooklyn’s Pacific Park (neé Atlantic Yards), the state would potentially be able to initiate a rezoning of Anable Basin without the approval of New York’s City Council. As a result, the basin and two adjacent city-owned sites that Amazon has been eyeing could potentially become a mixed-use campus and series of office buildings, zoned at a much higher density than New York’s zoning code would typically allow. The Plaxall draft plan had previously angled to build 5,000 residential units, but as Crain’s noted, the GPP would allow for millions of square feet of office, residential, and mixed-use space. Although the GPP would still require an environmental review and is subject to community input during that phase, all of the recommendations received from the local community board and City Planning Commission would be non-binding. The pushback from New Yorkers against Amazon’s decision was nearly immediate. The backlash was built on a number of factors, including concerns over affordable housing in Queens, transportation issues, fears that Amazon’s influence would price out the borough’s diverse residents, and anger over the amount of state and city money being handed to the company. In Amazon’s official HQ2 press release this morning, the company disclosed that New York State would be giving away $1.525 billion in tax credits. Most of that, $1.2 billion, would be returned through New York State’s Excelsior Program over 10 years, subsidizing each employee to the tune of $48,000. The remaining $325 million will be given to Amazon in the form of a direct grant from Empire State Development, based on the amount of square footage it’s expected to occupy. In return, Amazon has pledged to invest $2.5 billion in each portion of its dual headquarters. A portion of the property taxes from the new Amazon campus will go toward funding transportation improvements in Long Island City, and the tech company has also promised to carve out space for a tech incubator and public primary school. Still, those concessions haven’t mollified critics. As soon as Amazon’s decision to settle in Queens was leaked last week, New York’s incoming, newly-democrat controlled state senate and assembly pledged to stop the flow of taxpayer money to Amazon. Democratic Assemblyman Ron Kim told Capital & Main that he would look into rerouting the state’s economic development money (mainly corporate subsidies) into student debt relief, and called the correlation between tax breaks and corporate incentives unhealthy. On Twitter, western Queens representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez let loose with a thread blasting Albany for giving away over a billion dollars in tax breaks when Amazon hasn’t initiated hiring quotas, protection for workers, or any promise to avoid displacing long-time LIC residents. State Senator Michael Gianaris and Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer also released a joint statement outlining their problems with what they described as a “massive corporate welfare” giveaway. In the release, both offices went on record as calling the Amazon deal a giveaway from the 99 percent to prop up the 1 percent. It remains to be seen how effective these protests will be, or whether state-level legislators will be able to wring any concessions out of either Amazon or the Cuomo administration. In related news, Amazon also announced their intention to bring an “East Coast hub” to Nashville that would employ up to 5,000. The company will be building out one million square feet of energy-efficient efficient office space while investing $230 million in the city and expects to pay $1 billion in taxes over the next ten years. In return, Nashville has promised up to $102 million in tax incentives depending on whether Amazon hits its hiring targets. Amazon will begin hiring for all three of the newly revealed locations sometime in 2019, though it may take up to 15 years for the LIC and Crystal City locations to fully integrate their 25,000 employees.
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Governor Andrew Cuomo accused of dangerously rushing a major bridge opening

Ahead of Thursday's New York State primary, news has come out that in July Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration might have enticed the contractor building the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge to speed up construction in order to finish it ahead of its late August deadline. The 1.3-mile bridge opened late last night instead, two days before voters hit the polls. Critics are claiming that Cuomo rushed the bridge's construction, potentially dangerously so, in order to tout its completion during his competitive primary race against Cynthia Nixon. The New York Times snagged an internal document this week reporting that Tappan Zee Constructors were incentivized to open the bridge’s eastbound span by August 24 in exchange for the New York Thruway Authority potentially absorbing “premium additional costs.” The state also said it would pay for any possible accidents that might occur if construction continued on the bridge while traffic flowed upon opening. Vox reported yesterday that the second section of the twin-span, cable-stayed bridge was set to open August 15, but due to construction delays the date was pushed back by 10 days. In the document, a letter from Jamey Barbas, the state official overseeing the project to TZC president Terry Towle, Barbas detailed her reasons for asking the contractors to ramp up their efforts. The NYT wrote that Barbas said the extension and concessions are “part of the normal give-and-take between the state and its contractors.” While Governor Cuomo said Sunday in a press conference that he denies having any influence over the bridge’s timetable, the letter suggests otherwise as the Thruway Authority is a key part of his administration. Additionally, according to the NYT, the Governor outright admitted his involvement. “We’ve been accelerating the second span,” he said. “And Jamey and Matt [Driscoll, Thruway Authority executive director] have been doing everything they can to shave time because the sooner we open the bridge, the sooner the traffic comes down.” After further schedule changes, the bridge was supposed to open last Saturday, but due to weather concerns and safety issues, cars only began passing through the second span into Westchester yesterday. The governor announced its completion in a big ceremony last Friday that included a congratulatory speech by Hillary Clinton. Throughout his campaign to be reelected as governor, Cuomo has repeatedly praised the many infrastructure projects his administration has achieved over the last 12 years. While the bridge, named after his late father and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, is a much-needed project set to replace the 63-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge, critics argue that the Governor’s aim was to use its rapid completion as a ploy for good press. This weekend, Cuomo’s gubernatorial opponents Marc Molinaro and Cynthia Nixon both called for an investigation into the bridge controversy, according to ABC 7 New York. The administration claims that hours after Friday’s ceremony, workers found a flawed joint in the old Tappan Zee structure that could have caused part of it to fall. Because of its proximity to the new bridge, officials shut down construction and postponed Saturday's opening. The first span of the Mario M. Cuomo bridge was finished in August 2017. As of this year, both Cuomo and the Thruway Authority said it would be done by 2018, but, while cars are already crossing over part, construction is still underway. When finally finished, the bridge will include eight traffic lanes, a bike and pedestrian path, as well as room for future bus transit and commuter trains.
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Shirley Chisholm State Park is coming to Central Brooklyn next summer

Central Brooklyn will soon be the home of New York City’s largest state park, which will be opening next summer according to 6sqft. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the first phase of Shirley Chisholm State Park, a 407-acre piece of land on Jamaica Bay, will be finished by mid-2019. Named after Brooklyn native Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, the new parkland will include 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, and more on top of two former landfills. The project will open up 3.5 miles of waterfront with areas accessible for kayakers and beach-goers. The initial build-out will also include a bike path that will connect the former landfill sites at Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenues, allowing visitors to easily approach both sides of the park to take advantage of the educational facilities and comfort stations placed throughout. The massive project falls under the governor’s “Vital Brooklyn” initiative, a $1.4-billion plan that funnels the state’s financial resources to community-based health programs, affordable housing, and recreational spaces in the neighborhoods of Crown Heights, Bushwick, Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, Ocean Hill, and East New York. For the park project, planning began 16 years ago when the site remediation process started to make way for the landfill sites’ potential future use. In 2002 the NYC Department of Environmental Protection installed over 1.2 million cubic yards of clean soil and planted 35,000 trees and shrubs. Over time, a diverse ecosystem of coastal meadows, wetlands, and woodlands has grown, resulting in the area as it exists today. The first phase of the park’s construction will use $20 million to open up the restored site and create a new waterfront. Next fall after the park opens, public meetings will be held to discuss the second phase of the design, which may include the amphitheater, an environmental education center, and a cable ferry.
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Monument to LGBTQI community to open this June in Hudson River Park

A monument to the LGBTQI community is expected to be completed this June along Hudson River Park. The anticipated unveiling coincides with Pride month, which celebrates the 1969 Stonewall uprising that took place just half a mile away. The monument, designed by Brooklyn-based artist Anthony Goicolea, is an arrangement of nine boulders that have been incised with glass prisms that display the rainbow when lit. The project was in part spurred on by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead which motivated Governor Andrew Cuomo to appoint an LGBT Memorial Commission. While a celebration of the present queer community, the monument’s site is also a testament to LGBTQI history near both the thriving gayborhood of the West Village and the West Side Piers, which in New York’s history served as a gay meeting (and cruising) ground. It is also not far from the 2016 New York City AIDS Memorial, which is dedicated to the over 100,000 New Yorkers who have died from AIDS-related illnesses and the many who acted as caregivers during the crisis and who continue to fight as activists. The monument is designed to be a meeting ground that both blends in with the environment yet maintains a distinct character. As Goicolea told The New York Times last year when the project was announced, “I wanted to communicate with the river and the piers. I really want it to be part of the area.” For Goicolea, the boulders act not as the memorial itself, but, as reported in Urban Omnibus, as “pedestals for the true memorial, which is the people that are sitting there”