Posts tagged with "Andrew Cuomo":

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”

You can dodge trash fires and the Pizza Rat in this new MTA video game

For New Yorkers, it’s no secret that the MTA is rapidly deteriorating. Practically defined by delays and diversions—and not to mention the impending L train shutdown—the financial and political behind-the-scenes of the subway system has come under increasing scrutiny. While numerous articles, commentaries, reports, and angry tweets have been published on the state of the MTA and its causes, Everyday Arcade has released what might be the first video game on the crumbling system, MTA Country. Styled after a classic Nintendo-style platformer (its name references the 1994 SNES game Donkey Kong Country), MTA Country is a ride through a roller coaster of subway tunnel. For players, the goal of MTA Country is to get its main character, Gregg T (Gregg Turkin, a lawyer, NYPD Legal Bureau member, and much meme-ified face of the NYPD’s “If You See Something, Say Something” subway campaign) to work. Luckily, he has help from his friends Bill (de Blasio) and Andrew (Cuomo). After watching the trio be launched from a trashcan, gamers can ride down tracks collecting coins as they leap over track fires, stopped trains, broken rails, the notorious Pizza Rat. Graffiti in the background reads “Giuliani was here,” among other commentary. Without giving away any spoilers, users skilled enough to collect all the letters that dot the tracks will be in for a special high-speed transformation à la Elon Musk and rocketed off to a new destination. Luckily for New Yorkers, MTA Country also works on your phone, making it an ideal way to pass time when your train inevitably gets stuck.

Construction at Heatherwick’s Pier 55 is back on

After a year of feuds, cancellations, and dramatic revivals, the Thomas Heathwick-designed Pier 55 is making real progress. Pier 55, a 2.75-acre park “floating” in the Hudson River off of West 13th Street in Manhattan, was originally revealed by billionaire businessman Barry Diller in 2014 at a cost of $130 million. The park was to sit on a jumble of sculptural concrete pilings and included an amphitheater as well as two landscaped staging areas for performances, with the project’s costs falling solely on Diller and wife Diane von Furstenberg. As those costs rose to $250 million, and as the nonprofit Hudson River Park Trust, responsible for managing the floating park, was buffeted by lawsuits from the Douglas Durst-backed City Club of New York, Diller withdrew his support and the project looked dead in the water. That was all before some last-minute mediation between Governor Cuomo, Diller, and the City Club of New York that guaranteed ecological protections for the Hudson River and state funding for the unfinished 30 percent of Hudson River Park. With funding in place for the stretch of Hudson River Park that runs from Battery Park City to West 59th Street, it looks like construction is now back on at Pier 55. Concrete piles are being laid into the river for the walkways that will eventually lead to the park and performance space, and the southern path has already begun to receive its covering. As revealed in a recent interview with Diller by the Hollywood Reporter, the concrete pods that will hold the park up are currently being fabricated, and work at the site actually began in earnest back in March. Outside factors might still be able to throw the Pier’s construction off track yet again. Governor Cuomo has pledged $50 million in state dollars to finish the remaining stretch of Hudson River Park (no state funding is going towards Pier 55), but only if New York City matches the contribution. While the city seems game to put aside its own $50 million, the deal that revived Pier 55 could fall through if this funding pledge isn’t met; and even if it is, the Hudson River Trust pegs the total cost of finishing Hudson River Park at $619 million. If construction on Pier 55 continues apace, it should be finished sometime in the next few years.

NY state budget declares Penn Station area an “unreasonable” public risk, and other shakeups

After a tumultuous series of negotiations over New York State’s 2018-19 budget that came down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed off on a finalized $168 billion bill late last Friday. While a congestion pricing plan and the removal of density caps for NYC residential developments failed to pass, sweeping changes that could preclude a state seizure of the Penn Station area have made it through. The finalized budget provides a bevy of changes and funding initiatives that will affect New York-based architects and planners. In a move to stabilize city’s deteriorating subway system, $836 million was authorized for the MTA’s Subway Action Plan–with the requirement that the city government would have to foot half of the bill. As AN has previously reported, the money would go towards stabilizing the subway system by beefing up track work, replacing 1,300 troublesome signals, tracking leaks, and initiating a public awareness campaign to reduce littering. At the time of writing, the de Blasio administration which has repeatedly claimed that the city already pays more than its fair share, has agreed to contribute their $418 million portion. Congestion pricing, proposed by Governor Cuomo’s own transportation panel, failed to make it into the final legislation. The plan would both reduce traffic on Manhattan’s streets and could potentially raise up to $1.5 billion for subway repairs, but couldn’t muster enough support to pass. Instead, a surcharge on for-hire cars will be enacted below 96th Street in Manhattan; $2.75 for for-hire cars, $2.50 for yellow cabs, and $0.75 for every pooled trip. The terminally underfunded New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) will also be getting a boost, as Cuomo has pledged $250 million for repairs across the agency’s housing stock. However, the boost is somewhat undercut by the federal government’s recent decision to restrict NYCHA’s access to federal funds as a result of the lead paint scandal rattling the agency. To save time and money, the budget has implemented design-build practices–where the designer and contractor operate as one streamlined team–for future NYCHA projects, the forthcoming Rikers Island transformation, and the delayed Brooklyn-Queens Expressway restoration. While one controversial plan to remove Floor Area Ratio caps in future New York City residential developments didn’t make it into the final draft, another even more contentious proposal did. According to language in the final budget, the area around Penn Station has been deemed an “unreasonable risk to the public". This formal declaration could be used in future negotiations between the state and Madison Square Garden as leverage, or even as a pretext for eventually seizing the area via eminent domain. The budget, which the New York Times described as a broadside against Mayor de Blasio, ultimately exerts greater state intervention across a swath of local issues, from education to urban planning. More information on the final 2018-19 budget can be found here.

Cuomo adds controversial, last-minute proposal to control Penn Station-area development

As New York State’s 2018-2019 budget negotiations come down to the wire, Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has reportedly slipped in a proposal that would give the state virtually unrestricted development authority over the area surrounding Penn Station. According to the anonymous sources who briefed Politico yesterday, if passed, the state would gain the ability to build without restrictions on height or density, the need to conduct any environmental review, or to win community approval. Through the use of the Empire State Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority­–both controlled by the governor’s office–the state would redevelop from 30th to 34th Streets between 6th and 8th Avenue. After facing serious blowback from city leaders, especially over how the proposal would exempt the state from local zoning or preservation laws, the governor’s office released the following statement:
“Penn Station is currently untenable. It is congested, chaotic and poses a serious threat to public safety in this time of heightened terrorist threats,” said Dani Lever, press secretary for the governor, in a statement to the New York Times. She emphasized that any potential development would be done in “consultation with community leaders and elected officials, environmental reviews and local government reviews.”
The Cuomo administration has previously played a major role in the redevelopment of the Penn Station area, including backing the transformation of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall. While the city has reportedly been in talks with the MTA and developers Vornado Realty Trust, who own much of the property surrounding Penn Station, Wednesday was apparently the first time that any party outside of Albany had seen the proposal. When reached for comment by Politico, Cuomo spokesperson Peter Ajemian suggested that their reporting on the day-old plan was already outdated.
"Throughout the budget process, documents are exchanged hundreds of times over to advance solutions for New Yorkers," said Ajemian. "The document you’re basing your story on is outdated, inaccurate and not comprehensive."
The governor’s office has suggested that the original broad outline was simply a starting point, and would likely be narrowed down in the back-and-forth as budget negotiations continued. Still, with Governor Cuomo’s self-imposed March 30th deadline looming, it’s unclear if the plan will make the final cut. The full version of the leaked document can be found here.

Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay waterfront slated for huge state park

Like the generous soul in the "Twelve Days of Christmas," Governor Andrew Cuomo likes to bestow gifts—usually big-ticket public projects—on the people of New York right before his annual State of the State address. In his speech this week, the governor dropped news that a new 400-acre state park is coming to Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn. Today (the Twelfth Night!), the governor's office, in conjunction with federal and local agencies, released more details on the forthcoming waterside green space, which, after Freshkills, will be New York City's second huge park on a former garbage dump.

The planned park will sit atop the former Pennsylvania Avenue and Fountain Avenue landfills, which ceased operation in 1983. The sites, separated from each other by Hendrix Creek and from the rest of the neighborhood by the Shore and Belt parkways, is just a short jaunt from the Gateway Mall in East New York. Eleven years after the dumps closed, the land was given to the National Park Service as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, an archipelago of open spaces in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and New Jersey. In 2009, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection completed a $235 million site remediation effort that prepared the land for other, non-garbage uses. Now, the newly-planted grasses and woodlands undergird coastal ecosystems and ease erosion along three and a half miles of shoreline. Plus, there are gorgeous views of New York Harbor and Jamaica Bay.

"This new state park will be a treasure in the heart of Brooklyn, offering hundreds of acres of beautiful parkland on the shores of Jamaica Bay," Governor Cuomo said, in a statement. "We are committed to ensuring every New Yorker can access the recreational, health and community benefits of open space, and this park will open new doors to wellness for New Yorkers who need it most."

New York State has inked preliminary deals with the National Park Service to plan the park's financial future and maintenance operations. Under the agreement, New York State Parks will develop and run the park in collaboration with the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Phase one of the project is funded by $15 million in state money, part of which will go towards building biking and hiking trails, fishing spots, and kayaking infrastructure, as well as park vitals like restrooms, shading, and food stands. The first phase, open next year, will also include coastal highlands planted with native species. At 407 acres, the green space will be a little less than half the size of Central Park. The landfill park is in East New York, one of the target areas of Vital Brooklyn, Cuomo's $1.4 billion revitalization initiative focused on the central Brooklyn neighborhoods of BrownsvilleFlatbush, Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York.

Here are key takeaways for architects from Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State address

If everything goes according to the governor's plan, New York City could get a new subway line to Brooklyn, and a new park in Jamaica Bay. Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined plans for 2018 and beyond in his State of the State address. Over the course of 92 minutes, the 56th governor of New York unspooled a long list of major projects and new investments, many of which could shape the cities we live in, change how commuters get to work, and add to what we see when we step away from the city outdoors. Citing the Red Hook waterfront's "untapped potential," the governor wants to study the possibility of a subway from Red Hook, Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. Red Hook, a low-slung, low-lying, largely low-income waterside neighborhood, still hosts shipping operations, but in the past two decades, artists and other creative types have flocked to the area and opened up restaurants, galleries, and interesting shops—with chains like IKEA and Fairway fronting the harbor. Despite the influx of new residents and businesses, the neighborhood has remained relatively sedate, in part because it's so hard to get to by public transportation. To spur growth, Governor Cuomo is asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to improve transit access by relocating the shipping industry industry. The move, Cuomo said, will revert the waterfront to "more productive community uses" that could enable the MTA to add an underwater subway tunnel to lower Manhattan. The Port Authority would have to move the 80-acre Red Hook Container Terminal about two miles south to the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. In 2012, the port handled only 110,000 containers annually, a paltry load compared to the three million containers processed by nearby ports. While the terminal provides roughly 100 jobs, it has been operating at a loss since the mid-1990s. As recently as last year, though, the Port Authority said it did not have plans to develop or sell the site. Politico noted the Red Hook plans bear strong resemblance to a study AECOM produced on South Brooklyn that proposed a 1 train extension to Red Hook. AECOM executive Chris Ward was the Port Authority executive director, but quit in 2011 due in part to his fraught relationship with Cuomo, who was sworn in that year.

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The new subway tunnel wasn't the only one on the governor's mind. Cuomo floated a tunnel for vehicles under the Long Island Sound to connect Long Island with Westchester County or Connecticut. He also pledged to accelerate the L.I.R.R. modernization project, announcing the state would kick $6.6 billion towards adding new rail lines and fixing up stations up and down Nassau and Suffolk counties. All of those L.I.R.R. trains terminate at the beleaguered Penn Station. The governor didn't hesitate to fire shots at the busiest—and arguably most miserable—transit depot in the U.S. "I call it the seven levels of catacombs," he said. Cuomo emphasized the need to rebuild Penn Station, citing ongoing construction on the conversion of the James A. Farley Post Office into the Moynihan Train Hall as one way to relieve capacity on the overburdened station, which receives trains from New Jersey and Long Island. He even invoked the state's ability to seize land for public projects via eminent domain, a veiled shot at Madison Square Garden, the arena and venue across from Penn Station that some experts say should be converted to transit uses only. The subways were another hot spot in the speech. The governor proclaimed funding to fix the broken-down subway system must be provided "this session." His comments on funding follow a New York Times investigation on the subways' performance that revealed political indifference at the state and local level prompted overspending on splashy new projects at the expense of routine maintenance. "We can't leave our riders stranded anymore, period," he said.

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The governor also touched on another controversial project only a few blocks away. Late last year, stakeholders reached a compromise on the lawsuit-plagued Thomas Heatherwick–designed Pier 55 in Hudson River Park on Manhattan's West Side, and plans for the development are moving forward. Cuomo said a full completion plan for Hudson River Park, which will stretch from West 59th Street to Battery Park City, will roll out this year. Cuomo also unveiled the third round of investments in the New York State downtowns. First introduced in 2016, the Downtown Revitalization Initiative gives select cities and towns all over the state and gives them $10 million apiece to invest in their core commercial districts. This latest round allocates $100 million for development, and the Regional Economic Development Councils will select the cities. There were some curveballs, too. The governor revealed plans for a new, 407-acre state park on Jamaica Bay, a wetland estuary which sits between Brooklyn and Queens. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) reached out to the governor's office for comment on the park but has not yet heard back.

Cuomo announces $2.5 million competition to reimagine New York’s canal system

Canal lovers near and far, gird your loins. In his latest infrastructural move, Governor Cuomo announced a global competition to re-imagine the New York State Canal System as a tourist destination and an economic driver for upstate communities. Up to $2.5 million will be awarded to the finalists and winners to implement their designs. Many may not realize that it is possible to get from Whitehall, New York all the way to Buffalo entirely by canal (there should be a Paddle to the Sea for this), but with this announcement Governor Cuomo is looking to draw the public eye back to one of the state's greatest historic, economic, ecological, and recreational resources – and to the urban spaces dotting the blueway end to end. The competition was timed to coincide with the bicentennial celebration of the Erie Canal that begins this year and will continue until 2025, which commemorates its construction from 1817 to 1825. Additionally, next year will mark the centennial of the New York State Canal System, 524 miles in total, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2016. The competition's goals are admittedly somewhat vague and broad at this stage, with a charge to promote the canal system as a "recreational asset," encourage "sustainable economic development" along its route, celebrate its heritage, and so on. However, the challenge is clearly divided into two tracks: one focused on the infrastructure itself, another focused on the development of recreation and tourism opportunities. Submissions for the first round of entries are due at the beginning of December 2017. The finalists will receive $50,000 to implement their proposal in partnership with a municipality adjacent to a canal or a non-profit whose work relates to the canal system. The final winner or winners will receive anywhere from $250,00 to $1.5 million – a fairly large range, by our estimation – to plan and build their projects. With the Regional Plan Association's recent announcement of a plan to connect and expand New York's trail systems up into the mid-Hudson valley, Cuomo's canal competition has AN wondering: if both plans are implemented, will it be possible to depart from our Tribeca office, hike to Albany on public lands, and set off for the Great Lakes via canoe through the newly revamped canal system? Only time will tell.

Governor Cuomo proposes congestion pricing as a way to fund transportation repairs

With New York City’s subway system in a dire state—extensive delays, people getting trapped in subway cars, derailments—public officials have been scrambling to find a way to repair its aging infrastructure. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a "millionaire's tax" for wealthy city residents that would pay for infrastructure upgrades and reduced fares for other riders.

Now, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo revealed his own plan to raise funds and ease traffic at the same time: congestion pricing.

Congestion pricing was brought up by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg ten years ago but was quickly shut down because of concerns that it favored Manhattan residents. Cuomo is bringing it back as a solution to the city’s current transit crisis, according to The New York Times.

By putting tolls on roads and bridges leading into Manhattan, a constant funding stream will be created. It will also help to reduce traffic flowing into the city and on gridlocked streets. Congestion pricing is already in place in other cities like London, Stockholm, and Singapore.

Cuomo is piggy-backing on Bloomberg’s failed plan to create a new congestion pricing scheme that will win crucial support from stakeholders, including the State Legislature. “Congestion pricing is an idea whose time has come,” Cuomo said to the Times, though he added that his plan would be significantly different from Bloomberg’s.

Move NY, an independent transportation group, revealed its own congestion pricing proposal, offering a glimpse of what Cuomo’s plan may look like. Drivers would pay a toll of $5.54 in each direction for the four bridges that cross the East River into Manhattan, and also a toll to cross 60th Street in Manhattan northbound or southbound. The plan also proposes lowering tolls at other crossings. Move NY estimates that this system could yield around $1.47 billion in annual revenue, of which most would go towards repairing infrastructure. Alex Matthiessen, leader of Move NY, told The Times that group is talking with Cuomo's administration about developing the proposal.

While both de Blasio’s tax plan and Cuomo’s congestion pricing proposal have been getting attention, it does not solve the immediate issue of raising $800 million for emergency funds to finance immediate repairs on the subway. The state has already contributed $400 million and expects the city to fund the rest.

Subway service stinks and the MTA has a new plan to fix it

[UPDATE 7/26/2017: This article was amended to include a statement that MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota made at the press conference on 7/25/2017 regarding his and the MTA's accountability for the plan outlined here.] This afternoon MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota laid out a short-term plan to improve declining service across the New York City subway system. Lhota began by outlining some of the causes of the current deterioration of service, including a record volume of customers (6 million riders a day, due in no small part to increased number of tourists), lack of capital investment, and aging infrastructure. The first phase of the MTA's efforts will tackle the causes behind 79 percent of major delays. While medical incidents, track fires, car malfunctions, water damage, and station malfunctions were each the blame, more than half of the major delays were due to signal, track, and power problems. Lhota's list of countermeasures was extensive, but included:
  • Speeding up the replacement of the 1,300 most troublesome signals (40 percent of signal mechanisms are more than 50 years old)
  • Starting a Emergency Water Management initiative to seal leaks and clean grates
  • Increasing the number of train car overhauls from 950 to 1,100 per year
  • Creating a new MTA app and a separate online dashboard to keep riders informed on MTA activities and improvements (the dashboard will be available in the next month to six weeks)
  • Initiating a pilot program to remove some seats from select cars on the Shuttle (S) train between Grand Central/42nd and the L train
  • Adding seven more EMT teams at various stations to handle sick customers
  • Initiating a public awareness campaign to stop littering on the tracks, which can lead to track fires
  • Increasing the rate of station cleaning from every six weeks to four weeks
  • Adding 12 emergency teams to 12 locations to speed up incident response times
  • Eliminating recorded announcements on subway cars
The cost will be a challenge—this yearlong "stabilization" phase will cost $456 million in operating costs, plus $380 million in a one-time capital. Without access to funds from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, the federal government, or increased fares, the city and the state will have to food the bill. Lhota said that he and Governor Andrew Cuomo are proposing the two entities split the cost evenly. In discussing the ever-prickly funding issue, Lhota, echoing Cuomo, made sure to note that the MTA runs the subway, while the city owns it (the mayor's office disputes this interpretation of the subway's rules). Phase Two will include implementing the designs of the MTA Genius Transit Challenge, new subway cars, and an entirely new signal system. Lhota stated this second phase may cost $8 billion. During the conference, Lhota said the MTA would take responsibility for executing this plan. "Hold me accountable for everything that I've talked about today," he stated in response to a reporter's question, "because I do believe the responsibility begins here and ends here with everyone at the MTA and everyone at the transit authority." Hours after the press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio held his own presser inside the City Hall R/W station to address Lhota's remarks. He called the agency's plan a "positive" and "important" first step to getting subway service back up to par, noting that the state needs to apply the resources it already has at its disposal. "The MTA is finally beginning to own up to its responsibility," he said. All good, right? Less than two hours later, Lhota issued a salty response to de Blasio's comments, fanning the flames of a city-state saga that's already sardine-packed with petty jabs, light shows, messy snacking, and a whole heap of grandstanding:
“It is befuddling that the Mayor praised the MTA repair plan, but said he would not agree to fund it 50/50 with the State. One-half of a repair plan won’t make the trains run on time. The MTA is looking for the city to be a funding partner that assists the 6 million New Yorkers, the mayor's constituents, who use the subway."

JetBlue to build new Terminal 6 at JFK International Airport

On July 21, JetBlue issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to developers to build on the Terminal 6 site at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). This development is the latest in a series of updates to overhaul JFK, including Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $10 billion plan, which started seeking plan master-proposals on July 18, and the adaptive reuse of Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal (of which JetBlue is a minority partner). The original Terminal 6, designed by I.M. Pei, was demolished in 2011, much to the chagrin of the architectural community. JetBlue’s new Terminal 6 would connect to its existing space at Terminal 5 and is slated to open in 2020, according to Crain’s New York. According to a statement, the airline is also looking to expand into Terminal 7, which currently houses British Airways, in the future. New York is JetBlue’s home base and last year 13.9 million travelers passed through T5 alone. The 800,000-square-foot terminal currently has 29 gates, three concourses, an international arrival extension, and a 55,000-square-foot central retail and concession marketplace. JetBlue’s expansion and Cuomo’s plan are responses to predictions that the number of passengers per year will increase from 60 million in 2016 to 100 million by 2050. As AN reported in our July/August issue, Cuomo’s general plans “call for the unification of terminals to provide passengers with a more coherent visitor experience; redesigned the ring roads to allow better car access; expanded parking lots and taxi access; added train service; more amenities like the Beyer Blinder Belle–designed hotel addition to the TWA Terminal; and of course, added privacy-slashing security features like facial recognition and video tracking software.” For this endeavor, the Port Authority is only considering architecture firms that have, within the last ten years, completed a master plan worth at least $5 million for a major airport serving a minimum of 15 million passengers. As for how JetBlue’s T6 might fit within that architectural scheme is still unclear, although the airline plans to narrow down its list of potential partners by the end of this year.

Governor Cuomo’s bridge lighting plan draws criticism amid MTA stalls and shutdowns

Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo excitedly discussed plans to illuminate seven bridges across New York City with multicolored LED lights choreographed to music. Those bridges, along with the Empire State Building and One World Trade, were first slated for installation in winter 2017. Now, among massive stalls and shutdowns at MTA stations across the city—dubbed “the summer of hell” for commuters and tourists alike—critics are gearing back up to question how the city is spending on public infrastructure. A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo, Jon Weinstein, emailed Politico to say the bridge lighting project “is definitely NOT being paid for by the MTA,” indicating the costs could be split between the New York City Power Authority and Empire State Development. The MTA and the New York Power Authority (NYPA) seem to think otherwise: In March, the NYPA’s Board was shown a $216 million estimate for the plan with the MTA picking up the tab, although this was an unaudited financial plan with the project cost as a placeholder. Critics have been quick to distinguish cosmetic from reparative lighting—for instance, bridge and tunnel fixtures repaired after Hurricane Sandy. For example, recent upgrades to one of these post-Sandy projects, the rehab of the tunnel and exit plaza on the Manhattan side of the Queens Midtown Tunnel, included $7.3 million in additional funds to create a decorative blue-and-gold tiling pattern that reflects the state's official colors. Additionally, the Port Authority has officially withdrawn the George Washington Bridge from the lighting portion of the collective plan, which has been dubbed New York Crossings. However, that initiative doesn’t end with its lights. The governor's office has framed New York Crossings as a public art project that would address a number of other civic concerns: incorporating automatic tolling designed to reducing commute times, increasing checkpoint security (through facial recognition software at these stations), seismic updates to each bridge (the plan also incorporates reinforced concrete armoring units underwater), and sustainability (introducing LED units wherever possible). The projected end date for New York Crossings is currently May 2018, even as the governor's office claims the MTA is spending no money on the initiative. An independent review by watchdog group Reinvent Albany estimated the agency has spent roughly $40 million on the decorative towers and LED lighting so far.