ALBANY, N.Y. — A planned overhaul of the troubled New York City transit system and other major initiatives included in the state budget will transform New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday in his first public appearance since the Legislature passed the $175.5 billion spending plan earlier this week.
The Democrat said during an Association for a Better New York luncheon in Manhattan that that lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled state Senate and Assembly deserved praise for approving a “difficult” budget that includes new tolls for driving into the busiest sections of Manhattan.
The plan known as congestion pricing is part of a reorganization plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s ailing subways.
Cuomo’s speech likely served as the opener in what’s expected to be a statewide victory tour touting his ninth state budget’s top items, including criminal justice reforms, a ban on single-use plastic bags and a permanent 2% cap on local property taxes.
His presentation to the nonprofit organization of business, labor, civic and political leaders, included lists of other politicians who couldn’t get Manhattan tolls and other transit-related projects approved.
“We proved that government can deliver,” he said. “It’s not talk, it’s not aspiration, it’s not hope. We can make it happen and we can do it with the MTA next.”
Charging tolls for driving south of 61st Street will pump billions of dollars into fixing subways, buses and commuter trains, while consolidating functions of the MTA’s components will result in a more efficient agency and better public transit service, Cuomo said while referring to the state agency as a “transportation industrial complex” and “a bureaucracy culture on steroids.”
He also said airport, bridge and other transportation projects recently completed or in their early or late stages will boost New York, from the first phase of Manhattan’s Second Avenue subway opened in 2017 to major upgrades underway at LaGuardia Airport.
Republicans, who controlled the Senate for decades until the November elections put Democrats in charge, criticized Cuomo’s MTA plans, saying they’ll shortchange upstate roads and bridges that need improvements.
“Three months into one party rule of our state government and everything we warned about has come true,” said John Flanagan, of Long Island, the Senate minority leader. “It’s clear that Democrats are focused only on New York City.”