Three key Cuomo projects now on Kathy Hochul’s plate

Governor had pushed for legacy-burnishing developments

New York /
Aug.August 11, 2021 04:10 PM
Andrew Cuomo with the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and AirTrain JFK (Getty, ajay_suresh via Flickr, Ad Meskens/Wikimedia)

Andrew Cuomo with the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Penn Station, and AirTrain JFK (Getty, ajay_suresh via Flickr, Ad Meskens/Wikimedia)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s resignation leaves an air of uncertainty hanging over several big-scale projects and initiatives significant to the real estate industry.

Earlier this year, the governor outlined a $306 billion infrastructure spending plan that involved an array of projects across New York.

Kathy Hochul (Getty)

Kathy Hochul (Getty)

But now many of the initiatives championed by Cuomo — who sought to burnish his legacy with large and sometimes controversial development projects — will be left in the hands of Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will succeed Cuomo on Aug. 24.

The new governor will almost certainly look to build an identity for her expected run in next year’s gubernatorial election. Her decisions on whether to continue, alter or cancel Cuomo projects will be a big part of that.

Here are three key projects suddenly on Hochul’s plate:

Empire Station Complex

Maybe the most ambitious infrastructure proposal of Cuomo’s career, the plan calls for a $1.3 billion redevelopment and expansion of Pennsylvania Station, as well as development of some 20 million square feet of mostly office space around the transit hub.

The proposal would transform the heart of Midtown West and could be a windfall for Vornado Realty Trust, which owns most of the property in the area and would develop several large towers.

But even before Cuomo announced plans to step down, the project faced many obstacles. The state will have to acquire more than $1 billion worth of buildings, possibly through eminent domain, for the southward expansion of Penn Station. The breadth of the station’s redevelopment also hinges on what concessions the state can get out of Madison Square Garden.

Numerous sticky issues about the plan remain to be negotiated, including the structure of property taxes and development rights to raise the commercial towers, which local opponents say would overwhelm the area.

Port Authority Bus Terminal

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, often described as “hell on Earth,” has outlasted another governor.

Cuomo supported the Port Authority’s plan to redevelop its much-maligned Midtown West bus terminal into a new 2 million-square-foot facility. (No Port Authority projects of any significance happen in New York without the governor’s backing.)

“We will completely redevelop the terminal, adding space for commercial development, dramatically improving the commuting experience, removing bus traffic and pollution from the surrounding community,” Cuomo said in a speech.

The plan includes the sale of air rights that could be used for four new towers around the terminal. Two previous governors, George Pataki and Eliot Spitzer, had endorsed plans to fund a renovation of the terminal by selling air rights to build a tower above it.

But those plans never materialized and now, with the Port Authority’s capital budget still short of funds for the newest iteration, it falls to Hochul to get the complicated project moving.

AirTrain LaGuardia

Cuomo’s proposal to build a 1.5-mile rail connection from the far end of the 7 Train in Queens to LaGuardia Airport is almost universally seen as less than ideal, but given the alternatives, it has support from business interests.

Many transit advocates argued that extending the N train in Astoria would provide a more efficient route to the airport than Cuomo’s plan. But local opposition had shot down that idea in the past, and Cuomo managed to push the AirTrain plan down the field.

But his resignation opens the door to opponents to rally support for what they see as the better solution.

“Have already been hearing that some within the Port Authority want the agency to take a Cuomo-free look at the LGA AirTrain with a clear set of eyes,” the transit blog Second Avenue Sagas tweeted Tuesday. “It’s a tall [mountain] to climb, but there may be an opening to do this right.”

Tuesday evening, the New York Daily News reported that Port Authority staffers — with Cuomo’s heavy hand out of the picture — are demanding the agency halt Cuomo’s plan.





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