Hillary to big RE firms: Tell your White House contacts they need to support Gateway

Clinton urged infrastructure investments in keynote at the RPA's annual assembly on Friday

Hillary Clinton (Credit: New Jersey Future via Twitter)
Hillary Clinton (Credit: New Jersey Future via Twitter)

Hillary Clinton had a special message Friday for the real estate industry’s bigwigs, some of whom sponsored the conference hosting her.

Tell your contacts in the White House they need to build new tunnels under the Hudson River already, the former secretary of state said.

“Indeed, the entire business community [should] come together to speak up for this project,” Clinton said at the Regional Plan Association’s annual conference. “I would urge anyone who has any contacts in the current administration, including in the oval office, to make this case, because this is so far beyond politics and partisanship.”

Clinton gave the keynote speech during lunchtime at the event, a day of panels and speeches sponsored in large part by major real estate developers and investment companies, including Related Companies, the Durst Organization RXR Realty, SL Green Realty and Vornado Realty Trust. Her speech centered on affordable housing and infrastructure.

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In December, the Trump administration rejected a plan that would have split the $13 billion cost of building two new train tunnels, a project known as Gateway, between the federal government and the governments of New York and New Jersey. Emails between Vornado Realty Trust CEO Steve Roth — a friend, business partner and donor to President Trump –and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, seemed to indicate that Roth supported the administration’s decision not to fund Gateway. (Roth later said he supports the project.)

“Especially people who have those relationships with members of the administration,” Clinton said. “[if they] aren’t there really pushing for this, it could very well not happen, despite the overwhelming need for it.”

The plan Trump rejected in December had been agreed upon by his predecessor, Barack Obama, but Trump’s administration said the agreement did not exist. Trump also reportedly requested that House Speaker Paul Ryan block $13 billion in federal funding for Gateway, an ask that Chao said “probably” happened.

The tunnel connecting New Jersey and Manhattan was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Amtrak has said the damage is so bad that to properly make all the repairs would require completely shutting down the tunnel, an event that would pose a serious logistics crisis for Manhattan’s commuters if no additional tunnels are constructed.