- Last Updated: 6:05 AM, July 9, 2012
- Posted: 1:55 AM, July 9, 2012
Concerned that his plan for a new Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson stay on the fast track, Gov. Cuomo is assigning his chief of staff to personally handle the mammoth $5 billion project, The Post has learned.
Cuomo has designated Lawrence Schwartz, his secretary and the former deputy Westchester County executive, as his personal “on-the-ground representative’’ to rally support for the project in Westchester and Rockland counties, where Republican executives have been demanding a more pricey project, administration sources said.
“Larry is going to be leading a major communications effort to reach out to people in groups in both those counties to explain the wisdom of the project, to continue to apply pressure to get this done. Larry has deep roots in Westchester, he’s a political heavyweight and he’ll be meeting with key political and business leaders there,’’ a source close to the Cuomo administration said.
The effort by Schwartz, a White Plains resident who also served as secretary to former Gov. David Paterson, will take place as Westchester Executive Robert Astorino and Rockland Executive Scott Vanderhoef seek to have the state develop a costly new commuter-bus transit system as part of the bridge-rebuilding project.
Cuomo has publicly contended their proposal would be so expensive that it would make the new bridge unaffordable.
“If Astorino and Vanderhoef got all they were asking for, the cost of the bridge would double. It would be $10 billion. And who is supposed to pay for that?’’ said a second source.
The actual cost for replacing the three-mile-long, 56-year-old bridge won’t be known until the end of the month, when four major construction companies are due to submit bids to the state.
Cuomo’s aides are concerned that Astorino or Vanderhoef could block the project if they don’t get the new transit system. Both are members of the little- known New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), a federally sanctioned agency that must vote unanimously for federally subsidized construction projects like the new Tappan Zee Bridge to go forward.
MTA boss Joseph Lhota, the state and New York City transportation commissioners and executives from other area counties are also NYMTC members.
Late last week, Astorino and Vanderhoef delayed a planned NYMTC vote on the bridge project slated for this week, claiming they need time to review a pending environmental-impact statement. While a new date hasn’t been set for the vote, it is not expected until the fall.
The consequences to Westchester and Rockland could be severe if Astorino and/or Vanderhoef vote to block the bridge- rebuilding project.
“They can forget about ever getting a single project ever approved by NYMTC for Westchester or Rockland counties if they did something like that,’’ said another source familiar with the situation.