Cuomo proposes Woodbury transit project, statewide recreation trails in Purchase speech

By Ryan Deffenbaugh

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took his roving State of the State address to SUNY Purchase College on Tuesday, where he promised an agenda that would help the middle class, a transit investment in Orange County and the construction of a 750-mile statewide recreation trail.

Cuomo is traveling throughout the state this week to give his yearly State of the State speech, eschewing the traditional address to the Legislature in Albany. Cuomo scheduled speeches in Manhattan, Buffalo, Westchester and Long Island on Monday and Tuesday as part of the tour.

To a crowd including Purchase students and local elected officials that filled the 550-seat recital hall at the college’s Performing Arts Center, Cuomo laid out his vision for the state in 2017. That includes increased investment in infastructure and tax relief, part of what he referred to as the “middle class recovery act.” The second-term Democrat governor also reiterated his pledge to push the Legislature to approve free tuition at all SUNY and CUNY schools for families meting financial criteria.

Cuomo also said the state was at its strongest in decades, with “remarkable economic and social progress.”

Notably absent from Cuomo’s speech was anything about Indian Point Energy Center. Cuomo announced a deal on Monday to close the decades-old nuclear plant by 2021. But he did not mention anything about the plant’s scheduled closing to the audience in Westchester. Several local leaders have sounded the alarm on the economic damage the plant will leave in its wake. In New York City on Monday, Cuomo said the plant was a “ticking time bomb” less than 30 miles from Manhattan.

The governor instead highlighted what he said were accomplishments of the past year, including an increased minimum wage, paid family leave and 7.9 million private-sector jobs, which Cuomo said marks a record for the state. He also gave a shout-out to the “phenomenal success” of Tarrytown-based Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Cuomo used the majority of the 45 minutes to highlight 2017 initiatives with ties to Westchester, including:

Empire State Trail
Cuomo proposed a $200 million project that would create a 750-mile Empire State Trail. The trail, he said, could provide recreational pathways from New York City to the Canadian border in the North Country and from Albany to Buffalo.

“We want to do something that I believe will be a legacy project that our children and our children’s children will enjoy,” Cuomo said in introducing the project. “We want to build the largest state multiuse trail in the nation.”

The trailway would complete and connect the existing Hudson River Valley Greenway trail and the Erie Canal Greenway trail.

“You could run, you could bike, you could walk,” Cuomo said. “You could make it an entire vacation and you would see some of the most beautiful parts of the state.”

The Hudson River Valley Greenway, a state project, is about 50 percent complete and spans more than 260 miles between  Manhattan’s Battery Park and Lake George.

The state would have to build about 350 miles of  trails, including 50 bridges, Cuomo said. Phase one of the project’s proposed three phases would spend $53 million to pave 72 miles. Phases two and three would pave the additional 82 and 196 miles, respectively, according to numbers presented by Cuomo. The state already owns the “vast majority” of the needed land, he said.

The project could create 9.6 jobs for every million dollar investors, Cuomo said.

“I believe this could change the economy for the Hudson Valley and through the Erie Canal corridor, which are two areas that desperately need more economic activity,” Cuomo said.

Woodbury Transit and Economic Development Hub
Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, a Simon Property Group Mall, is an outlet shopping center with international appeal. But getting there off Route 17 can be “one of the more infuriating experiences in life,” Cuomo said.

That was the introduction to his proposal to “accelerate” a $150 million transit and economic development hub in Woodbury.

‘We’ve been talking about fixing it for a long, long time,” Cuomo said. “Everybody’s had a plan, no one has done anything. This year we will do it.”

Cuomo’s proposal would replace the Route 32 bridge over Route 17 in Woodbury; expand park and ride facilities, including a bus stop and solar-powered bus station; reconfiguring the Route 17, Exit 131 eastbound ramp leading to the New York State Thruway; upgrade the traffic signal system along Route 32 and add an Intelligent Transportation Systems to adapt to traffic conditions.

Cuomo said an RFP for the project would be out by next month from the state Department of Transportation and “shovels in the ground” by November.

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About the author

Ryan Deffenbaugh covers energy, education, food and beverage and the Sound Shore for the Westchester County Business Journal. He previously worked for Westchester Magazine and The Citizen daily newspaper (Auburn, N.Y.). He started with the Westchester County Business Journal in March 2016.

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