Coverage of Albany and New York State government

  • State Opens First Span of Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement
  • Governor Announces Administration Appointments
  • Governor Announces Expansion of State’s Clemency Program
  • Governor Announces Next Round of Clean Energy Competition for Colleges and Universities
  • Governor Announces Initiative to Address Underage Drinking
  • New York, Eight Other States to Tighten Air Pollution Limits
  • Governor, New York City Mayor Argue Over Rikers Island
  • Political Update
  • Coming Up

State Opens First Span of Tappan Zee Bridge Replacement

Last Thursday, Gov. Cuomo announced the opening of the first span of the $4 billion Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which is replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. The Governor, who has made the bridge one of his administration’s signature projects, cut a ceremonial ribbon to the bridge’s westbound lane after driving to the event in yellow 1955 Corvette. Four lanes of Rockland-bound traffic will begin crossing the first span tonight.

Governor Cuomo said:

“The new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is much more than a magnificent, cutting-edge structure, it is a symbol for this state and this nation. The opening of this new span shows the world that we have our energy and our boldness back, that we will continue to accomplish greats things, and that we are building bigger and better than we have in decades.  Excelsior reminds us that the motto of this state says reach even higher, and we’re not only building a new bridge with this in mind – we are building a new state and a stronger economy. This historic project is providing quality jobs, hope and opportunity to both residents and visitors of this state, and I look forward to future generations of New Yorkers crossing the Hudson River on this new bridge for the next 100 years.”

Critics have noted that the state has not providing a financing plan for the new bridge.  The federal government has loaned the state $1.6 billion, and the state Thruway Authority has issued some $850 million in bonds, leaving at least $2.45 billion in debt.

Governor Announces Administration Appointments

Last Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo announced the appointment of Matthew Driscoll as Executive Director of the Thruway Authority, and Cathy Calhoun as Acting Commissioner of the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

Driscoll previously served as Commissioner of the state DOT and as President and CEO of the state’s Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC).  His name will be submitted to the Senate for confirmation to the position in January.

Calhoun previously served as DOT Chief of Staff, and as Central New York representative for former U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton. The Governor did not say whether he plans to submit her name to the Senate for confirmation to the position.

Governor Announces Expansion of State’s Clemency Program

Last week, Gov. Cuomo announced that the state will partner with several legal organizations to expand its pro bono clemency program.  The state will partner with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, with support from the Foundation for Criminal Justice, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, and other groups to expand the state’s initiative that provides pro bono clemency petition services to individuals with criminal records or incarcerated in state prison.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“These nationally recognized organizations have already proven successful in helping incarcerated individuals get access to the resources they need to apply for clemency, make the case for their rehabilitation and have the opportunity to contribute to and re-enter society. I’m proud to partner with them to expand the work of this administration and its partners and take one more step toward a more just, more fair and more compassionate New York for all.”

Governor Announces Next Round of Clean Energy Competition for Colleges and Universities

Last week, Gov. Cuomo announced Energy to Lead 2017, “a $3 million challenge to New York colleges and universities to transform ideas into real clean energy solutions to aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy bills and improve resiliency for their campus and surrounding community.”

The competition is administered by NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) and is open to two- or four-year public or private colleges or universities. Funding awards will range from $250,000 to $1 million per project.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“This competition challenges New York students to develop ambitious and innovative clean energy projects and help build a cleaner and healthier environment on campus and in their communities.  Colleges play a crucial role in finding creative solutions to our energy challenges, and I encourage schools and students to get involved to help New York meet its energy goals.”

Governor Announces Initiative to Address Underage Drinking

Last Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo announced that the State Liquor Authority and the state Department of Motor Vehicles, in conjunction with local law enforcement, will conduct sweeps of locations holding liquor licenses, including bars, restaurants, liquor stores and grocery stores, looking for fake IDs and illegal sales to minors.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“State and local law enforcement are taking proactive measures to deter underage drinking and hopefully prevent the dangerous and potentially life-altering consequences that can come with it. As the new college semester begins, this crackdown will help put an end to underage drinking and hold accountable those who enable it.”

He also noted that any person under 21 who is caught using a fake ID to purchase alcohol can be arrested and have their driver’s license revoked for up to a year. Businesses charged with selling alcohol to minors face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

New York, Eight Other States to Tighten Air Pollution Limits

Last Wednesday, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) announced that it plans to reduce the carbon pollution cap by 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

States auction off greenhouse gas emission allowances through the RGGI program, which generates money that pays for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. Power plants can generate at least 25 megawatts of power that use fossil fuels are required to purchase allowances.  The total RGGI emissions cap has been decreasing by 2.5 percent each year, which was scheduled to continue until 2020. The new action, which is expected to be formally adopted in September, sets the emissions reductions for 2021 through 2030.

Gov. Cuomo said:

“New York leads the nation’s efforts in strengthening climate security, and through the RGGI program and this latest bipartisan proposal to reduce emissions even further, the investment of proceeds will continue to support and create thousands of jobs and reduce electricity bills for residents.  RGGI’s success exemplifies New York’s commitment to protecting the people of this state by showing the world that we will cut pollution and improve health, while transforming our economy into one that is cleaner, greener, stronger, and more sustainable than ever before.”

Governor, New York City Mayor Argue Over Rikers Island

In the wake of an announcement last Thursday that 29 alleged gang members were indicted on a charge of attacks on inmates and officers at Rikers Island, Gov. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio traded criticisms about de Blasio’s plan to close Rikers Island.

Alphonso David, Gov. Cuomo’s chief counsel, released a statement criticizing Mayor de Blasio’s 10-year plan to close the city’s jails on Rikers Island and suggesting that the city should be moving to close Rikers Island more quickly.

Mayor de Blasio’s office responded harshly to the comments, accusing the Governor of engaging in “political theater” saying that the Governor should focus on the problems of the state’s prison system.

This is just latest front in the feud between Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio, which most recently focused on who would pay for costly investments in the New York City subway system.

Political Update

Winners & Losers

Each week, City & State New York publishes a list of the week’s political “winners” and “losers.”  Read last week’s list here.

Coming Up

The Board of Regents holds its next meeting on September 11 and 12.

Primary elections are being held on September 12.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) holds its next meeting on September 14.

The State Board of Elections holds its next meeting on September 15.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) holds its next meeting on September 19.