Cuomo: Robert Moses Would Be Proud of My Transit-Free Tappan Zee Bridge

Andrew Cuomo is now holding up Robert Moses as the model for his transportation policy. Image: ##

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Tappan Zee Bridge bears all the hallmarks of a Robert Moses project. Cuomo stripped popular transit elements from the original, publicly-conceived plan, leaving only a massive highway. Cuomo has shut down the public outreach process for the bridge entirely. He’s even moving to sign the contracts to build the bridge before answering basic questions about its design and funding. (Cuomo’s less-than-transparent answer about how the state will pay for the bridge today: “We’re working on a number of funding options.”)

Still, while we’d accuse Cuomo of Moses-style transportation planning, we wouldn’t have expected the governor to proudly own the label. But unbelievably, that’s what he did today at a press conference, implicitly comparing his bridge project to those of Moses in response to an on-point question about the New York Works Task Force from Capitol Confidential’s Jimmy Vielkind.

Said Cuomo:

There are ways for government to get things done without using a ramrod, obviously. Your characterization, that Mr. Moses used a ramrod, other people would disagree with that characterization, but it’s yours. My point is that government can function efficiently and effectively, I said with due process, with an open process, with consultation. But the consultation and the process shouldn’t be paralyzing. You know, government needs to work, society needs to be able to replace a bridge.

Talk about it, discuss it, analyze it, argue it. Look at different styles, look at different financing options, but ultimately, you have to decide if you’re going to get anything done.

So if you think the Cross-Bronx, Sheridan, Bruckner and Major Deegan Expressways reinvigorated the South Bronx; if you think the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge is better off without its once-proposed inter-borough transit connection; if you still shake your head at those in Greenwich Village who had the nerve to speak up against a freeway through downtown, then you’ll love Andrew Cuomo’s transit-free Tappan Zee Bridge.

Don’t take our word for it. Andrew Cuomo said so himself.

  • ughhhh

    wasn’t it also moses who built the bridges to jones beach to be too small to hold buses full of riff-raff from the city?

  • Glenn

    I strongly suggest Gov. Cuomo finish reading Caro’s Power Broker and not just go by the first hundred pages.

    Moses lost the NY state governor election by one of the largest landslides in history.,_1934

    Rather than looking to Robert Moses as a model, he should emulate Gov. Nelson Rockefeller instead.

  • Mark Walker

    Between this and fracking, I’m in the mood for a recall election.

  • Anonymous

    The Times published a letter I wrote about Robert Moses’s desire to build a Brooklyn-Battery Bridge (a mock-up is what he’s posing in front of), and how his plan was finally thwarted by FDR himself. 

  • Eric McClure


  • Steve Faust

    Robert Moses was the Darth Vader of urban planning.  He started out as slightly kinky Good Government Jedi Knight, and somewhere around WW-II was sucked in by the Dark Side of the Force.  Everything Moses did after 1945 put cars first.

    Where does this leave Cuomo?

     Auto Uber Alles.

  • RegularRider

    I was at a meeting with Karen Rae yesterday (Cuomo’s deputy secretary of transportation) and she suggested that the fast track procedure being used for the TZ bridge is outstripping the region’s ability to have full, fair and open process to discuss transit options on the bridge. The bridge will, she said unequivocally, have sufficient weight-bearing capacity and room to allow for the eventual incorporation of commuter rail and BRT. It will, immediately, have select bus service.

    Basically her point was this. The bridge needs to be replaced. There is an opportunity to do it fast. No point in putting commuter rail on the bridge if there is no rail link on either side. When the communities on both sides get there stuff together, go through their full process, etc. and decide to put rail on the bridge, rail can fit on the bridge. If they decide to go BRT, the bridge can handle BRT.

    Karen Rae, of course, works for a politician. But she makes the TZ process sound much less omninous than Streetsblog does. 

  • Anonymous

    @429469eaac79cdb7d167f1094ae35e34:disqus Rae’s argument, as you describe it, is extremely misleading at best. It was never the responsibility of the local governments to plan or build the I-287 corridor transit. Until Cuomo cancelled the component, it was the responsibility of the state, through NYS DOT and the MTA. So saying that the locals need to work out their plan makes very little sense.
    More importantly, it’s not like the state is doing what it needs to in order to be ready to build the transit, should conditions change. The environmental review for the transit elements was ended and the MTA was disinvited from planning meetings. 

    I can imagine a world in we built the bridge now and added the transit a few years later — I think transit advocates might even, grudgingly, get on board. There’s no indication we live in anything close to that world, though. 

    I wrote more about this line of argumentation from the state in November, here:

  • @429469eaac79cdb7d167f1094ae35e34:disqus  Did Karen explain why the state’s cost estimates for BRT on the bridge suddenly ballooned approximately 500%? Did she say why the state’s estimate of total project cost varies wildly, depending on whom they’re talking to? Did she give any indication of how the replacement bridge will be paid for?

    If Cuomo and his people are ready to go ahead and build this bridge, they should be able to answer those questions.

  • Morris Zapp

    @429469eaac79cdb7d167f1094ae35e34:disqus You mixed up your conjunctions is all. Obviously what you meant to say was:

    Karen Rae, of course, works for a politician. *So* she makes the TZ process sound much less ominous than Streetsblog does.

  • siegel

    Maybe someone could point out exactly where Cuomo said he is using Robert Moses’ approach.  I didn’t see it in the quote in your article, so I looked at the source publication, where Cuomo actually seems to say  that he admires Al Smith’s approach, not Robert Moses’:

    The legacy of Gov. Al Smith was mentioned a number of times during
    the introductions: Margaret Tobin, who will serve as the panel’s
    executive director, said its work would help this administration
    outshine Smith’s record of building big things.

    The Smith-dropping prompted a question (from Jimmy) about what the
    panel would do to avoid the “ramrod” techniques employed by Smith’s ally
    Robert Moses, the master builder, administrative fixer and power broker
    so memorably chronicled in Robert Caro’s first book. Would the panel,
    for example, abide by the provisions of the state’s Open Meetings Law?

    Cuomo called Smith’s ability to change the shape of state government
    “profound,” and celebrated his ability to maintain the trust of the
    public while fighting “the mismanagement, the atrophy” of state

    “There are ways for government to get things done without using the
    ramrod, obviously,” Cuomo said. “Your characterization that Mr. Moses
    used the ramrod — other people would disagree with that
    characterization, but it was yours. My point is, government can
    function, can function efficiently and effectively … with due process,
    with an open process, with consultation. But the consultation and the
    process shouldn’t be paralyzing. Government needs to work; society needs
    to be able to replace a bridge.”

    (The comparison with Al Smith might not be good for his presidential ambitions, but it is certainly not as bad as Robert Moses.)

  • Anonymous

    “Talk about it, discuss it, analyze it, argue it. Look at different
    styles, look at different financing options, but ultimately, you have to
    decide if you’re going to get anything done.”

    In other words: we’re going to look at different options, solicit people’s opinions, hold a discussion, and then go ahead and do whatever it was we wanted to do in the first place.


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