Much of Governor Paterson’s approach over the last few months has been characterized by telling New Yorkers what they will not have under a Paterson administration. There will not be flush state coffers (and there will be cuts); there will not be a finished World Trade Center by 2012; there will not be enough money to fund an M.T.A. capital plan. Money is short, campaign promises were none, so cutting back has become issue No. 1.
But today, invoking the success of projects built during the Great Depression such as the Lincoln Tunnel and much of the New York City subway system, Mr. Paterson announced his administration was pushing forward with plans for Moynihan Station, a Penn Station redevelopment project that has been unable to move off the drawing boards for more than 15 years despite its popularity among advocacy groups and elected officials.
“Fiscal responsibility is more than just trying to balance budgets,” he said, speaking at a New York Building Congress luncheon. “It also has a great deal to do with wise investment. If we don’t invest at all, we are not going to be anywhere, even when we are able to close the budget gap.”
Specifics on the project were mostly absent, but the governor called for his secretary for economic development and transportation, Timothy Gilchrist, to deliver him a Moynihan Station plan by the end of October.
Key, Mr. Paterson said, was to expand the transportation aspects of the project, particularly connecting with the New Jersey Transit proposal to build a new set of tunnels under the Hudson River, known as Access to the Region’s Core. The project has been through numerous iterations, and Governor Spitzer had been pushing for a mega-real estate deal related to the project that called for $15 billion in development in the area. That failed when Madison Square Garden decided to stay put in its current location and not move to the neighboring Farley Post Office, a point the developers and the state took months to fully accept. Mr. Paterson has previously indicated his support for the project, but today seemed much closer to seeing a clear path forward.
“We don’t need a beautification project, and in many ways, we don’t need another real estate project,” Mr. Paterson said. “What we need is a workable, sensible plan to incorporate Moynihan Station into an overall transportation connect that will make it possible for New York to take its place again as a national leader in transportation.”
The speech laid out a broader commitment to expanding rail transportation in the Northeast, lessening the congestion on roads and in the air. Like much of what the governor likely wants at Moynihan Station with regard to capacity expansion, such expansion would likely need to rely heavily on federal money.
“We think rail transportation is the wave of the future when it comes to developing New York City,” he said.
Mr. Paterson also offered his apologies to the joint venture of Vornado Realty Trust and the Related Companies, the developers signed on to the Moynihan Station project, who were pushing the larger plan.
Vishaan Chakrabarti, president of the venture, said he was pleased with the governor’s support.
“Their team has been doing a tremendous amount of very good work trying to understand what the best transportation plan is,” he said, referring to the state. “Since we lost Senator Moynihan, I don’t think there has been a strong champion for this kind of a transportation system at the gubernatorial level, and I think in David Paterson, we clearly have that.”