Governor Cuomo Invokes Robert Moses as a Role Model

Just build it. (AP)

Last year, The Observer lamented an infrastructural ambivalence on the part of governors on both sides of the Hudson, and wondered if the great states of New York and New Jersey had not finally given up the ghost of shovels in the ground begun grandly, if problematically, by Robert Moses nearly a century ago.

Governor Andrew Cuomo assuaged some of those fears with his grand visions for investment premiered at this year’s state of the state. While those proposal have been met with sometimes mixed reviews—Really, another casino? Will an Aqueduct convention center work? Where’s the mass transit?—it has at least restored some faith in the govenor’s willingness to build.

Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced the 15-member board of a new infrastructure bank, and in so doing, invoked the name of Robert Moses, both grandly and problematically.

The governor has made a point of expediting desperately needed infrastructure investments, which has done much to get languishing projects moving but may also undercut the publics wishes for what these projects should be. This caused the Times-Union’s Jimmy Vielkind to ask how Governor Cuomo could avoid “the ramrod” employed by Moses to get his projects through.

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.

As the gang as Streetsblog, chroniclers of all things Tappen Zee, point out, this attitude could present problems for transit advocates and neighborhood advocates the state over.

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.

On the other hand, Robert Moses has undergone a serious rehabilitation campaign in the past decade—New York wouldn’t be what it is without him, for better and worse! his new backers cry. And it is quite true, much of the state is in a state of disrepair, desperate for investment. But as the past has shown, the wrong kind of investment can be just bad as none at all.

Beware the ramrod.

mchaban [at] | @MC_NYC

Governor Cuomo Invokes Robert Moses as a Role Model