Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand promised to be an “aggressive advocate” for Staten Island and the rest of New York as the country awaits an infrastructure proposal that President Trump promised to push through in his first 100 days.
On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to pass a $1 trillion plan to revitalize the nation’s roads, bridges, sewer systems and other public assets, which he outlined in his “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again” after the election. A bipartisan coalition form the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is looking into introducing its own legislation if the Trump administration does not lay out its infrastructure package by the fall. Republicans were also said to have met at the White House last week to jump-start discussions.
A Staten Island resident told Gillibrand during a town hall event Friday that the borough has very little access to the subway system—and called for the creation of bus lanes or trolley lines to ease commutes, including the borough in the Citi Bike bicycle sharing system and creating a bike lane on the Verrazano Bridge.
Gillibrand said that she hopes that someday, they can “all agree” on investing in infrastructure, noting that she met with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to discuss ways to improve infrastructure in New York.
“President Trump actually campaigned on it and we’re still waiting for him to support transportation because his budget cut transportation and I had meetings with Secretary Chao to talk about how she’s gonna invest in New York City transportation: roads, bridges, ferries,” Gillibrand said. “It is absolutely essential.”
She lamented New York’s “crumbling infrastructure,” noting that people frequently experience delays coming in and out of New York’s airports. And she stressed that it should not have to take more than an hour for people to get to and from work, acknowledging that that is what Staten Islanders typically experience when they are going outside of the borough.
“We do need to do much more and I’m 100 percent committed to being the loudest, most aggressive advocate on investing in infrastructure, particularly transportation infrastructure, ’cause we desperately need it, and we need a vision,” she continued.
And she also said that lack of Citi Bike on Staten Island “doesn’t make any sense to me,” promising to looking into it as well as to find a way to get the entire New York delegation on board with ameliorating transportation in the borough. Citi Bike will be holding demonstrations in the Bronx and on Staten Island this month and in September.
“I will advocate for all the transportation needs you just discussed and see how I can be helpful to push it with our delegation so that New York can speak as one voice and against any cuts that President Trump tries to make to transportation,” Gillibrand added.
In December, not long after Trump was elected, Manhattan Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said she would consider backing Trump’s infrastructure plan if it is a “true” proposal. Mayor Bill de Blasio also said he would work with the Trump administration if it’s a “real plan” and if it is “ready to work in good faith”” on infrastructure and creating jobs in New York City and in other cities.
At the town hall—which drew roughly 80 Staten Island residents, community leaders, elected officials and Democratic City Council candidates—Gillibrand fielded questions about a variety of issues, including Trump’s aggressive immigration enforcement agenda targeting undocumented immigrants, GOP efforts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and environmental issues.
Staten Island Councilwoman Debi Rose, who represents the North Shore, told Gillibrand that $10 billion has been spent to study the viability of the North Shore Railroad. She said that Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer has been talking about the Regional Transportation Plan—the New York State Transportation Plan for 2030, which contains strategies to address New York’s transportation needs—and that Staten Island has to be “a part of those conversations.”
“We live in a transportation desert here,” Rose said. “We need to be a part of the Regional Transportation Plan. The infrastructure needs to be in place where we revitalize the North Shore Railroad that can take people over the Bayonne Bridge or the Goethals Bridge.”
The senator again reiterated that she would serve as an “advocate for Staten Island in those discussions” to ensure that residents’ priorities “are being reflected” whenever she tries to “negotiate access to transportation dollars.”
“It’s not fair for half a million people to not have access to transportation and be able to get to the jobs that they need in our big city,” she said. “So I promise you, I will be very aggressive and loud on these issues.”