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Is Cuomo favoring NYC's bridges over its crumbling subway?

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Could funds for lighting the city’s bridges be better used for the subway?

Courtesy of Governor Cuomo’s Flickr

As the New York City subway contends with one major headache after the next, every week, Politico is shining a spotlight on a project that may potentially be using funds that might better serve the ailing subway infrastructure.

That project is the New York Crossings project, which pertains to the MTA’s seven bridges and two tunnels in the Metropolitan region. Politico specifically focused on the LED lighting aspect of the project, and how much it was costing the agency.

When Governor Cuomo made the announcement about the lights last fall, he said light shows on the bridges would be a major tourist attraction, and that the lights themselves would be energy efficient.

The first of these light shows debuted in April this year coinciding with the opening of the new Kosciuszko bridge. But now, Politico is asking whether the funds allocated to these lights should instead go to the subway.

An initial estimate for this project pegged the cost at $350 million, but a spokesperson for Governor Cuomo told Politico this was inaccurate. That spokesperson also denied that funds for the lighting project were coming from the MTA. He said instead that the money would likely come from the New York Power Authority and Empire State Development.

The spokesperson insisted that no MTA funds had been spent on the bridge lighting project, and when questioned about the work that had already taken place so far, the spokesperson told Politico that those funds were allocated as part of post-Sandy relief efforts.

Sources within the MTA and some watchdog groups Politico spoke with were painting a different picture and contradicted what the spokesperson was saying, suggesting that by the end of it all, Politico wasn’t really convinced. We’re now going to leave you with a couple of the best burns from the piece:

  • Describing Cuomo’s focus on the lighting project:

“Cuomo, who has shown a predilection for the aesthetic over the merely functional, has described the project as a power-saving environmental initiative and a stunning visual display that would attract tourists from around the globe.”

  • A quote from John Kaehny, the executive director of the watchdog group, Reinvent Albany:

"Where is the evidence that spending hundreds of millions on Harbor Lights will generate enough tourism to be a good investment?" asked Kaehny. "Maybe making a giant bonfire and burning $300 million in cash would generate even more tourism jobs and economic activity?"