McKinstry: Residents deserve to have Tappan Zee bridge questions answered

A model of the new Tappan Zee Bridge

A model of the new Tappan Zee Bridge is displayed in front of members of the board at a community meeting at Nyack High School. (Feb. 5, 2013) (Credit: Faye Murman)

After a career with a Manhattan-based consumer products company, Judy Hadjandreas knows a few things about marketing and sales.

Hadjandreas, who lives with her husband, Andy, in The Quay, an 89-unit condominium that overlooks the Tappan Zee Bridge, says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo may be selling his plans for involving the community in the project, but she's not buying the pitch.

Not yet.


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"The marketing engine is in motion," she told me during a bridge meeting earlier this week. "Now we're looking for substance, quite frankly. The design is exciting and all that great stuff. But as a resident and taxpayer; I don't know anymore than I did before."

Like so many people in this region, the Tarrytown couple support the replacement of the bridge. But because they live within a few hundred feet or so of the construction zone, they fear that, just in time for retirement, it will crack their nest egg by lessening the value of their home.

"The bridge has already been designed and nobody can tell me where it's going in relationship to where we live," she said.

Residents in Tarrytown and South Nyack are fearful about what this bridge will do to their property values. Some say the uncertainty stemming from construction means they can't sell. Those who aren't going anywhere are concerned that loud noise, diminished air quality and nightmarish congestion will make their lives miserable.

They deserve some answers.

Even after Cuomo's bridge team held another series of road shows this week -- one in Tarrytown and another in Upper Nyack -- residents of The Quay in Tarrytown or Salisbury Point in South Nyack say the state isn't providing enough information to them.

If Cuomo and Co. want to achieve their aim of having this be one of the most open and transparent projects in history -- their words -- they're going to have to bridge these complaints, especially before the dredging, pile driving and traffic tie-ups begin.

That's not to say this week's meetings weren't informative. For the first time, the team for the New NY Bridge (as the governor calls it) introduced the point people from Tappan Zee Constructors, the consortium charged with building the new $3.9-billion crossing. They explained aspects of the project, including how they're going to monitor noise and air quality with daily online updates.

They provided links for job seekers, announced the opening of two walk-in centers and showed a video of what a virtual drive across the span would look like when completed. They answered, or attempted to, every question asked by some of the roughly 100 members in the audience at the Tarrytown meeting.

"This is only the beginning folks," Brian Conybeare, Cuomo's special adviser on the bridge, told the crowd Monday night, promising to hold court in any library, meeting room or living room that would have him.

Since Cuomo first championed this bridge replacement more than a year ago, the governor has seemingly moved mountains: The project was fast-tracked by President Barack Obama, environmental reports have been approved, a labor agreement was reached, a builder has been picked and, more recently, the New York State Thruway Authority started preliminary work -- it borrowed $500 million to ensure that construction wouldn't be delayed before the Aug. 1 start of dredging, which can only be done through Nov. 1 each year to protect the river's endangered Atlantic sturgeon.

Now we're awaiting word of a low-interest federal loan with generous terms that would substantially reduce the project's cost. From what sources tell me, it's not a question of "if," but "when" and "how much."

The progress is commendable when you consider the state spent $88 million on studies, had hundreds of meetings, and this project went nowhere for years. Now, Cuomo's team has to address the condo owners' concerns. The groundbreaking is not far off.

Considering how far this project has come in a relatively short time, it's on the bridge builders to start mending fences.

Gerald McKinstry is a member of the Newsday editorial board.