Sen. Chuck Schumer has called on New York State to unlock $2 million allocated to the Town of North Hempstead in 2005, but never used, adding that the state could direct the money to pay for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s infrastructure projects, including rebuilding the Tappan Zee Bridge.
The funds were allocated to North Hempstead in 2005 to reconstruct Grand Boulevard in New Cassel, but the money was not used, and the town repaved the road in 2015. North Hempstead officials want access to the funds for infrastructure projects in Port Washington, Plandome Manor and Garden City Park.
A municipality is allowed to use the funds for a different, but related project within 50 miles of the original project, under the 2016 federal Consolidated Appropriations Act. But North Hempstead needs approvals from the Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Department of Transportation to have access again to the money, Schumer said.
“We’re worried that the state might use it for something else; we’re not going to let them do that,” said Schumer, joined by North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth at a news conference outside the Long Island Rail Road station in Port Washington. “We want every penny to stay in North Hempstead. We want North Hempstead to have decided where that money should go.”
A spokesman for Cuomo referred Newsday to Gary Holmes, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, who said: “The Department of Transportation is working with our Congressional delegation to assess the funds identified by USDOT and we’ll work with our state and federal partners on possible paths forward.”
North Hempstead officials want to use $500,000 to revitalize Main Street in Port Washington, which would add storm drains and improve other infrastructure in the community; $700,000 to extend the Hempstead Harbor Shoreline Trail to 2 miles; $500,000 to rebuild a cracking culvert connecting Leeds Pond to Manhasset Bay; and $300,000 to design and engineer a plan to upgrade the roads in the Garden City Park Industrial Zone damaged by heavy vehicles.
Former Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who served from 2004 to 2013, said the road had been resurfaced during his administration, and again last year, but there was no “reconstruction,” which was required in the grant.
He said the federal grant was “problematic” because it held officials to “a federal highway standard which would cost the town many millions of more dollars than the NYS roadway standard consistent with the use of this particular road.”
Schumer said he wanted guarantees from the state that the funds would go to North Hempstead. “I’ve seen their behavior in the past so that’s why I’m sending a shot across their bow right now,” he said.