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Cuomo would spend billions on NYC, LI airports, rails

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday that billions of dollars in a state windfall should be used to reconfigure and overhaul New York City-area airports including Long Island’s Republic Airport, while holding the line of Thruway tolls.

The governor’s first expansive details of how he wants to spend much of a $5 billion surplus includes building a rail line to LaGuardia Airport, renovating Kennedy Airport and dedicating some of Republic as the region’s private aircraft hub. Cuomo wants to create a more coordinated New York City-area service network.

The rail connection between LaGuardia and the Willets Point station would connect the Long Island Rail Road and the subways of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Cuomo said companies that move to serve Republic will pay no state taxes, the same deal he plans for companies moving to Stewart Airport north of the city which he envisions as being dedicated as New York City’s cargo airport.

Republic “has easy access to major roads. We’re also going to make the land around Republic Airport a tax-free zone,” Cuomo said. “Any business that locates there will pay no state taxes.”

Kennedy and LaGuardia airports would also receive extensive modernization including terminals and runways, Cuomo said.

Major improvements to suburban rail stations are also part of his plan. He cited projects for Ronkonkoma and Nassau County, as well as Tarrytown north of the city.

The state would spend $150 million toward “vertical parking facilities” at the Ronkonkoma and Nassau transit hub locations to make sure that parking lots can be redeveloped for other retail and residential space. This could be a substantial help in redeveloping the Nassau Coliseum rung by massive parking lots.

The proposal also includes 900 new subway cars, 1,800 “next generation” vehicles for bus service mostly made upstate with clean energy engines, new rail safety tracking systems and expanded bus transit.

He also wants New York to commit to a high-speed ferry service that he said Europe has shown to be efficient and popular.

Cuomo said all of the proposals would improve the business climate for New York, bringing jobs and prosperity.

“Either you are moving forward or you are falling behind,” Cuomo said of his overall proposal.

The proposal will be a big part of Cuomo’s State of the State and budget speech on Wednesday. Much of it is subject to the Legislature’s approval.

Cuomo also said he would devote some unspecified amount to his major initiative now underway to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge in Westchester and Rockland counties.

Cuomo offered few details on how to divide the surplus, although many of the projects Cuomo outlined Tuesday have been announced before. He also provided no time line for the work, but said airport renovations would be done without substantially disrupting service.

Cuomo said the surplus and federal funds will pay for much of the work and the balance will be paid through existing state funds. He said he will not raise taxes, and instead will propose several business tax cuts.

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