WASHINGTON — New York Gov. Kathy Hochul met with the White House’s infrastructure czar and Democratic members of the state’s congressional delegation on Monday, looking to lay out a road map for spending the billions of dollars in federal infrastructure dollars expected to reach the state.
Hochul met privately with White House infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu, who was appointed by President Joe Biden last month to oversee the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure spending package approved by lawmakers last month, and also spoke briefly with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at the White House, before going behind closed doors with New York’s congressional Democrats at the U.S. Capitol.
Speaking to reporters after an hourlong session with lawmakers, Hochul said she conveyed to Biden administration officials her administration’s desire to jump-start upgrades to Penn Station without waiting on the completion of the $12.3 billion Gateway Tunnel project, which will establish a new rail tunnel below the Hudson River.
The governor said she also relayed that completing New York City’s Second Avenue Subway line remained a priority to address "transportation equity issues."
"This is a generational opportunity to make these investments now, and put thousands and thousands and thousands of New Yorkers to work," Hochul said of the projects.
Hochul said that in her meeting, Landrieu expressed the Biden administration’s goal to "make sure there is consensus" behind the projects being funded by the infrastructure package.
Landrieu, a Democrat, served as mayor of New Orleans for two terms and oversaw that city’s recovery efforts following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"He wants to make sure there’s a lot of cross-collaboration between agencies and we’ll set up a mirror of that in New York State," Hochul said.
New York State is in line to receive $90 billion for water infrastructure projects, $11.6 billion to repair roads and highways, $685 million over the next five years to upgrade airports, and other pockets of funding to expand broadband internet access and upgrade public transit.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) both attended the close-door delegation meeting with Hochul. All three of Long Island’s congressional Democrats — Reps. Kathleen Rice of Garden City, Thomas Suozzi of Glen Cove and Greg Meeks of St. Albans — also attended.
Hochul, who previously served in Congress, said she encouraged all the lawmakers on hand to share their thoughts about infrastructure spending. Without naming her predecessor, ex-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Hochul said she told the lawmakers in the room that she wanted to change the dynamic between the delegation and the governor’s office.
"I told these members of Congress, unlike the past … the Governor of New York does not have to dictate how to spend the money that they worked hard to bring to the state … they should have a major say in their priorities, and that’s what I plan to do, work with them in partnership," Hochul said.
According to a source, Hochul started that meeting by telling the group: "Gone are the days of a governor taking credit for things you all did."
Suozzi — who on Monday declared he is running for governor, setting up a rivalry with Hochul in the primaries — told Newsday after the meeting that he told Hochul the delegation needs "the governor’s advocacy" to press the Senate to preserve a provision passed by the House last month that would provide a five-year repeal of the cap, put in place by the Trump administration’s tax plan in 2017, on state and local tax deductions.
The meeting was open only to Democrats, prompting Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island) to tweet that Hochul "CHOSE to exclude the representation of over 6 million people" represented by Republicans.
Asked about Malliotakis’ comments, Hochul said she recently hosted a virtual meeting with the entire delegation, including Republicans, and "listened to all of their concerns."
With Tom Brune