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Pressure builds for pols to back Tappan Zee

Workers continue early construction of pilings from barges

Workers continue early construction of pilings from barges just north of the Tappan Zee Bridge crossing from Westchester County to Rockland County, in the background. These pilings allowed proposers to conduct demonstrations of boring to ascertain the composition of the riverbed and a pile-driving project that will determine the load capacity of seven locations in the future path of the bridge.The pile-driving demonstration project was the first physical preparatory work for the new Tappan Zee Bridge. (March 13, 2012) Photo Credit: Rory Glaeseman

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo enters week two in his efforts to rally elected officials behind his new Tappan Zee Bridge project, politicians throughout the region are feeling the pressure to stand up and be counted.

The daily news releases from the governor trumpeting "support to replace the Tappan Zee" began Aug. 5 with the announcement of five names, including three former Westchester County executives: Republican Andy O'Rourke and Democrats Andy Spano and Al Del Bello. The roster grew with the addition of half a dozen more names during the next two days and peaked Aug. 8 in a barrage of three separate news releases that trotted out 40 politicians who were attending a private party that night sponsored by the business group Build The Bridge Now. Monday brought five new names, putting the number of politicians supporting the fast-tracked, $5.2 billion, five-year bridge construction proposal at 80 -- including former Republican Gov. George Pataki, state senators, county clerks and city council members.

"It reflects the growing bipartisan and broad regional support to build the new bridge," said Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto.

Dozens of the governor's supporters were quoted in the news releases, in some cases with their statements actually scripted by Cuomo aides, a practice that Vlasto refused to discuss.

Christina Gilmartin, spokeswoman for Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, confirmed that her boss had no problem using a quote written for him by the Cuomo camp. "Look, you both have the same mission," she said. "It's just a matter of adjusting the quote to the way the mayor would say it."

For now, elected officials who serve constituents living closest to the Tappan Zee Bridge have chosen to watch the governor's carefully orchestrated machinations from a distance. Some of those local leaders also question the value of Cuomo creating a public cheering squad.

"They're trying to shift the conversation to a paper tiger -- new bridge or old bridge," said Assemb. Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh), who added that he did not respond to a request from a Cuomo supporter to join up. "I'll support the new bridge; that's not the problem. The problem is all the local problems that come as a result of the new bridge. It's creating havoc."

As the region prepares to take on the reality of construction, joining the list will only get in the way of helping constituents, said Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. "The momentum makes it tougher for people to question the bridge. It's almost as if you question one aspect, you're not a patriot," he said.

So far, the mayors of the villages sitting at either end of the Tappan Zee Bridge are keeping a low profile as they assess what bridge construction will bring them in the way of dirt, noise, property devaluation and other environmental concerns.

Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell, who declined an invitation to attend last week's pro-bridge private party at an Armonk country club, said he is still struggling to finish reading the final environmental impact statement, which was released Aug. 1. The report, which is more than 10,000 pages long, details the government's response to mediating problems stemming from the proposed new bridge.

"Until we're able to get through the documents, it's difficult to comment," Fixell said.

South Nyack Mayor Trish Dubow said she is also "holding off" because residents still feel burned by their experience during the construction of the current bridge. In the 1950s, the village's downtown and more than 100 homes were demolished to create Exit 10 -- "a huge, stupid circle" -- to link the State Thruway to what was then the new Tappan Zee span.

Although Dubow believes the replacement bridge should be built, "We were damaged a lot the last time and are continuing to be damaged now," she said. "So we would like to get something that would help us out."

Mondays list of supporters included a Republican town supervisor and four Democrats, headlined by Westchester Board of Legislators Majority Leader Peter Harckham.

At the moment, three VIPs conspicuously absent from Cuomo's list are Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef and Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell -- all Republicans. To really get the momentum going, the governor needs their backing because each holds a decisive vote on the nine-member New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, a regional group with the power to determine whether the bridge project can qualify for federal loans. Earlier this summer, the county executives called for a postponement of the vote, citing the need for more information. A new date has not been set but is expected to take place after Labor Day.

"Obviously, there are a number of politicians and elected people that feel a need to stand at a podium and publicly express support," said Vanderhoef spokesman Ron Levine. But he said his boss "doesn't feel the need to be paraded."

Odell sees no problem with Cuomo's strategy for creating consensus. "You start at the fringe and work your want into the center," she said. "Once he has the three county executives, does he need the others?"

As for Astorino, spokeswoman Donna Greene said representatives from her boss' office are in communication with the governor's office.

Also conspicuously absent from Cuomo's news releases is any mention of Sen. Charles Schumer. Called for comment, the office of the high-visibility Democrat issued a statement noting that as he has already said in the past, "his role is to fight for every available federal dollar" available to build the new bridge.

With the will-you-or-won't-you debate continuing in political circles, Dubow said another mayor called her the other day to pick her brain on options. "People want to know what the other guys are doing," she said.

Meanwhile, Cuomo is moving ahead in building "an impressive list that says the bridge makes sense to a lot of people, and he's showing there is strong support across party lines," said Lee Miringoff, director of Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion, which conducts polls on political issues.

Bridge project officials also are continuing private overtures to the wary. Even Feiner, who has been an outspoken critic of bridge toll hikes and plans to demolish the old bridge instead of making it a greenway park, is being courted. Last week, the Greenburgh town supervisor said he was surprised to receive a personal phone call from Larry Schwartz, secretary to the governor. "He said that they would rather have a dialogue and work with us and the community, and that we could just pick up the phone and call any time," Feiner said.

Elected officials listed on Gov. Andrew's Cuomo news releases as Tappan Zee Bridge project supporters, listed by date of announcement:

Aug. 5

Former Westchester County Executive Al Del Bello

Former Westchester County Executive Andy O'Rourke

Former Westchester County Executive Andy Spano

State Sen. David Carlucci

Aug. 6.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano

Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnik

White Plains Mayor Tom Roach

New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson

Mount Vernon Mayor Ernie Davis

Rockland County Legislature chairwoman Harriet Cornell

Assemb. Kenneth Zebrowski

Aug. 7

Assemb. Robert Castelli

Assemb. Sandy Galef

Assemb. Shelley Mayer

Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence

Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack

Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips

Aug. 8

Former Gov. George Pataki

Congresswoman Nita Lowey

Congresswoman Nan Hayworth

State Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson

State Sen. Jeff Klein

State Sen. William Larkin

State Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer

State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Assemb. Ellen Jafee

Assemb. George Latimer

Assemb. Gary Pretlow

Assemb. Amy Paulin

Assemb. Ken Zebrowski

Village of Ossining Mayor William Hanauer

Village of Mount Kisco Mayor Michael Cindrich

Pelham Mayor Ed Hotchkiss

Village of Sleepy Hollow Mayor Kenneth Wray

Suffern Mayor Dagan Lacorte

Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators Ken Jenkins

Westchester County Board of Legislators vice chairman Lyndon Williams

County Clerk Tim Idoni

Rockland County Clerk Paul Piperato

Westchester County Legis. Katherine Borgia

Rockland County Legis. Chris Carey

Westchester County Legis. Michael Kaplowitz

Westchester County Legis. Virginia Perez

Westchester County Legis. Bill Ryan

Rockland County Legis. Ian Schoenberger

Westchester County Legis. Mary Jane Shimsky

Westchester County Legis. Bernice Spreckman

Westchester County Legis. Alfreda Williams

White Plains Council member David Buchwald

Clarkstown Council member Frank Borelli

Clarkstown Council member Stephanie Hausner

Clarkstown Council member George Hoehmann

Former Westchester County Legis. Paul Noto

North Castle Town Supervisor Howard Arden

Former Secretary to the Governor John Cahill

Aug. 9

Town/Village of Harrison Supervisor/Mayor Ronald Belmont

Town of Ossining Supervisor Susanne Donnelly

City of Rye Mayor Douglas French

Rockland County Legis. Jay Hood

Hillburn Mayor Bernard Jackson

North Salem Supervisor Warren J. Lucas

Somers Supervisor Mary Beth Murphy

Lewisboro Supervisor Peter Parsons

Ardsley Mayor Peter Porcino

New Square Deputy Mayor Izzy Spitzer

Pound Ridge Supervisor Gary D. Warshauer

Elmsford Mayor Robert Williams

Aug. 10

Westchester County Board of Legislators Minority Leader James Maisano

Rockland County Legis. Doug Jobson

Rockland County Legis. Nancy Low-Hogan

Rockland County Legis. Patrick J. Moroney

Rockland County Legis. John Murphy

Rockland County Legis. Philip Soskin

North Castle Supervisor Howard Arden

Spring Valley Mayor Noraime Jasmin

Aug. 13

Westchester County Board of Legislators Majority Leader Peter B. Harckham

Westchester County Legis. Judith A. Myers

Rockland County Legis. Toney Earle

Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Joan Maybury

West Haverstraw Village Mayor John Ramundo


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