Do not accuse election-driven Gov. Kathy Hochul of being new to the basics of civic life, let alone to politics, let alone to the Long Island lifestyle.
In a virtual Zoom meeting with the Newsday editorial board on Wednesday, Hochul declared: "I love filling potholes and so we are coming at it with new money. And I’m excited about it." She was responding to a question about the item, played up in her something-for-everyone budget address a day earlier, for a new billion-dollar state fund devoted to the perennial and iconic problem of roads so broken they cause big damage day after day.
"I will tell you, Long Island is the inspiration for that," the Buffalo-accented governor said during the meeting. "I have spent so much time getting knocked around as I drove all over the state countless times. And the LIE, it’s rough. And people should not have to have that experience."
For anecdotal backup, she recalled one instance in which she received a call from Hempstead Assemb. Taylor Darling. "I asked her where she was. She was in a tire repair shop, ‘cause they’d just blown out a tire on a pothole on Long Island. This is a quality-of-life issue. Nobody should be having to waste time and $500 for repairs because there are substandard roads in a place like Long Island or … the Bronx or anywhere else."
According to one estimate by Trip, a transportation research nonprofit, New York State drivers paid out $632 a year in added costs due to bad roads. Hochul described her "Pave our Potholes" program as more than just an enrichment of current state services. She described it as the creation of a separate, dedicated funding stream, so that the pothole pot will no longer be diluted by other highway and bridge repair obligations.
"We’re going to get out there and the communities are going to help tell us where the potholes are. We’re going to have pothole finders. I'd like to have a site we can have people go to and tell me where the potholes are and work closely with the elected officials to get it done," she said.
Of course, ex-U. S. Sen. Al D’Amato from Nassau County back in the day got a ton of mileage out of his nickname as "Senator Pothole" and of course he received a media request for a reaction when Hochul unveiled her budget.
"I think that we need more people in government who are concerned with the citizens’ problems, everyday problems, getting good drinking water, having good roads, repairing the potholes," D’Amato told Bloomberg News. "For those communities that don’t have adequate resources to take care of those, that’s a big deal." And he called the condition of the Meadowbrook Parkway "a disgrace."
Told of the pothole senator’s remarks, Hochul said Wednesday: "He was also an inspiration."