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Go big or go home, Chaudry tells builders

In the first public appearance in his newly-appointed role, Ali Chaudhry, Deputy Secretary for Transportation to Governor Andrew Cuomo, laid out the administration’s infrastructure priorities for New York City and the region, at the New York Building Congress Construction Industry Breakfast.

Chaudhry documented New York’s rich history of developing large-scale infrastructure, but said “somewhere along the way, we lost our ability to build big and bold.”

He told the attendees that under Governor Cuomo, the state is taking action and has launched the largest infrastructure plan in the country, with investments to rebuild, upgrade, and modernize roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, and mass transit systems. “The hallmark of our administration is not to make plans; it’s to make progress,” he said.

Describing the Governor’s infrastructure priorities, Mr. Chaudhry spoke of the Tappan Zee and Kosciuszko Bridge projects as examples of what is getting done to improve the lives of New Yorkers. He went on to discuss the modernization of airports across the state, including La Guardia, which he said is the largest public-private partnership project in the United States.

When discussing the Gateway Project, Chaudhry described it as a priority, calling it “the single most important infrastructure project in the country today.”

Chaudhry reiterated the Governor’s commitment to develop the Empire Station Complex into a state-of-the-art transit hub, describing the current state of Penn Station as “un-New York.” He also expanded on the proposals outlined by the Governor to remediate the issues currently plaguing commuters who travel through the station on a daily basis.

Moving on to the MTA, Chaudhry referred to the subway system as “our biggest challenge, which has been over capacity and underfunded for the past 50 years.”

He explained that a multifaceted approach was required to improve the system and noted that the Governor’s $27 billion commitment to the MTA capital plan was the largest investment in the state’s history.

Chaudhry said that New York is returning to its leadership role under Governor Cuomo. He told the attendees from the building industry, “You are our partners in this endeavor. We work together, we aim high. We imagine new possibilities and new opportunities and will continue to do so.”

During the question and answer portion of the program, Chaudhry responded to queries on a wide range of topics. When discussing alternative construction project delivery methods, Chaudhry called the design-build method an “innovative tool.”
He noted its benefits and said he would like to see it permanently authorized in New York. On public-private partnerships, he explained that the Cuomo administration is taking a “balanced, cautious approach,” but said opportunities currently exist in certain projects, such as the redevelopment of Penn Station.

Chaudhry also expressed urgency in making our infrastructure more resilient to withstand the effects of climate change, noting extreme storms, such as Superstorm Sandy, are becoming more frequent.

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