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Executives, politicians pressuring Trump to fund $24B infrastructure project

Real estate executives and public officials are keeping the pressure on Washington, D.C. to help fund the Gateway Program, the project that industry leaders are calling the most important real estate issue facing the city.

“The Big Kahuna remains Gateway,” said David Greenbaum, president of the New York office division at Vornado Realty Trust, while discussing infrastructure projects at an Appraisal Institute conference in Midtown on Monday.

“The government recognizes this is not discretionary; finally we’ve come to a point in time where government is saying to itself, we have to do this.”

Amtrak chairman Tony Coscia met with the Trump Administration last week, in a meeting also attended by New York Senator Chuck Schumer and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Coscia told reporters at an Association for a Better New York breakfast on Sep. 12 that the meeting was “very productive,” but urged the administration to act fast in funding the project before costs grew even more.

“We’re going to continue the path that we’ve already started of marching toward building this project and then in 2018, hopefully without any significant interruption, we’re going to move to the next phase,” he told AM New York, “By then, we will have accomplished an ability to develop a plan of finance for the project that will allow us to initiate construction on the tunnel program.ˮ

In total, The Gateway Program is a $24 billion project that would create new rail tunnels under the Hudson River, expand Penn Station, and build new bridges to connect Newark to Manhattan.

There are an estimated 650,000 riders commuting to New York City from New Jersey every day, and that number is expected to double to about 1.3 million over the next 15 years.

The Obama administration had promised to fund 50 percent of the project, but the Trump Administration has not committed to funding so far. The rest of the funding will come from the states of New York and New Jersey and the City of New York.

“This is a massive undertaking, the last piece of this realistically can’t happen until Amtrak moves across the street to Moynihan Station, which will take place some time in 2020, but we do have a Governor who has a commitment to make things happen,” said Greenbaum.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) as well as the New York Building Congress both strongly support the Gateway Project.

“We are encouraged by reports that President Trump’s recent meeting with Senator Schumer and Governors Cuomo and Christie went well,” said REBNY president John Banks.

“Now is the time to reinforce Gateway’s importance to the region’s economy and the urgent need for Washington to commit federal funding to complete the project.”

The rail tunnel that would be built underneath the Hudson is crucially important, said Banks, especially since the existing tunnel was flooded during Hurricane Sandy and may need to be partially closed in order to do repairs in the next decade.

“Good infrastructure policy is proactive, not reactive. Although the cost of the tunnel alone would be $13 billion, it will save the country money in the future. Closing even a portion of the existing tunnel would make it significantly more difficult to access New York City for commuters and would be a disaster to the economy, sending shockwaves that would be felt far beyond the five boroughs,” said Banks.

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