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Is the Trump/Cuomo Infrastructure Plan Just a Handout to Big Donors?

July 12, 2017 | Adam Smith

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The Penn Station redevelopment proposals offered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump would line the pockets of a major donor to both politicians through wasteful and ineffective use of taxpayer funds, according to a new report we released today with New York Communities for Change and Alliance for a Greater New York.

The report, which was released at a press conference outside Penn Station on Tuesday, lays out the dangers of Trump and Cuomo’s privatization model of infrastructure projects and the questionable decision to give so much control of the Penn Station project to Vornado Realty’s Steven Roth, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the two men’s campaigns.

“Neither New York’s beleaguered transit riders nor commuters through and to New York will benefit from the Penn Station deal: only 20% of riders entering Penn Station will even use the new, billion dollar entrance and train hall,” the report states. “Subway riders who use Penn Station will continue to face rampant delays as the MTA continues to lose funding to flashy infrastructure projects exemplified by the Penn Station makeover.”

Someone who will benefit greatly—Vornado’s Steven Roth—has deep connections to both Trump and Cuomo:

  • After Steven Roth donated $250,000 to Trump’s election campaign, he was named co-leader of Trump’s infrastructure council;
  • Roth and Trump are longtime business partners: the Vornado and Trump Companies co-own properties together, and Roth has bailed out both Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner from collapsing real estate deals;
  • Roth and his family donated over $400,000 to Cuomo’s campaign before he was appointed the leader of Cuomo’s Penn Station task force.

Rebuilding our country’s aging infrastructure should be done in the best interests of the American people, not to line the pockets of big campaign donors.

“These fixes won’t deliver any results except to the insiders in his circle,” New York Communities for Change’s Pete Sikora said yesterday.

This deal is the perfect example of an out-of-balance political system that hurts everyday people while rewarding those able to write big checks. It’s also the perfect example of why New York City’s matching fund program for City Council elections—that allows candidates to run for office on the strength of their grassroots support—should be expanded to the legislature in New York and statewide offices too. While Gov. Cuomo has long supported such a proposal, he has not advocated forcefully enough for it to get it passed.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.