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“Loaning” NY Clean Water Funds for New Bridge “Really Bad Idea”

PHOTO: Peter Iwanowicz (center) with environmental allies speaking in opposition to a state board's decision (Thursday) to approve using a half billion dollars in environmental funding to repair the Tappen Zee Bridge. Photo courtesy Travis Proulx.
PHOTO: Peter Iwanowicz (center) with environmental allies speaking in opposition to a state board's decision (Thursday) to approve using a half billion dollars in environmental funding to repair the Tappen Zee Bridge. Photo courtesy Travis Proulx.
June 27, 2014

NEW YORK CITY - Despite objections from citizens and environmental groups, a state board voted Thursday to move forward with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to use $500 million of clean-water money to replace a bridge.

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York, said it was a dangerous precedent. He called it a 'raid' on badly needed funding for clean-water projects.

"This is a really bad idea," said Iwanowicz, "to take half a billion dollars from projects that are supposed to clean up sewage infrastructure across New York State, to use it to support the construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge."

The Environmental Facilities Corporation voted 6-0 in favor of Cuomo's plan.

According to Iwanowicz, New York already has a backlog of $35 billion in projects for sewage treatment and safe drinking water improvements, and taking $500 million for the bridge will put the state even further behind.

Iwanowicz said the state borrowed $90 million of clean-energy money to fund education several years ago. While he called it a worthy cause, he said the loan is still outstanding, which raises red flags about an even bigger loan.

"Five-plus years after that decision was made, Iwanowicz said, "there is no sign of that loan being repaid. This is dangerous precedent, bad for the environment, and we don't think the money will even be repaid."

The Christie Administration in New Jersey is reported to be under federal investigation for improper spending of dedicated funding on the Pulaski Skyway.

Iwanowicz said in New York's case, the money being moved around is clearly supposed to go to water projects.

"These funds are supposed to be dedicated. The federal government under the Environmental Protection Agency has raised serious questions about the movement of these funds. But, the boys in New York and New Jersey have problems with bridges lately. It's too bad the environment in this situation is going to suffer."

Iwanowicz added among other projects, the money should be going to clean up Long Island's 'brown-tide problem,' as well as agricultural runoff problems upstate.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY