News

COVID Panel Grapples With Jobsite Challenges

By JOHN JORDAN – February 25, 2021

TARRYTOWN—Since the onset of the coronavirus in the U.S. in March 2020, construction crews continued work on jobsites working on infrastructure and real estate development projects. Deemed as “essential business,” the industry quickly adapted with new protocols that kept jobsite infection rates considerably below the infection rate of the general population. More recent, the industry responded to the dramatic surge in COVID cases that began this past October through January 2021 with actions designed to thwart increases in workplace infection rates.

However, with states now warned of a number of variants that are more contagious and are spreading in the U.S.—and the challenge to reach herd immunity thwarted by slow vaccine rollouts coupled with a percentage of the population resistant to getting a vaccine shot—contractors are renewing their commitment to maintain a safe workplace as the new 2021 construction season arrives.

Scattered throughout the Hudson Valley region, more than 40 contracting executives on Feb. 11 participated in an industry-oriented webinar geared for the building and construction trades entitled “COVID-19 The Jobsite: Past, Present and Future.” It was presented via Zoom by two leading employer associations, the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., and the Building Contractors Association of Westchester & The Mid-Hudson Region, Inc.

The program featured attorney Thomas Tripodianos, Esq., and Jeffrey Altholz, M.D., who provided fresh information on New York State COVID-19 job site safety protocols. Also discussed were employee COVID-19 paid-leave laws, best-practice jobsite daily screening procedures, and updates on COVID-19 testing procedures. Mr. Tripodianos and Dr. Altholz also offered perspectives on what the future holds for the trades.

CIC Executive Director John Cooney, Jr., said any recent increases in jobsite cases were likely due to some risk-tolerance jobsite issues. He called on the participating employers to remain vigilant and not fall into 

Construction firms are working with crews to keep them safe from illness and prevent coronavirus spread. CDC guidelines require workers more than six feet apart to wear masks, with crews working fewer than six feet apart for more than 10 minutes to wear surgical masks or KN95 masks or face coverings for splash protection.

“bad habits” by not screening workers at the start of each crew shift. He also pointed to the risk of “letting down our guard,” which he labeled “desensitization to COVID symptoms, and the cold weather.”

Mr. Tripodianos, who is a partner in the law firm Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP of White Plains, NY, noted the law regarding COVID changes almost daily. “The law is actually pretty far behind the science that involves COVID,” he said. “The law is definitely playing catch-up. Since last March, the gap between the law and the science is getting bigger and bigger.” He urged the industry to remain attentive because in some cases the law does not make sense and that changes to the law are in reaction to advances in the science. He raised concerns that the law and science appear to be at odds with one another in the struggle to find a cure for COVID-19.

The legal presentation addressed New York Disability Leave and Federal Sick Leave, which the latter technically expired on Dec. 31, 2020. However, contractors are allowed to voluntarily continue the program, which is funded by tax incentives, through March 31, 2021, he noted.

He stressed that subcontractors on jobsites cannot hand off worker-screening requirements to general contractors. He also advised owners and managers to provide incentives for workers to get vaccinated as a means to facilitate a safer workplace environment.

Because jobsite COVID protocols are changing so quickly, he noted, “The best practical advice I can give you, if not legal advice, is to be thoughtful, be informed and if you act within those parameters you are showing (to regulators), ‘I was doing the best I could under the circumstances.’ That is going to go a long way whether you have the Department of Health, the Department of Labor or OSHA breathing down your back or issuing a violation…”

Dr. Altholz, who is CEO and Medical Director of Clarity Testing Services, Inc., of Tarrytown, NY, buttressed the Zoom presentation with sobering data and facts. Among them, he noted an alarming data points revealing revealed that at least 40% of the pandemic is being spread by asymptomatic individuals. “Essentially nearly half of the pandemic is being driven by people who look and feel perfectly well.”

At press time (Feb. 10), he noted that approximately 10% of New York State residents have had at least one shot of an approved vaccine and 3% were fully vaccinated. In terms of nationwide and statewide vaccination efforts, he related, “If is clear that we have a lot of work yet to do. This is just the beginning of the journey.”

Along with Mr. Cooney of CIC, BCA Executive Director Matt Pepe served as co-host of the hour-long webinar, which covered many industry- and medical-related issues.

Mr. Tripodianos, a partner at Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP is involved in all aspects of construction, labor and real estate law, including suretyship and guarantee, breach of contract, payment claims, mechanic’s liens, delay claims, extra work claims, construction defect claims, management and labor disputes, and residential and commercial transactions. In his practice, he represents buyers, sellers, lenders, developers, general contractors, construction managers, owners, architects, engineers, subcontractors, suppliers, sureties, developers, homeowners and other entities connected with the construction and real estate industry in transactional matters as well as the prosecution and defense of claims in litigation, arbitration, mediation and administrative law hearings.

Dr. Altholz,  a graduate of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, is a certified medical review officer (AAMRO), certified medical examiner compliant with FMCSA regulations (CME) and a certified occupational hearing conservationist (CAOHC). He is a leading authority in onsite occupational testing in the Northeast and a consultant to business, industry, labor and government in the field of drug testing and occupational medicine. He established Clarity Testing Services in 1995 with the mission of providing high-quality onsite testing services to comply with Federal DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations. As employers and labor demanded more and more safety and testing services onsite, Clarity responded by developing mobile models for high-quality DOT physicals, respirator medical clearance and certification exams, respirator fit testing, blood lead testing and lead surveillance, firefighter physicals, corporate health screenings, vaccine administration and hearing conservation programs.

Dr. Altholz highlighted the best jobsite protocols to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those include:

Recommend COVID-19

Mitigation Measures

  •  Masks—N95, KN95 or

“double masking”

  •  Maintaining Social Distance
  •  Temperature Checks
  •  Daily Symptom Screening
  •  Surveillance Testing of

Asymptomatic Employees

  •  Isolation/Quarantine
  •  Contact Tracing
  •  Vaccination

In view of these OSHA guidelines, Dr. Altholz recommended that contractors should consider enhancing their prevention programs. Actions could include assigning or hiring of a workplace coordinator, assessing risk assessment, consideration of high-risk workers, stress communication, education and training, ensure proper isolation and separation of sick employees, enhanced cleaning efforts and not distinguish between those who have been vaccinated and those who have not.

Environmental Capital Projects Create Jobs And Combat Damage and Impacts of Climate Crisis

By JULIE TIGHE – February 25, 2021

Julie Tighe is President of the New York League of Conservation Voters

NEW YORK—A clean environment and a healthy, robust economy go together like the two sections of an hourglass: you can’t have one without the other. Both chambers of the glass work together to create balance and harmony in our communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a lasting impact on our daily lives, both today and tomorrow. It has changed practices and policies covering our public health, how we interact with our environment and what we do to protect and advance our economy. Like other states, New York is facing fiscal challenges, the likes of which we have not seen in a generation.

But while other states and localities make tough budgetary decisions, families across New York have no choice but to put their health first. COVID is a respiratory disease which causes more harmful health impacts on communities that bear a disproportionate burden of pollution—illustrates why we need to keep up our work to improve air quality and decrease pollution. It also showed how vital our natural areas and open spaces are to New Yorkers. Access to nature is vital to protecting public health.

We cannot afford to treat the environment as a luxury. We need to invest in robust environmental programs that create jobs, protect clean water, address climate change, create new parks, improve our resiliency and invest in disadvantaged and vulnerable communities throughout New York.

That’s why New York League of Conservation Voters is a founding member of the New Yorkers for Clean Water and Jobs Coalition.

The coalition is fighting to protect our environmental programs. Initiatives like the Environmental Protection Fund, Department of Environmental Conservation Capital Programs, and Parks 2020 Initiative help create thousands of green jobs and support industries that add $40 billion to our economy every year. They support multi-billion industries including  agriculture,  outdoor recreation, construction, tourism, commercial fishing and renewable energy generation.

We are also fighting to protect investments that are part of the Clean Water Infrastructure Act. Since 2015, the program has provided nearly $4 billion in funding for our drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, as well as for addressing emerging contaminants. Every $1 million in state investment results in 17 local jobs.

We need to go even further. A $3-billion Environmental Bond Act, which was taken off last November’s ballot, would invest in programs that create jobs while building a sustainable future. A bond act would help build renewable energy, protect our air and waters, restore natural habitat and improve access to parks.

As the budget season in New York State heats up, calls from all sectors to help support environmental initiatives are increasing. The bond act is envisioned to help conserve open space, protect clean water, reduce the impacts of climate change and clean up pollution.

It is expected that the measure would serve as an economic engine, with every $1 of state investment in land and water protection returning $7 in economic benefits to the state.

New York’s drinking water and wastewater systems need tens of billions of dollars in upgrades to ensure our communities have safe drinking water and our lakes, rivers, and bays are not polluted. To date $5.4 billion has been committed to this program which funds “gray infrastructure” (ie. drinking water pipes, wastewater treatment systems); “green infrastructure” (ie. projects to protect the sources of our drinking water); stormwater pollution control, hazardous waste cleanup, lead service line replacements and more.

Federal investment in clean water and green jobs go hand-in-hand with state investments. We need Congress to secure funding for infrastructure that will make our communities more resilient and conserve our open spaces.

Ignoring the climate crisis would put New Yorkers at risk. Cutting programs that protect clean water, clean air, and other natural resources puts us at greater risk from biodiversity loss. Continuing environmental investments provides us an opportunity for a sustainable recovery from the pandemic, puts us on a path towards a clean energy economy, and provides green jobs for families across the state.

We will continue to advocate for these essential programs as the budget season continues.

About the author: Julie Tighe is President of the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV). NYLCV is the only non-partisan, statewide environmental organization in New York that takes a pragmatic approach to fighting for clean water, healthy air, renewable energy, and open space. Visit www.nylcv.org for more information.

NYLCV Priorities & Policy Agenda

Last year the NYLCV brought heightened awareness of the need to take action to help avert the worst effects of climate change and reduce pollution, especially in disadvantaged communities. The State laid out aggressive climate standards and local governments are key to achieving these standards. We also need more local policies that improve water infrastructure and keep our drinking water free of contaminants.

Sustainable Development: Municipalities can combat climate change by creating livable, sustainable communities. We will work to advance modernized zoning to encourage mixed land use, compact development, downtown revitalization, open space protection, historic preservation and energy efficient building codes.

Renewable energy: Renewable energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution across the region, but it is challenging to site large-scale renewable energy installations and can be needlessly difficult to install small-scale renewable technology. These challenges must be addressed before Indian Point shuts down in 2021, or else we risk replacing its power with fossil fuels. We will work with municipal and county governments to establish guidelines for siting utility-scale renewable energy in order to reduce red tape and create new incentives for small-scale renewable energy.

Clean Air: With the recent passage of legislation to phase out No. 4 and No. 6 home heating oil, we will work to speed up conversions and retrofits to cleaner, more efficient heating systems. We will continue working to reduce emissions from power plants and automobiles, including a push for targeted interventions to protect environmental justice communities.

Electric Vehicles: EVs reduce greenhouse gas emissions and produce zero emissions, improving air quality. We will continue our successful advocacy efforts to increase the number of EVs in municipal fleets, transit systems and school bus fleets, expand the EV charging station network throughout Westchester, and ensure that environmental justice communities have access to and benefit from EVs.

Court Declines to Enforce Ambiguous ‘Final’ Waiver of Lien

By THOMAS H. WELBY, P.E., ESQ. and GREGORY J. SPAUN, ESQ. – February 25, 2021

Thomas H. Welby, P.E., ESQ. & Gregory J. Spaun, ESQ.

One of the most utilized forms in connection with a construction project is the waiver of lien, which operates to both waive a contractor’s right to assert a mechanic’s lien, and to release the contractor’s claim for money. These forms come in two “flavors,” the partial waiver of lien, and the final waiver of lien. The partial waiver is exactly what the description says it is, a document waiving a part of the contractor’s claim (in exchange for a partial payment in the same amount), usually in conjunction with a contractor’s monthly requisition.

The final waiver, like the partial waiver, is exactly what it is described as, a waiver of the remainder of the contractor’s claim, in exchange for full payment on the project, upon completion. However, in the recent case of C & A Seneca Construction, LLC v G Builders LLC, a court recently reminded us what exactly is necessary to make a final waiver of lien operative for its intended purpose.

Background

In October 2016, C & A Seneca Construction entered into a contract with G Builders for a construction project on Pier 94 in Manhattan for an agreed upon cost of $240,100. In December 2016, C & A executed a partial waiver of lien in exchange for a specifically referenced payment of $75,000, which was payment for all work performed by C & A through Dec. 23, 2016. C & A continued to work on the project, and on March 10, 2017, it executed another partial waiver of lien, this one reciting a payment of $50,000 for all work performed through that date.

A dispute arose between C & A and G Builders as to the quality of C & A’s work, and G Builders claimed that the parties agreed to resolve the dispute by C & A’s accepting a final payment of only $3,184.71 (out of the $115,000 remaining under the contract). Toward that end, a lien waiver denominated as a “final” waiver was executed, reciting payment for “100%” of the contract price. C & A claims it never received anything other than the first $75,000 payment, and it sued to collect the $165,000 balance. G Builders moved to dismiss, citing the final waiver of lien and arguing that the release contained in that document barred C & A’s claims.

Decision

The court denied the motion, and permitted C & A’s lawsuit to proceed. In doing so, the court cited well settled case law that in order for a final waiver of lien and release to be operative, it must evidence a clear and unequivocal intent to serve as a release of claims, and it must: (1) contain language clearly indicating finality; and (2) recite the amounts of the payments which were made. Because there was no language as to the specific amount of the release, or that the outstanding balance of $115,000 was being compromised by 97% to account for claimed defective work, it was found that the final waiver of lien document did not evidence an unequivocal intent to serve as a release of the remainder of the claim. Accordingly, a jury will have to sort out the intended function of that document.

Comment

Here, the court focused on the lack of unequivocal intent to evidence the release of the remaining $115,000 of C & A’s claim. However, C & A sued for $165,000. While the second release (the one which specified a second payment, in the amount of $50,000) would meet the court’s specified criteria and ostensibly defeat $50,000 of C & A’s $165,000 claim (leaving only the $115,000 mentioned by the court), the fact that C & A alleged that it was not paid that amount was sufficient to permit it to press the claim. This is because a release must be supported by valid consideration (payment), and if that payment is not made, then the release fails.

As a practical matter, sometimes such documents are titled “Lien Waiver & Release,” and operate as both. However, at other times they may simply be titled “Lien Waiver,” but still contain binding release language. Because waivers of lien and releases are such important documents in the construction process—often the gatekeeper to payment—it is crucial that the documents be as specific and “tight” as possible. If they are not, they may be found to either waive more than is intended, or not be operative at all. Further, many waivers of lien—both partial and final—require contractors to waive other aspects of their claim (for disputed change orders, for retainage, etc.) that are not specifically reserved. Contractors should not be so anxious to receive their monthly payment that they ignore the actual language and unintentionally waive outstanding claims, disputed change orders, etc. Accordingly, owners, contractors and subcontractors (basically, anyone who is a party to a waiver of lien) would be well advised to consult with their construction counsel to determine the true nature and effect of the document they are asking someone, or being asked, to sign.

About the author: Thomas H. Welby, an attorney and licensed professional engineer, is General Counsel to the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., and is the founder and senior counsel to the law firm of Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, which has offices throughout the tri-state metropolitan region. Gregory J. Spaun, an attorney and a partner with the firm, co-authors this series with Mr. Welby.

Real Estate Markets Struggle To Adjust to COVID-19

By MICHAEL J. PATON – February 25, 2021

Michael J. Paton

According to the most recent forecast from CBRE economics, real estate conditions will start 2021 in a state of flux. Certain sectors will grow strongly, but a full recovery of occupier and investor demand will be held back by the continued influence of COVID-19.

The spring and summer months should see rebirth and renewal of real estate, as a vaccine is widely deployed and further government stimulus drives the economy forward. Industrial and logistical sectors, along with certain alternative sectors like life sciences, cold storage and data centers, have thrived in the COVID era, while others like office, retail and hotels have suffered. With expectations that the COVID crisis may end sometime in 2021, the question will be which of these sectors will be permanently changed and which will return to pre-COVID conditions.

Looking back, according to a Cushman & Wakefield analysis, the first half of 2020 was marked by highly volatile labor markets. Overall employment abruptly fell at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Westchester County losing almost 75,000 jobs in the first four months of the year. Similarly, the unemployment rate in Westchester County surged to 15.7% by April, recording its highest level on record. Improvements in workforce demand took place in the second half of 2020, with overall employment stabilizing and then increasing bringing the unemployment rate to 7.1%.

In Westchester, Cushman and Wakefield noted that new leasing activity in 2020 plummeted 38.4% from the previous year to an all-time low of 707,913 square feet—42.4% below the five-year annual average of 1.2 million square feet. Sublease transactions increased a notable 143.1% over the last 12 months in the year ending December 2020, with the average transaction size falling 4.7% to 4,185 square feet. The White Plains Central Business District accounted for 33.9% of countywide demand in 2020, which was 14 percentage points higher than the previous year’s proportional share. The overall vacancy rate increased a noteworthy 244 basis points to 25.1% as a result of sublease space additions. The East I-287 submarket posted the largest overall annual increase in available space, recording a 26.6% year-over-year rise, followed by the White Plains CBD submarket, which posted a 15.9% annual uptick in its overall available supply. With the influx of available space, overall net absorption ended the year in the red, posting about 571,600 square feet of occupancy loss.

Overall average asking rents in the county increased $0.42 per square foot since one year-ago, ending 2020 at $29.28. The West I-287 submarkets overall average rose the most drastically over the last 12 months, increasing $1.00-per-square-foot to $27.73-per-square-foot. The rise in the West I-287 submarkets overall average was mainly attributed by space additions in Valhalla and the Tarrytown markets. Conversely, the Southern submarket’s average asking price for space fell $0.23-per-square-foot to $28.42-per-square-foot.

On the residential side, Douglas Elliman noted that overheated residential conditions continued during 2020 even after the COVID lockdown ended in late spring. Listing inventory in the final quarter of 2020 fell to its lowest level in 19 years, down 9.2% to 2,551 from the prior-year quarter. The incoming supply of property was unable to keep up with sales’ torrid pace, which rose 12.8% to 2,651, the highest fourth-quarter sales on record. As a result, all price trend indicators saw double-digit gains. The median sales price countywide rose year over year by 15% to $575,000, the second highest on record.

Record low mortgage rates have continued to amplify the significant supply shortage and fuel price growth in the residential market. As a result, the pace of the market was the fastest since 1994. Months of supply—the number of months to sell all listing inventory at the current sales rate—accelerated annually. These metrics are consistent with the volatility of the residential market. The market has continued to disproportionately benefit from New York City’s outbound migration and reliance on remote work capabilities. It is unclear if this trend will continue if the pandemic wanes.

About the author: Michael J. Paton is a portfolio manager at Tocqueville Asset Management L.P. He joined Tocqueville in 2004. He manages balanced portfolios and is a member of the fixed-income team. He can be reached at (212) 698-0800 or by email at MPaton@tocqueville.com.

MWBE Article 15-A Goals Present Challenges, Opportunities

By PHILLIP ROSS, CPA, CGMA, PARTNER and BRIAN SANVIDGE, CIG, CFE, PRINCIPAL – February 25, 2021

Phillip Ross

On July 15, 2019, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reauthorized the Executive Law Article 15-A to extend it until Dec. 31, 2024. Originally signed into law in July of 1988, this law seeks to level the playing field for minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) by establishing goals for MWBE involvement in construction projects. The newest participation goal is 30% of the budget for each year of your grant and is established based on the results of a 2016 disparity study.

According to Article 15-A, MWBEs must be at least 51% owned by minority members and/or women, and independently owned, operated and authorized to do business in New York State.

The MWBE goals set forth in Article 15-A apply to construction projects that involve an application for a grant of more than $25,000.

‘Good Faith Efforts’to Comply

The most important change made by this legislation is that contractors must now demonstrate a “good faith” effort to comply with the MWBE requirements of the law. Good faith efforts can include the identification of participation areas for MWBEs and full utilization of lists of certified MWBEs. These efforts must be documented using the MWBE Contractor Good Faith Efforts Certification Form 105.

If, despite good faith efforts, a contractor is not able to retain an MWBE for a project, the company must submit a Request for Waiver along with documentation of good faith efforts and the reason they were unable to obtain an MWBE.

Good faith efforts could include:

  •  Copies of solicitations (advertisements in MWBE-centered publications, those made to vendors in MWBE directories, those made to MWBE-oriented trade and labor organizations, etc.)

If these solicitations are answered, the contractor must also record specific reasons why the MWBE enterprise was not selected.

  •   Dates of attendance at meetings.
  •  Information describing the steps taken to ensure MWBE participation in a project.
  •  Descriptions of any other actions undertaken by the bidder to document good faith efforts to retain MWBE enterprises.

There are three ways to comply with the MWBE policy set forth in Article 15-A. Although full participation compliance is the preferred method, partial or no participation is acceptable so long as the contracting agency conforms to the requirements to fulfill and receive the waiver.

  1. Full participation is achieved when the applicant meets or exceeds the 30% participation goal set forth in the legislation.
  2. Partial participation is acceptable only if good faith efforts to comply are made and properly documented, but the goal was not met. The reasons for not meeting the goal must also be documented and submitted along with the Request for Waiver.
  3. No participation is like partial participation, and only acceptable if good faith efforts have been made but no MWBEs were able to be obtained for this project. Efforts to obtain an MWBE must also be documented and submitted along with the Request for Waiver.

Many contracting agencies opt to engage monitoring firms to ensure that good faith efforts are met and properly documented and to avoid penalties.

If you as a general contractor are found in violation of Article 15-A, you may face the imposition of fines, sanctions or penalties. Penalties may also include a determination that the contractor will be ineligible to submit a bid to any contracting agency or be awarded a contract for up to one year.

Additionally, as of the 2019 extension, contracting agencies were required to establish four-year growth plans regarding the utilization of MWBEs. These added levels of transparency are intended to necessitate additional outreach and the need for documentation of all activities.

Also, this legislation expanded the role of the Statewide Advocate, whose authority and responsibilities now range from assisting MWBEs in obtaining business assistance and investigating complaints concerning certifications delays, to auditing agencies and investigating complaints from MWBEs regarding violations of 15-A.

Article 15-A Will Also Affect MWBEs.

Meanwhile, for MWBEs, the legislation has increased the personal net worth cap for owners to $15 million from $3 million, which will have a significant impact on the program capacity. In order to remedy the current certification backlog, the legislation has extended the certification from three to five years. Lastly, MWBE bidding credits of 10% up to $1.4 million have been established for low-bid construction projects.

Ensuring complete compliance with Article-15 A can be difficult. If you have any questions about Article 15-A, contact your attorney or CPA.

About the authors: Phillip Ross, CPA, CGMA is an Accounting and Audit Partner and Chair of the Construction Industry Group at Anchin, Block & Anchin, LLP. Brian Sanvidge, CIG, CFE, is the Principal and Leader of Regulatory Compliance and Investigations of Anchin’s Litigation, Forensic and Valuation Services Group. For more construction industry thought leadership and content, log on to www.anchin.com.

Report: New York State Environmental Bond Act Would Support 65,000 Jobs, $6.7B in Spending

February 25, 2021

ALBANY—AECOM, the New York City-based infrastructure consulting firm, and Rebuild by Design, a leading advocate for resilient infrastructure, recently released a new report, “Economic Impacts of the New York State Environmental Bond Act,” which analyzed the long-term economic benefits of investing $3 billion in projects that would help protect clean water, reduce pollution, conserve family farms, and reduce local climate risks.

Introduced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2020, the Environmental Bond Act shows dedication to the restoration and conservation of New York’s communities and natural resources.

AECOM analyzed the benefits of the Environmental Bond Act by assessing the economic impact of the anticipated investments and researching comparable projects and programs. Review of benefit-cost analyses found that benefits often outweigh costs for similar types of investments. The analysis estimates that the New York State Environmental Bond Act has the potential to:

  •  Support 65,000 jobs in New York
  •  Result in an estimated $6.7 billion in project spending, broken into the following categories: an estimated $3.25 billion to protect and restore natural areas to reduce flooding, supporting 30,600 jobs in New York; an estimated $1.6 billion for clean water projects, supporting 18,000 jobs in New York; an estimated $1 billion for projects that would mitigate climate change, supporting 11,500 jobs in New York and an estimated $775 million for projects that protect and restore open space, supporting 4,600 jobs in New York

“AECOM analyzed the economic impacts of the New York State Environmental Bond Act and the benefits that the associated spending would provide both in the near and long-term. Our findings are clear—the Environmental Bond Act would be a useful stimulus, with the potential to support thousands of jobs in numerous sectors while also spurring long-term economic growth and protecting New York’s environment for future generations,” said Garrett Harper, managing principal, Economics + Advisory with AECOM. “By approving the Environmental Bond Act, the governor and legislature became leaders in acknowledging that investments in the environment also benefit the economy.”

“Communities in New York State are already suffering from climate change. Past disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, and our recent experience with COVID-19, have laid bare the reality that these events disproportionately hurt the most vulnerable populations,” said Amy Chester, managing director of Rebuild by Design. “We need to pass the Bond Act and give communities the resources they need to build infrastructure that will address climate change and put New York on a path to recovery.”

Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., added, ‘We have witnessed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s historic clean water grants program pay huge dividends in communities across the state, both in terms of environmental protections and quality-of-life improvements. These public monies spent for the public good is the fuel that drives the economic engine to stimulate employment with living-wage jobs and long-lasting improvements to our public facilities and infrastructure. The Bond Act is a powerful resource to help state and local governments meet their obligations to their citizens to protect the environment, create jobs and advance our quality of life. Now is the time to double our efforts to continue this momentum. Let’s work together by reinstating the Bond Act and passing it this November.”

The jobs report followed Rebuild by Design’s report ‘We Cannot Wait Any Longer,’ which showed that over the last 10 years, every county in New York State has been impacted by severe storms and flooding, tropical storms, or hurricanes. More than half were affected by five or more disaster events. The major federal disaster declarations for these counties totaled $37.3 billion in federal aid for recovery efforts.

Construction News back issues

February 2021

January 2021

December 2020

November 2020

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

December 2019

October/November 2019

Labor Issue 2019

July/August 2019

Cuomo's Budget Plan Stands Firm on Infrastructure, Water Pledges

By JOHN JORDAN

Albany –

Faced with a swelling estimated $8-billion projected shortfall in the upcoming FY21-22 budget-the result of an economy ravaged by national coronavirus pandemic, paltry federal assistance to combat it, high unemployment and debt incurred to meet these challenges-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo candidly described this year’s budget as dire. However, he believes that infrastructure is the cornerstone of the economy and the very elixir needed to bring back jobs and prosperity, so he is staying the course with a strong spending plan on the state’s bridges and highways and other infrastructure in his proposed FY21-22 budget.

He launched into four stateof the-state addresses this month with an outlined of key components of a massive infrastructure program. The plan when aggregated with past, present and wish-list projects, totaled $306 billion, or as he described, “The largest in the nation.” As part of the $11.9 billion, two-year program that began in 2020, the governor stayed the course on the NYSDOT Capital Plan.

 

The proposed Executive Budget provides $5.8 billion for the second year of the multi-year for highways, bridges, rail, aviation infrastructure, non-MTA transit, and NYSDOT facilities.

Compared to the final two years of the last NYSDOT Capital Plan, this is an increase of $3 billion, or 33%.

The Executive Budget plan also continues funding local highway and bridge projects.

These include the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and the Marchiselli program, which is maintained at last year’s level of $477.8 million. The budget also continues $100 million in highway aid through the PAVE NY program, and $100 million to fund local bridge projects from the BRIDGE NY program.

Steve Stallmer, an advisor to the New York Roadway & Infrastructure Coalition (NYRIC). “Our other priority is to prepare our newly elected delegation members for a new federal transportation bill and potentially a broad infrastructure package. President-Elect Biden is expected to utilize infrastructure investment as an economic stimulus during the pandemic.” – Steve Stallmer, NYRIC Advisor

The Executive Budget stood firm on the $500-million appropriation to support clean water, raising the state’s total investment to $4 billion since 2017, continuing to fulfill the administration’s $5-billion commitment to clean water funding. Among a host of other construction-related initiatives, the governor has proposed a $29-billion program involving public and private green energy investments in New York State.

 

In the area of the state’s energy program, the New York State Public Service Commission approved a nearly $854-million project involving a 93-mile 345-kilovolt (kV) transmission line starting in Oneida County and extending to Albany County to enable greater flow of clean energy. The project, named the Marcy to New Scotland Upgrade Project increases transmission capacity to move power more efficiently in keeping with the goals of both the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act and the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act to lower carbon emissions and combat climate change. The project is being developed by LS Power Grid New York and the New York Power Authority.

Gov. Cuomo noted in his budget the impact of the coronavirus on the states’ finances and the need for the federal government under the new Biden administration to offer aid to state and local governments.

“We are in a different time and a different world than just one year ago and we shouldn’t be surprised that this budget will look different. We have a plan in place, a strength that we have not had before and I believe our future is bright, but Washington must act fairly if we are to emerge on the other side of this crisis,” Gov.

Cuomo said. “Despite the federal irresponsibility, which allowed COVID to ambush our state, New Yorkers are ready to begin rebuilding, but for that to happen, we need SALT repealed and

$15 billion in rightfully deserved federal aid-and we need it now.

After years of federal hostility, I believe the stars are lined up for that to change-we just need to do it. We built the greatest state once before and I know that we will do it again.”

New Revenue Sources

The governor has proposed a host of revenue raisers, including raising taxes on high earners, legalization of recreational marijuana and mobile sports betting. Also included in the budget proposal is that the governor would authorize the Gaming Commission to issue a request for information for the purpose of soliciting interest regarding the three unawarded gaming facility licenses authorized by the State Constitution.

At least one of those licenses would be awarded downstate.

 

Reaction Favorable

Major construction and business trade groups came out in support of the governor’s proposed budget and singled out his continued commitment to improving the state’s infrastructure despite the difficult financial times.

The Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., hailed Gov.

Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposed 2021-22 state budget released this week as “another clear example of his administration’s commitment to revitalize New York’s dynamism.

“We applaud the governor’s call to fully fund the second year of the $11.9 billion, twoyear DOT capital plan through robust investments in our transportation and infrastructure facilities,” said John Cooney, Jr., executive director of CIC, a leading regional business trade organization based in Tarrytown, NY. Mr. Cooney labeled the Executive Budget proposal “both fiscally responsible and responsive to today’s challenges.”

“The construction industry has long served as a driver to reinvigorate employment and stimulate the economy,” Mr.

Cooney added. “The Cuomo budget will put workers back on payrolls and make possible needed state and regional project work and improvements in mobility throughout the mid-Hudson region and its extensive networks highways, local roadways and hundreds of bridges.” Looking to Washington, he exhorted that “extra effort must be taken by our Congressional delegation if we are to see a return to pre-pandemic prosperity following the protracted and widespread hardships inflicted by the Covid-19 crisis.”

“Gov. Cuomo has amplified President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ appeal to all America, and we as leaders of the region’s contracting community will be joined by our partners in organized labor and other sectors in the fight to secure new federal relief aid and opportunities for all New Yorkers,” Mr. Cooney said. “This is an all-hands-ondeck moment in our history, and we’re inspired to see Gov.

Cuomo has again done his part.” Associated General Contractors of New York State (AGC NYS) President and CEO Mike Elmendorf also offered high praise for what he termed was the governor’s “broad and visionary” infrastructure plan.

While saying the industry is ready to work on the governor’s infrastructure initiatives, Mr.

Elmendorf noted that the state needs to tackle the impediments that deter private-sector investment and growth in New York.

All Options on the Table

The governor presented two budget options, depending on the level of funding the federal government provides to New York following the devastating economic impact of Washington’s “failed COVID-19 response,” he noted. The first option would support New York State’s ongoing war against the pandemic and aggressive post COVID reconstruction plan.

The second option -absent

$15 billion in federal funding- would cause pain for New Yorkers by forcing the state to raise revenue, cut expenses and turn to borrowing to meet obligations.

SALT and MTA

Gov. Cuomo also reiterated his call on federal partners to repeal the harmful state and local tax policy-or SALT cap-that cost New Yorkers more than $30 billion over the last three years and amounted to the first double taxation in history. The average cost of SALT cap to New York households is $2,600 per home, state officials noted.

In terms of mass transit, the governor the FY21-22 proposed Executive Budget provides more than $5.7 billion in operating support to transit systems, including resources that are collected by the state and sent directly to the MTA without further appropriation. The MTA will receive $5.2 billion from state operating aid sources in FY21-22.

The $51.5 billion 2020-2024 MTA Capital Program remains the largest and most expansive plan in the authority’s history.

In addition to the $25 billion secured by the governor and legislature in the FY21-22 Budget, the state will continue to contribute $3 billion to the program, which will be matched by the City of New York.

The FY21-22 Executive Budget provides $544 million in operating support for non-MTA transit, including $330 million for various downstate systems and $214 million for the Upstate systems (which will receive nearly a 9% year-over-year increase). Other transit assistance includes $11 million to continue to fund the Lower Hudson Transit Link serving the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge and parts of Rockland and Westchester counties.

The Executive Budget also provides non-MTA transit systems with another $20 million of capital aid, for the second installment of a $100-million five-year program to support transit agencies’ transition to electric buses. Under this program, five of the largest upstate and suburban transit authorities will electrify 25% of their fleets by 2025 and 100% by 2035.

The MTA has committed to purchase only electric buses after 2029 and to fully electrify its fleet by 2040. Total non-MTA transit capital assistance is proposed at a historic $124.5 million.

Rough, Congested Roads Cost Motorists $26B Per Year

By JOHN JORDAN

NEW YORK –

The latest road and bridge condition assessments and data on the cost of associated traffic congestion and vehicle crashes in New York State paint a clear picture of the urgent need for significant transportation infrastructure spending statewide, as well as in the Hudson Valley and New York City metro regions.

A newly released report by TRIP, a Washington, DCbased national transportation research nonprofit, found that deteriorated and congested roads and bridges cost New York motorists a total of $26 billion statewide annually. Closer to home, the cost for these road and bridge conditions averaged out to nearly $3,000 per driver in the New York-Newark Jersey City urban area due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestionrelated delays.

The report states that increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in New York State.

The TRIP report found:

  • Throughout New York State nearly half of major locally and state-maintained roads are in poor or mediocre condition;
  • 10% of local and statemaintained bridges (20 feet or more in length) are rated poor/ structurally deficient;
  • At least 5,127 people lost their lives on the state’s roads from 2014-2018;
  • New York’s major urban roads are congested, causing significant delays and choking commuting and commerce.
  •  

Entitled “New York Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” the report includes regional pavement and bridge conditions, congestion data, highway safety data, and cost breakdowns. The report studied nine areas:

Steve Stallmer, an advisor to the New York Roadway & Infrastructure Coalition (NYRIC). “Our other priority is to prepare our newly elected delegation members for a new federal transportation bill and potentially a broad infrastructure package. President-Elect Biden is expected to utilize infrastructure investment as an economic stimulus during the pandemic.” – Steve Stallmer, NYRIC Advisor

Albany-Schenectady-Troy; Binghamton; Buffalo Niagara Falls; New York-Newark-Jersey City; Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown; Rochester; Syracuse and Utica urban areas; and statewide road conditions. Driving on roads in the New York Newark-Jersey City urban area costs the average driver $2,959 per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC), the result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays and the costs of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway safety features likely were a contributing factor, the report indicates. The cost of driving on roads in the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown region calculated out to $1,580 per driver each year.

 

The TRIP report found that 45% of major locally and state-maintained roads in the New York-Newark-Jersey City urban area are in poor condition and another 23% are in mediocre condition, costing the average motorist an additional $722 each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear. In the Poughkeepsie Newburgh-Middletown region, 18% are in poor condition and another 23% are in mediocre condition. Statewide, 25% of New York’s major roads are in poor condition and 22% are in mediocre condition.

Traffic congestion in the New York Newark-Jersey City urban area causes 92 annual hours of delay for the average motorist and costs the average driver $1,947 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. New York-Newark-Jersey City drivers lose 92 hours and waste approximately 324 million gallons of fuel each year due to traffic congestion, an average of 38 gallons per motorist.

Poughkeepsie-Newburgh-Middletown motorists lose on average 37 hours and waste approximately 4 million gallons of fuel each year due to traffic congestion, an average of 19 gallons per motorist.

Statewide, drivers lose $14.2 billion annually as a result of lost time and wasted fuel due to traffic congestion. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, vehicle travel in New York dropped by as much as 45% in April 2020 compared to vehicle travel during the same month the previous year, but rebounded to 10% below the previous year’s volume in September 2020.

“The Business Council of Westchester believes that a modern and well-maintained transportation network is vital to the state’s economy and serves as an important economic development tool for recruiting and retaining businesses in Westchester County,” said John Ravitz, executive vice president of the Business Council of Westchester. “Now more than ever, we need to make infrastructure funding a top priority. Addressing the needed repairs to our roads and bridges must be a funding priority for our state and federal governments to focus on.” In the New York-Newark-Jersey City urban area, 7% (462) of the 6,603 bridges are rated poor/structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. In the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh Middletown region, 14% (116) of the 809 ridges are rated poor/structurally deficient. State-wide, 10% (1,745) of New York’s (17,540) bridges are rated poor/ structurally deficient.

“As an advocate for traffic safety, AAA supports initiatives to provide safe roads and bridges for all motorists. The TRIP findings reinforce the need for a longterm transportation reauthorization bill in 2021 that would provide increased federal funding for New York and the nation’s infrastructure as a whole,” said Elizabeth Carey, director of public relations at AAA Western and Central New York. “AAA urges Congress and the incoming administration to prioritize transportation investments to ensure safe, efficient and reliable mobility here in New York and across the country.” Traffic crashes in New York claimed the lives of 5,127 people between 2014 and 2018. New York’s overall traffic fatality rate of 0.76 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2018 is lower than the national average of 1.13. In the New York-Newark-Jersey City urban area, on average, 1,014 people were killed in traffic crashes each year from 2014 to 2018.

The financial impact of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway safety features was likely a contributing factor was an average of $290 annually per each New York-Newark-Jersey City area driver.

In the Poughkeepsie-Newburgh Middletown area, on average, 82 people were killed in traffic crashes each year from 2014 to 2018. The financial impact of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway safety features was likely a contributing factor was an average of $553 annually per each New York-Newark-Jersey City area driver.

“With the deterioration of so many roads and bridges causing business and industry billions of dollars in increased costs per year, we appreciate the continued focus on this issue in the TRIP report,” said Johnny Evers, senior director of government affairs for the Business Council of New York State. “It is only through careful study that New York State and the nation can address this problem. We hope the thoroughness of this study will lead to the change necessary to fix this ongoing business concern.” The efficiency and condition of New York’s transportation system, particularly its highways, are critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $1.3 trillion in goods are shipped to and from New York, relying heavily on the state’s network of roads and bridges. Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to re-locate or expand.

Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system.

The design, construction and maintenance of transportation infrastructure in New York supports approximately 319,000 full-time jobs across all sectors of the state economy. Approximately 3.5 million full-time jobs in New York in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture and manufacturing are dependent on the quality, safety and reliability of the state’s transportation infrastructure network.

“These conditions are only going to get worse, increasing the additional costs to motorists, if greater investment is not made available at the federal, state and local levels of government,” said Dave Kearby, TRIP’s executive director.

 

“Without adequate funding, New York’s transportation system will become increasingly deteriorated and congested, hampering economic growth, safety and quality of life.”

President-Elect Biden Outlines New Infrastructure Spending

By GEORGE DRAPEAU

WASHINGTON – Infrastructure has again moved to center stage as a major priority for both the White House and Congress. However, if you pay any attention to disclaimers-about past performance being no guarantee of future results-anything getting passed in 2021 is anyone’s guess.

Both President-elect Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have come out swinging after the Nov. 3 election to support bold, new spending initiatives. In the spirit of bipartisanship, Senate Republicans have pointed to infrastructure as a place where policymakers in both parties can unite.

If there is one thing some Democrats and Republicans appear to agree on is that Americans are getting tired of waiting for another federal COVID-relief stimulus package, and infrastructure may be the next best salve. The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus-led on the right by New York Upstate Republican Rep. Tom Reed-is calling for Congress to finally pass another stimulus measure, State of Politics reports. In mid November, Rep. Pelosi and Sen. Schumer called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “join us at the negotiating table this week so that we can work towards a bipartisan, bicameral COVID-19 relief agreement to crush the virus and save American lives.” Looming ahead is the expiration of the multi-year surface transportation programs this coming September 2021.

 

MTA Facing ‘Fiscal Tsunami’ To address the billions of dollars in revenue shortfalls because of the pandemic, MTA is warning it may have to cut Metro North service by 50% if no further federal funding is forthcoming. The plan would also involve the elimination of West of Hudson service on the Port Jervis line. The Port Authority has also warned of significant funding budget cuts due to the coronavirus (see stories on pages 6 and 24).

A successor to the “FAST Act” will be necessary to provide core funding for all modes of surface transportation: highways, bridges, mass transit, passenger rail, and ports.

“In terms of priorities for New York, we continue to emphasize the urgency of federal support for funding to state and local governments in any COVID relief. 

Steve Stallmer, an advisor to the New York Roadway & Infrastructure Coalition (NYRIC). “Our other priority is to prepare our newly elected delegation members for a new federal transportation bill and potentially a broad infrastructure package. President-Elect Biden is expected to utilize infrastructure investment as an economic stimulus during the pandemic.”

 

Steve Stallmer, an advisor to the New York Roadway & Infrastructure Coalition (NYRIC). “Our other priority is to prepare our newly elected delegation members for a new federal transportation bill and potentially a broad infrastructure package. President-Elect Biden is expected to utilize infrastructure investment as an economic stimulus during the pandemic.” – Steve Stallmer, NYRIC Advisor

“Efforts to craft a major bill repeatedly fell apart during the Trump Administration, and disagreements on the scope of the legislation and how to pay for it will no doubt persist under a Biden administration,” Mr. Stallmer added. “But a fresh push from both the Congress and the next White House could break the logjam, even if control of the House and Senate continues to be split between the two parties.”

“It would seem to be something that we can work together on in a productive way,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) told The Wall Street Journal, though he threw cold water on the Democrats’ most profligate spending plans. Sen. Barrasso, who chairs the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works Committee, proposed a $287-billion surface transportation bill, with most of that money going toward roads and bridges. That’s about half of what Democrats are looking to spend.

 

How much is spent and how it is spent will no doubt be a subject of debate in the coming months. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ issues a comprehensive report every four years, the most recent one in 2017, on 16 types of infrastructure in the U.S. including roads, bridges, drink water, dams and rail systems. For surface transportation alone, according to the latest data from the ASCE, it will take at least $1.5 trillion, in 2019 dollars, to close the gap between current spending and what is needed to bring roads, rail and bridges into a state of good repair.

The costs of deficient U.S. road networks, according to the ASCE, could reach more than $4 trillion over the next 20 years, even with the expected efficiency gains from connected and autonomous vehicle technology. From a deteriorating transit tunnel to a high-risk dam and unhealthy drinking water brought on by aging infrastructure, among the projects that exemplify a worst-case scenario if serious infrastructure issues are ignored span highways and bridges, tunnels, rails and airports.

Here are at least five to consider:

The Hudson River Tunnel between New York/New Jersey

$11.6 Billion

The Hudson River Tunnel, built in 1910, sees 450 Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains with 200,000 riders pass through its dual tubes each day. The 10 mile tunnel system is an integral part of travel through the Northeast Corridor, which extends from Washington, D.C., to Boston. The project, dubbed “Gateway,” is to be overseen by officials from New York and New Jersey who wrote in an environmental impact study submitted to the federal Department of Transportation that the new tunnels must be constructed before the old ones can be repaired.

In 2012 salt water the result of Superstorm Sandy flooded the aging tunnels and accelerated deterioration. Reports that the corrosive chlorides that the salt water left behind continue to inflict damage on the tunnel’s concrete liner and bench walls, home to electrical and signaling systems that are critical to train operations. Only because of ongoing emergency maintenance has the Hudson River Tunnel been able to remain operable.

Trains are moving through it today with Amtrak stating the tunnel is safe for passengers. The Trump administration refused to make good on the Obama administration’s commitment to pay for half of the project’s $11.6 billion price tag, delaying progress.

New York Penn Station

$1.6 Billion

Prior to the pandemic and surge in COVID cases, the station saw 650,000 people a day-a mass of people that is nearly the entire population of the City of Boston. Penn Station has deteriorated into an urban nightmare, with its cramped, inefficient and maddening transportation maze for commuters to endure. The USA Today Network New Jersey described condition at Penn Station as cramped and low-ceilinged corridors, bottlenecks of stairways onto holding-pen-like platforms and overcrowded trains.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently stated he wants to ramp up efforts to create an eventual Penn campus, with a Penn South Station with new tracks below 31st

Street, a master plan to fix Penn and the addition of the Moynihan Train Hall at the old Farley Post Office site across Eighth Avenue. Moynihan will serve mostly Long Island Railroad and Amtrak riders, according to the plan forwarded by the Empire State Development Corp.

Len Resto, president of the New Jersey Railroad Passenger Association, called for a better plan than the one presented by the ESDC, which is in charge of the restoration project. The alternate options suggested by some of the region’s transit experts now see “a silver lining in the coronavirus cloud, a window of opportunity to finally fix Penn Station.” As part of the renovations, the neighboring James A. Farley Post Office building will become the Moynihan Train Hall, and will include new platforms, better passenger flow, and a sky-lit atrium. The development group-which includes Related Companies, Vornado Realty LP, and Skanska USA-are reportedly pitching in $630 million, with the rest cobbled together by the once-flush MTA, the Port Authority and Amtrak.

Protect New York City with a Storm Surge Barrier

$119 Billion

As New York continues to rebuild from the ravages of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, climate change is predicted to increase the number of hurricanes each year and their severity. In response, the Army Corps of Engineers has developed options for protecting the city from a future hurricane, and a six-mile long storm surge barrier in New York Harbor. Chronicled in mainstream and engineering journals, a network several man-made islands in New York Harbor would house retractable flood gates. The plan has been labeled as “insufficient for dealing with the full effects of climate change or rising tides.” Perhaps, but others have pointed out that building the barrier could greatly limit the damage incurred from future major storms, which all agree are inevitable.

Build the LGA AirTrain

$2 Billion

If LGA ever gets an AirTrain, you can thank then Vice President Joe Biden for characterizing the Queens-based airport upon a visit to the Queens complex as he

“must be in some third-world country.” With LGA’s desperately needed renovations finally making travel better for airport passengers, the next chapter would be improving access to and from the terminals. The proposed AirTrain running from midtown Manhattan to the Queens airport would solve a multitude of congestion and delays issues, putting travelers at security gates in 30 minutes.

Plans are for the No. 7 train to stop at Willets Point where air travelers would board the AirTrain to Terminal B.

New Yorkers should stand together and argue that if you propose it, you own it. Let the Biden administration find the funds to make LGA transformation one of his legacy accomplishments as the 46th President of the United States of America.

The Brooklyn Bridge

$238 Million (in progress)

The Brooklyn Bridge connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn is just one of more than 46,000 bridges in the U.S. that are structurally deficient, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s annual bridge report released earlier this year. Although 2019’s structurally deficient bridge inventory numbered about 900 fewer than in 2018, at the current rate of repair, it would take 50 years and $164 billion to reduce that list to zero.

The Brooklyn Bridge, which has spanned the East River between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan since 1883, might soon come off that list.

The bridge is undergoing a $238-million rehabilitation, led by Navillus Contracting and the MLJ Contracting Corp.

The work, part of an ongoing effort by the New York City DOT to maintain the bridge, will include the cleaning and restoration of the bridge’s granite towers and arch blocks, rehab of the Brooklyn and Manhattan arch interiors, reinforcement of the Manhattan arches foundations and reconstruction/rehab of brick infill walls and stone features.

The Challenge Ahead: Presidentelect Biden is a decades-long commuter on Amtrak between his homes in Delaware and Washington, earning him the nickname “Amtrak Joe.” As a strong advocate of public transit, he campaigned on the challenges major transit agencies across the country now face, having been decimated as ridership collapsed during the pandemic.

Key Elements of Biden’s Infrastructure Proposal

President-Elect Biden is expected to pursue transportation and infrastructure policies designed to support transportation efficiency and job growth. As part of it, clean energy and mitigating climate change will be part of the plan. He has proposed a

$2-trillion infrastructure plan to promote clean energy and modernize current U.S. systems. House and Senate Republicans also support significant infrastructure investments, but there is no bipartisan consensus on how to fund comprehensive legislation.

• Roads and Bridges: $50 billion in the first year to repair existing roads, highways, and bridges; expedited permitting; boost long-term surface transportation funding to states that adopt smart climate design and pollution reduction options.

• Electric Vehicles: Build a national system with 500,000 charging stations and restore full electric vehicle tax credit; $5 billion over five years at DOE for battery and storage technology.

• High Speed Rail: Expand Northeast Corridor to southern states;

develop California High Speed Rail;

connect coasts through the Midwest and great west; further electrify Amtrak and freight rail lines and reduce diesel fuel emissions.

• Light Rail, Urban Transit:

Install systems in metro areas of 100,000 or greater by 2030 and invest in pedestrian, cyclist, and micromobility vehicles

• Airports: Double funding for the FAA Airport Improvement Program.

• Freight Infrastructure: $3.5 billion for competitive BUILD grants and INFRA funding; invest in inland waterways, freight corridors, freight rail, transfer facilities, and ports and increase Army Corps of Engineers funding by $2.5 billion for lock modernization.

Climate Resiliency Job Training:

Invest and train in coastal restoration and resilient infrastructure design, construction, and evaluation;

natural solutions.

 

• Airports: Double funding for the FAA Airport Improvement Program.

• Freight Infrastructure: $3.5 billion for competitive BUILD grants and INFRA funding; invest in inland waterways, freight corridors, freight rail, transfer facilities, and ports and increase Army Corps of Engineers funding by $2.5 billion for lock modernization.

• Climate Resiliency Job Training:

Invest and train in coastal restoration and resilient infrastructure design, construction, and evaluation;

natural solutions.

• Electric Grid: Build a “21st century power grid” to distribute clean energy and expand regional electric markets to promote renewables and demand response.

• Energy Efficiency: Restore residential, business efficiency tax credits; funding for low-income weatherization, expansion of Property Assesses Clean Energy (PACE) Program and restore solar investment tax credit; construct net zero carbon federal buildings

• Drinking Water: Double funding for clean drinking water and water infrastructure programs and focus on low-income areas, with decreased local match requirement to repair existing systems.

• Broadband: $20 billion for rural broadband and support for build out of municipally-owned broadband networks.

• Public Schools: $100 billion to address health risks and improve energy efficienc• Electric Grid: Build a “21st century power grid” to distribute clean energy and expand regional electric markets to promote renewables and demand response.

• Energy Efficiency: Restore residential, business efficiency tax credits; funding for low-income weatherization, expansion of Property Assesses Clean Energy (PACE) Program and restore solar investment tax credit; construct net zero carbon federal buildings

• Drinking Water: Double funding for clean drinking water and water infrastructure programs and focus on low-income areas, with decreased local match requirement to repair existing systems.

• Broadband: $20 billion for rural broadband and support for build out of municipally-owned broadband networks.

• Public Schools: $100 billion to address health risks and improve energy efficiency.y.

Facing $59 Billion Shortfall, Gov. Cuomo Warns Of Major Cuts If Feds Don’t Pass COVID Relief

DFE016AB-F027-49F2-BFB0-308620C0245E
Throughout the spring, construction work continued on the Taconic Parkway Pudding Street overpass in Putnam County. Photo credit/DAVID ROCCO

By JOHN JORDAN

ALBANY- State officials here are worried that without a new round of federal funding to aid states and cities, a projected $59 billion of revenue shortfalls through 2022 looms for New Yorkers- which is the current level of economic fallout from the continuing coronavirus crisis. Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned that drastic budget cuts will be required in the form of increases in transit fares coupled with reduced services, higher state and local taxes, and cuts to schools, hospitals and local governments.

The governor said that he will delay the decisions to enact any cuts until after Election Day on Nov. 3.

 

New Yorkers face major cuts if Feds don't pass COVID relief, warns Governor Cuomo.

The construction industry, however, is already being buffeted by the early bands of ill wind in the form of delays to project lettings in the state.

So far, any reductions in transportation and infrastructure construction funding on state contracts has been largely conceptual:

The proposed $3-billion “Restore Mother Nature” environmental voter referendum has been pushed back from this November to November 2021. Similarly, a handful of Department of Transportation projects have seen letting dates pushed back a few weeks, including several in the metropolitan area, namely a major project at Hunts Point and the Van Wyck Expressway in New York City.

“State government has not yet hit the panic button, but at some time, if we don’t get (federal) stimulus money, state government will have to cut and the question is where,” said Stephen Morgan, secretary of the New York Roadway and Infrastructure Coalition (NYRIC). “Gov. Cuomo has not yet identified the breath nor depth of the funding cut scenarios if stimulus funds are not forthcoming. We have all witnessed his relentless requests to President Trump and Congress for the need to pass stimulus funding to assist state governments in their fight against the coronavirus and its impacts.” – Stephen Morgan, NYRIC

“State government has not yet hit the panic button, but at some time, if we don’t get (federal) stimulus money, state government will have to cut and the question is where,” said Stephen Morgan, secretary of the New York Roadway and Infrastructure Coalition (NYRIC). “Gov. Cuomo has not yet identified the breath nor depth of the funding cut scenarios if stimulus funds are not forthcoming. We have all witnessed his relentless requests to President Trump and Congress for the need to pass stimulus funding to assist state governments in their fight against the coronavirus and its impacts.”

Taking a wider view of the fiscal crisis, Mr. Morgan noted that Gov. Cuomo has been a strong advocate for infrastructure funding throughout his three terms in office. “He would be very reluctant to cut the (NYSDOT) program,” Mr. Morgan said.

As of Oct. 24, New York reported 25,730 deaths due to the coronavirus, According to state estimates, the pandemic decimated public finances, with New York’s state government losing an estimated $14 billion in the current fiscal year and $16 billion in the coming fiscal year. Transportation authorities around New York City expect to take in $15 billion less revenue due to drops in subway, train and air passengers,” according to a report published in The Wall Street Journal.

 

In addition, New York City and other local governments will be grappling with $13.5 billion in shortfalls over the next two years, Mr. Cuomo’s office estimates.

“At this time, we continue to move programmed projects forward in the Hudson Valley Region,” stated NYSDOT spokesperson Joe Morrissey. “The ability of New York to continue to provide its residents with an unparalleled level of public services is contingent upon Congress providing states and local governments with the necessary stabilization funds to mitigate the direct revenue losses attributable to COVID-19.” Mr. Morgan added that construction contractors are concerned that there are not many large NYSDOT projects in the hopper at the moment.

They are hopeful that some large projects upstate, as well as some significant jobs downstate, including the expansion of Route 17 in Orange County, can advance. He also noted that the prospects for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are bleak without additional federal COVID stimulus funding.

While governments throughout the United States are feeling the hit from the virus, the situation in New York is worse than other places. Moody’s Investors Service is forecasting the fiscal shock to the state government will be $29 billion through the end of the 2022 fiscal year. That is 1.9% of gross state product, which is above the national average, said Moody’s economist Emily Mandel.

New York State requires $30 billion during the current fiscal year and next to avoid massive disruption.

New York City requires $9 billion, local governments outside of New York City require $4.5 billion, the MTA requires $12 billion, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requires $3 billion.

Last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye sent a series of letters to the authority’s 11 largest suppliers, warning that without an immediate injection of $12 billion in federal aid for all current and future contracts with companies from Kentucky to California are in jeopardy.

Our future-and the fate of approximately 100,000 MTA-created out-of-state jobs-rests squarely in the hands of the Senate and White House.” On Oct. 7, Metro-North Railroad executives, elected officials and transportation advocates staged a press conference at the Bronxville Metro North station calling for much-needed federal funding. See story above.

The MTA has threatened that without further COVID assistance, it would have to cut Metro North and Long Island Railroad service by 50% and eliminate West of Hudson service entirely.

New York State requires $30 billion during the current fiscal year and next to avoid massive disruption.

New York City requires $9 billion, local governments outside of New York City require $4.5 billion, the MTA requires $12 billion, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requires $3 billion.

Last month, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye sent a series of letters to the authority’s 11 largest suppliers, warning that without an immediate injection of $12 billion in federal aid for all current and future contracts with companies from Kentucky to California are in jeopardy.

 

Other states have approached their budget crunches in different ways. Officials in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Rhode Island adopted only partial budgets this year due to coronavirus-related uncertainty, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. Some states have adopted budgets that are drawing down reserves, capping tax deductions for businesses and delaying billions of payments on scheduled contract increases. New Jersey pushed back the start of its fiscal year to October, and last month enacted a budget that increased income taxes on millionaires and authorized $4.5 billion in borrowing, according to the Office of Gov. Phil Murphy.

Here in New York, Gov. Cuomo is waiting to address the deficit with any service cuts or potential tax increases after his staff can recalculate and consider options after the national elections.

“My position is, the state is not liable for this deficit. It was caused by the federal government’s negligence. So, I’m not taking action to close the deficit-the federal government has to make up for the deficit,” Mr. Cuomo said on Oct. 7.

Trades Sustained Through Pandemic But Have Concerns Heading Into 2021

By JOHN JORDAN

TARRYTOWN-Following suspension on activity on some private projects this past spring due to the pandemic, union construction trades in the region are back, tackling the backlog of considerable volume since early June when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reopening process gave developers, general contractors and construction managers the green light to go back to work.

CONSTRUCTION NEWS talked with some of the Hudson Valley region’s top leaders in the building trades to determine how the industry is faring in this “new normal” of COVID-19 protocols.

Their views on where markets are headed spell an uncertain 2021. Given the specter of the national elections, the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 and significant government funding cuts, the calendar only says three months, but it feels like it’s a lot longer than that.

Most building trades are holding their own, officials reported, although there is a definite slowdown of major project work particularly in the lower Hudson Valley. The New York State Department of Labor recently reported that statewide the construction industry sector lost 41,700 jobs from August 2019 (423,700) to August 2020 (382,000) a decline of 9.8% in the sector’s workforce due to the pandemic.

Throughout the spring, construction work continued on the Taconic Parkway Pudding Street overpass in Putnam County. Photo credit/DAVID ROCCO

 

For the 12-month period ending August 2020, the private sector job count in the Hudson Valley fell by 98,300, or 12%, to 720,700. The natural resources, mining and construction sector in the Hudson Valley lost 5,600 jobs during that time period.

No major projects in the Hudson Valley region have been delayed due to Covid-19 once restrictions were lifted;  the dropoff came from major project completions in three robust sectors:  transportation infrastructure, power plants and New York City drinking water projects in the Hudson Valley.

“We don’t know where the road funding is going to be for NYSDOT and the New York State Thruway, so we definitely have some concerns.”  – Laborers Local 17 Business Manager
L. Todd Diorio

Lower Hudson Valley

President Edward Doyle and Vice President Jeffrey Loughlin of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties, Inc., reported the trades are busy with a combination of road, infrastructure, utility and some private work. The trades, which saw thousands of union tradesmen work on the new Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, do not have the benefit of large mega projects at the moment, they noted.

 

Mr. Doyle said he was proud of the union trades for their efforts and for their commitment to safety on project work during the pandemic. He specifically cited their efforts working on the $272-million White Plains Hospital expansion project with construction manager Turner Construction.

Mr. Doyle added the trades are currently working on a number of smaller projects that are under Project Labor Agreements and that a majority of the trades are employed. However, he did express concern that if Congress fails to approve another COVID-aid package, New York State may be forced to cut funding to local governments, school districts and hospitals, which could eventually impact planned capital projects.

He also expressed frustration with the long-standing discussions the trades have been holding with Westchester County government on changing workforce rules on private projects that secure funding from the Industrial Development Agency.

Despite attempts by the trades to broker a deal, Mr. Doyle related that the trades “are on the outside looking in” on most major development projects in White Plains and other locations that have received incentives from the county IDA but have not reached or refuse to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the building trades.

In connection with discussions with the Latimer Administration, Mr. Doyle said, “I can’t say we have made any progress. We talk a lot, but nothing happens.” He related that the trades have also received little work from development projects in New Rochelle and Yonkers, where both cities operate their own Industrial Development Agencies.

With traffic greatly reduced during the stay-at-home executive order this spring, construction work was able to advance on the Saw Mill River Parkway replacement bridge project in Westchester. Photo credits/DAVID ROCCO

Mr. Loughlin, who is also business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 137 of Briarcliff Manor, NY, said that his union and the building trades are much better off now than when the Covid restrictions were put in place earlier this year. At present, Local 137 is at about 86% employed after having full employment the last seven years.

He rattled off a host of major projects that fueled full employment at Local 137 some of which are winding down, including:  the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, the Cricket Valley Energy Center project in Dutchess County, several NYCDEP projects, pipeline projects, as well as three hospital expansion projects at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY, White Plains Hospital and Vassar Brothers Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, NY.

While some of these aforementioned projects are still ongoing, Mr. Loughlin noted that Local 137’s last day on the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge was on June 26, 2020. The project employed 500 Operating Engineers from various locals, including approximately 150 Local 137 members. Work at the Cricket Valley power plant concluded in May. There were about 90 Local 137 members who worked on that project.

 

Mr. Loughlin added that for Local 137, private construction has been mixed, noting that union members are operating tower cranes at four or five project sites, but another three sites are employing non-union workers to operate tower cranes on multifamily tower developments in the county.

He complained that site work is not being performed by a union contracting firm on one significant multifamily project where county and city officials participated in that project’s groundbreaking. However, site work is being performed by the union trades on a new 303-unit multifamily project at 1133 Westchester Ave. in White Plains that previously served as the world headquarters of IBM.

The project is being developed by the NRP Group of Cleveland and Rye Brook, NY-based RPW Group.

He related that the trades are hopeful that the NYCDEP will move forward with its planned

$1.2-billion Kensico-Eastview Connection tunneling project first announced in 2018. “They are talking about the mid-to-end of next year when that job will be going out to bid,” Mr. Loughlin said. “I think there will be some ancillary work probably beginning in June.”

Mid-Hudson Region

L. Todd Diorio, president of the Hudson Valley Building & Construction Trades Council of Newburgh, NY, said that most of the building trades are very busy at the moment and are at between 90% to 95% employed.

Mr. Diorio, who is business manager of Laborers Local No. 17 of Newburgh, added that Local 17 is currently fully employed.

“It has been a good summer season,” he said.

Some of the major projects currently underway include the LEGOLAND New York resort in Goshen, NY; the Amazon fulfillment center project in Montgomery, NY and some work at the Medline facility in Montgomery. He noted that while the significant site work at the Medline project has gone union, some of the other project work has not.

Another significant project for the trades is the beginning of construction of the redecking of the north (westbound) span of the Newburgh Beacon Bridge being performed by Yonkers Contracting Co., Inc. The total project cost of the work has been estimated at more than $100 million. (See story on page 25).

Other work keeping the trades busy include two NYCDEP projects (Catskill Aqueduct and Rondout West Branch Bypass Tunnel) school construction work with the Marlboro School District and hospital work at Kingston and St. Luke’s Hospital. Mr. Diorio added that he expects there will be some construction work at the former Orange Regional Medical Center, now Garnet Medical Center in the Town of Wallkill, including a new parking garage.

The trades are also pushing for state approval for the proposed Danskammer Energy project. Danskammer owns and operates an existing 511-megawatt power plant in the Town of Newburgh. The company is currently engaged in the Article 10 process with New York State to secure approvals to undergo a plant repowering at the current site. The project would create cleaner and more efficient power generation, replacing the existing power source, built in the 1950s. The total cost of the project is $450 million, according to Mr. Diorio.

 

Heavy equipment is now in place to advance bridge construction over the Saw Mill River Parkway at Farragut Avenue in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester. Operating Engineers Local 137 reports it is 86% employed after having full employment over the last seven years.

“That is a project that we need. We are going to have conversations with the governor’s staff in the near future to get a feel where we stand on this project because we put a lot of time and a lot of money into it and if the governor is going to kill the project or not favor the project, we have our concerns,” Mr. Diorio said.

He continued, “We feel it is a viable project and it’s needed but unfortunately there are people in the Democratic Party who are pro-labor but anti-fossil fuel and anti-pipeline.” Looking forward, Mr. Diorio is apprehensive about the industry’s prospects next year, blaming the uncertaint finances county officials in Orange, Ulster and Sullivan and area school districts officials are facing because of the pandemic and drop off in tax revenues.

“We don’t know where the road funding is going to be for NYSDOT and the New York State Thruway, so we definitely have some concerns,” Mr. Diorio said.

“It is kind of questionable.” Stephen Reich, business manager of Laborers Local No. 754 of Chestnut Ridge, NY, is also wary of work prospects moving forward, noting that the union has enjoyed significant project work volume over the last four years.

The union leadership was expecting an average work year in 2020 and noted that most of the work now being performed by the membership is work left over from 2019 projects.

“Right now, the outlook for Rockland is a little bit weak going forward because there is not a lot on the books,” he said.

He said that Local 754 is hopeful it will be securing some work from neighboring Locals in Westchester and Orange counties, where the word is they are expected to remain busy in 2021.

Mr. Reich said at least at the moment the union is not expecting a significant amount of public work (road projects) or utility work and is hopeful that it might secure some private projects to pick up the slack.

He added that there is not a lot of public work being put out to bid as he feels government officials are taking a wait and see approach to Covid-19 and its impacts on their budgets.

He noted that there may be some interior renovation work necessary in the near future for Amazon, which reportedly signed leases totaling some 200,000 square feet of space at two buildings in the Hudson Crossing Industrial Park in Blauvelt, NY. In addition, the union expects some work from projects securing financing from the Rockland Industrial Development Agency, which requires projects that obtain financing from the agency to pay workers prevailing wages.

The building trades are also working with Palisades Center Mall-owner Pyramid Companies to get the green light for its much-delayed expansion project at the West Nyack property.

The trades are also assisting the Town of Stony Point on the possible sale and redevelopment of the Patriot Hills Golf Course and 25 acres of adjoining Letchworth Village land.

$2B Power Line Clears Key Hurdle

By JOHN JORDAN

ALBANY-A proposed more than $2-billion underground transmission line from the New York Canadian border to Queens, NY has recently cleared a number of key hurdles to facilitate the start of construction next year.

With the closure of the Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor in April and the impending closure of the Indian Point 3 reactor in 2021, the addition of the 1,000-megawatt Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line is seen by a number of political and business leaders as critical to servicing the state’s energy needs going forward.

On Aug. 13, the New York State Public Service Commission granted the request by Transmission Developers Inc., a Blackstone portfolio company, to amend the certificate granted to Champlain Hudson Power Express, Inc. and approve a number of route changes for the transmission line that will extend approximately 330 miles from the New York/Canada border to a converter station in Astoria, Queens.

The transmission line, estimated by the developer to cost $2 billion, would be built underwater and underground along the entire length of the route, avoiding or minimizing visual and other potential environmental impacts.

“With this decision, we will allow the developer to make minor changes to the certificate to construct and operate a transmission project known as the Champlain Hudson Power Express Project,” said PSC Chair John B. Rhodes. “The transmission of renewable energy will enable the success of the state and New York City legislative programs aimed at curbing greenhouse gases, including the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”

 

 John Lacey, TDI spokesman, said of the latest approval for the project, “We are pleased that the New York State Public Service Commission has approved TDI’s application to make technical route changes to the Champlain Hudson Power Express. These changes were widely supported, and we look forward to beginning construction in 2021 and delivering benefits to New York including the creation of 2,000-plus construction jobs and new tax revenue.”

 The PSC allowed eight cable routing changes and a minor relocation of the converter station to the project. The developer requested minor changes to the route and of the converter station site to avoid shallow water engineering challenges, reduce rock removal and wetland impacts, accommodate community concerns and simplify the design of the converter station and the connecting electrical facilities.  Letters in support of the routing amendments were filed by the towns of Clarkstown, Stony Point, Haverstraw, and the Village of West Haverstraw.

“The transmission of renewable energy will enable the success of the state and New York City legislative programs aimed at curbing greenhouse gases, including the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”

– PSC Chair John B. Rhodes

On April 18, 2013, the commission granted a certificate to Champlain Hudson, authorizing the construction of the project. The project’s HVDC cable system will consist of two solid dielectric (i.e., no insulating fluids) electric cables, each approximately six inches in diameter. The cables will be installed either underwater or underground along the entire length of the project route. The project will have the capacity to transmit 1,000 MWs of electricity to New York City. It is anticipated that the electricity transmitted by the project will be primarily hydroelectric power. The transmission line is expected to produce enough power for more than 1 million homes.

 

According to the developer, the changes will result in the addition of about 5.8 miles of transmission circuit, or less than a 2% increase in the total project length. Specific changes to the route include the following:

  • relocating the route centerline in the towns of Clarkstown, Haverstraw, Stony Point and the villages of West Haverstraw, and Haverstraw from the railway ROW (right of way) to road ROW and certain other connecting properties; relocating the Astoria-Rainey cable under the streets in Queens, New York City;
  • relocating the converter station site within the Astoria Generating complex in Queens, New York City.
  • relocating the Catskill Creek crossing in the town and village of Catskill;
  • relocating the route centerline in the towns of Putnam and Dresden from underwater through the narrows of Lake Champlain, to upland road ROW;
  • relocating the route centerline in the towns of Fort Ann and Whitehall a short distance from the CSX railroad ROW to parallel alignment within Town road ROW;
  • relocating the railroad and street route centerline from the city of Schenectady to the village of Scotia and the towns of Rotterdam and Glenville to avoid recently redeveloped areas in Downtown Schenectady and
  • relocating the route centerline in the town of Bethlehem outside of the Selkirk railyards to road ROW, railroad ROW, and certain other connecting properties.

The developer, which has made a commitment to use union labor, estimates that the project will create approximately 1,000 construction jobs statewide and another 1,000 indirect jobs.  Localities will benefit from approximately $1.7 billion in new tax revenue over the first 30 years of the project, according to TDI estimates. In total from the start of construction through the first 30 years of operation, the project is expected to deliver approximately $28.6 billion in economic benefits to New York State.

Department of Public Service staff found that the modifications would not result in any material increase in environmental impacts and the proposed modifications to the previously certified route of the project will not result in a substantial change in the location of all or a portion of the project.

The Champlain Hudson Power Express recently received two authorizations, granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the International Boundary Commission that clear the way for the project to finalize transmission agreements and undertake construction activities at the U.S.-Canada border.

On May 29, FERC granted the project’s request for authority to sell transmission rights at negotiated rates. This allowed the project to conduct an Open Solicitation process, which began in June, and execute agreements with parties interested in transmitting power along the Champlain Hudson Power Express to New York City.

The second approval was received from the International Boundary Commission, an international organization responsible for surveying and mapping the United States-Canada border. This pre-construction approval allows construction of the project to be done at the border and is in addition to the previously received Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The project has received widespread support from organized labor.

For example, Armand E. Sabitoni, general secretary-treasurer and New England regional manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, expressed LIUNA’s support for the Champlain Hudson Power Express project in a July 17, 2020 viewpoint in the Middletown Times Herald Record.

Mr. Sabitoni in expressing his support for the Champlain Hudson project, noted that it is just one of a number of major energy projects in the pipeline. “One area where we have both need and opportunity is the state’s aging electrical infrastructure.

“It needs to be addressed not only for system reliability, but also to create a modern electrical system equipped with smart grid technology to power a green future throughout the Hudson Valley and all of New York,” Mr. Sabitoni stated.

Christopher Erikson, business manager of IBEW Local 3, also offered the union’s support for the transmission line development and other green/ energy projects in an opinion article published in the Gotham Gazette.

Mr. Erikson noted that “from an infrastructure and economic development perspective, there are some large projects waiting in the wings that will make a real difference in the lives of all New Yorkers. Investment is needed in transmission lines, onshore wind, solar, hydro, offshore wind, and improvements at our ports-renewable energy projects will put the men and women of this state back to work.  The Champlain Hudson Power Express is one such project.”

TDI’s Lacey said that construction is scheduled to start in 2021, but no construction schedule has been released to date. Mr. Lacey has stated in a published report earlier this year in S&P Global that TDI expects to reach financial close on the Champlain Hudson Power Express project by the end of this year.

Feds Scramble to Hammer Out New Transportation Funding Bill

By JOHN JORDAN

WASHINGTON—While construction industry advocacy organizations praised the passage of the Moving Forward Act transportation infrastructure bill earlier this month, they are pressing Congress to work out their differences before the current authorizations expire on Sept. 30.

The House passed the $1.5-trillion Moving Forward Act on July 1 and both the American Road & Transportation Builders Association and the Associated General Contractors Association applauded the measure and pressed the Senate to act quickly and work towards a final bill that can garner the approval of both houses of Congress.

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) President and CEO Dave Bauer stated, “The nation’s economic recovery post coronavirus would receive a huge longterm boost with the passage of a robust surface transportation investment bill. We commend the House for taking a positive step in that direction with its July 1 approval of The Moving Forward Act. The last thing states need during tumultuous times is more uncertainty about their 

Rep. Maloney MOVING FORWARD ACT PIC 0001 - web suitable
U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney was joined at a press conference on July 9 in New Windsor by Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus. Mr. Maloney noted that New York State would receive $23.6 billion in highway and mass transit funding from the Moving Forward Act.

share of federal highway and public transit funding. Short-term program extensions are not the solution and would only add insult to injury.” He added, “We urge the Senate to move forward quickly on its version of a multi-year reauthorization bill. Final bicameral action is imperative before the current FAST Act law expires Sept. 30.”

The chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America, Stephen E. Sandherr, also released a statement in response to the passage of the Moving Forward Act by the House that called for a more bipartisan effort to enact much-needed transportation infrastructure funding. “House Democratic leaders rightlyunderstand the scope of the nation’s infrastructure challenges and the suggested funding levels in their infrastructure measure could lead to significant, and much-needed, improvements. However, virtually every meaningful infrastructure legislation that has been enacted in the past 65 years has enjoyed broad bipartisan, bicameral support. Unfortunately, today’s vote makes it clear that this measure does not have the same widespread support as its predecessors,” he said. “One reason is that many of the measure’s provisions do more to accommodate the wishes of special interests than solve infrastructure needs. This could undermine the bill’s ability to boost employment and needed economic growth.” He concluded, “The vote should be the start of a sincere and earnest process to craft a measure that will garner widespread support among both parties, in both houses. The end goal should be enacting a measure that will have the largest possible impact on improving the nation’s aging and overburdened infrastructure.”

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Executive Director Jim Tymon also called for more bipartisan efforts in Congress. In a statement in response to the passage of the Moving Forward Act by the House, Mr. Tymon said, “Now that the House has passed H.R. 2, we urge the House and Senate leadership to pursue a bipartisan approach to transportation reauthorization that must be passed before September 30. We firmly believe the best policy outcomes arise when both parties come together to find the right blend of forward-thinking commonsense solutions.” He noted that the AASHTO Board of Directors representing state DOTs from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico approved a set of surface transportation reauthorization priorities in 2019 that focused on increased funding for all programs; maintaining the flexibility and maximizing the funding of current core formula programs; addressing climate change and resiliency; improving project delivery; and meeting the infrastructure needs of rural and urban areas. “We look forward to working with Congress on bipartisan solutions that will uphold these priorities to ensure a robust, modern, and resilient national transportation system,” Mr. Tymon added.

“A sustainable recovery from this economic crisis will require bold, comprehensive plans to reinvigorate our cities and towns, and there’s no better way to do that than through new transportation and infrastructure projects.”

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY-18)

U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DNY- 18), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Chair of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, said the Moving Forward Act would bring $23.6 billion to New York State in highway and transit funding in addition to funding schools, clean energy, water and housing infrastructure projects. He called the bill a “gamechanger when it comes to strengthening our infrastructure and will be a real shot in the arm for communities that need new investments and good paying

jobs after the pandemic. A sustainable recovery from this economic crisis will require bold, comprehensive plans to reinvigorate our cities and towns, and there’s no better way to do that than through new transportation and infrastructure projects,” Rep. Maloney said.

Additionally, Rep. Maloney’s bill, the “Bridge Investment Act”, was included in the “Invest in America Act,” a large portion of the Moving Forward Act. The bill will invest $28 billion to repair America’s 47,000+ structurally-deficient bridges. In New York’s 18th Congressional District alone, more than 11% of bridges—190 total—are in poor (or worse) condition, and require major improvements.

Among the key provisions of the Moving Forward Act include:

  • Invests nearly $500 billion to rebuild and reimagine the nation’s transportation infrastructure by fixing roads and bridges, improving safety, reducing gridlock, and putting the U.S. on a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector by cutting carbon pollution, investing in public transit and the national rail network, building out fueling infrastructure for low- and zero-emission vehicles, and deploying technology and innovative materials. These projects will benefit from strong Buy America provisions and labor protections for American workers. The surface transportation provisions in the bill are the product of the INVEST in America Act, which Rep. Maloney helped amend and strengthen as the bill was debated in the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.
  • Invests in schools with the Reopen and Rebuild America’s Schools Act, which funds $130 billion in school infrastructure targeted at high-poverty schools with facilities that endanger the health and safety of students, educators, and support staff. This investment will help students get back to school and create more than two million jobs to help workers get back to work.
  • Addresses structural challenges and upgrades childcare facilities by leveraging a five-year, $10 billion federal investment to generate additional state and private investments in making sure that childcare settings are safe, appropriate, and able to comply with current and future public health directives.
  • Invests more than $100 billion into the nation’s affordable housing infrastructure to create or preserve 1.8 million affordable homes. These investments will help reduce housing inequality, create jobs and stimulate the broader economy, increase community and household resiliency in the face of natural disasters, improve hazardous living conditions, and increase the environmental sustainability of our housing stock.
  • Protects access to safe drinking water by investing more than $25 billion in the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and other programs to ensure all communities have clean drinking water and to help remove dangerous contaminants like PFAS from local water systems.
  • Modernizes the nation’s energy infrastructure for a clean energy future by investing more than $70 billion to transform the electric grid to accommodate more renewable energy, expand renewable energy, strengthen existing infrastructure, help develop an electric vehicle charging network, and support energy efficiency, weatherization and Smart Communities infrastructure.
  • Delivers affordable high-speed broadband Internet access to all parts of the country by investing $100 billion to promote competition for broadband Internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities, prioritizing those with persistent poverty. Gets children connected to remote learning, closes broadband adoption and digital skills gaps and enhances payment support for low-income households and the recently unemployed.
  • Modernizes the nation’s health care infrastructure by investing $30 billion to upgrade hospitals to increase capacity and strengthen care, help community health centers respond to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies, improve clinical laboratory infrastructure, support the Indian Health Service‘s infrastructure and increase capacity for community-based care.
  • Modernizes and strengthens the United States Postal Service by investing $25 billion to modernize postal infrastructure and operations, including a zero emissions postal vehicle fleet, processing equipment and other goods.
  • Promotes new renewable energy infrastructure by incentivizing the development of wind and solar on public lands and building a workforce for offshore wind.
  • Promotes investments in communities by spurring private investment through the tax code, through a revitalized Build America Bonds program, expansions of Private Activity Bonds, and significant enhancements to the New Markets Tax Credit and the Rehabilitation Tax Credit.

Meanwhile, last July, the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works committee unanimously – 21 to 0 in July 2019. The bill authorized $287 billion over five years, including $259 billion for programs to maintain and repair the country’s aging roads and bridges. The dysfunctional Congress at least at first blush is nowhere near a compromise on federal transportation funding. U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, delivered a blistering rebuke of the House Democrats’ infrastructure legislation. He said the bill was partisan and “is a road to nowhere. “It is going to see no light of day in the United States Senate.” The current highway infrastructure authorization bill, known as the FAST Act, expires on Sept. 30, 2020.

July 2020 Construction News cover article

Local Road Programs Advance; Officials Told, ‘Use It Or Lose It’

By GEORGE DRAPEAU III

ALBANY – Following months of campaigning by local highway superintendents, construction industry executives and hundreds of individual workers, three stalwart funding programs have been given the green light to proceed by New York State’s Office of the Budget, which announced in early June it will release funding to local municipalities to repair and maintain local roads, bridges and culverts.

The unprecedented fiscal and organizational strains caused by the COVID-19 

“The vast majority of New York’s 1,600 municipalities receive no federal highway assistance, which is why we fight like hell to ensure your public works programs are supported every year in the state’s fiscal year budget.”

Ross J. Pepe & John Cooney, Jr. – Construction Industry Council

pandemic on New York State—and the concurrent uncertainties placed on public spending at every level of government—had delayed the allocation letters to municipalities from the Budget Office. This caused a setback for projects funded through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS), PAVENY, and the Extreme Weather Recovery Program, as well as BRIDGE NY. These programs are the financial lifeblood of New York’s local highway departments. Essential roads and bridges repairs and improvements are only made possible through these longtime funding formulas available to local government.

“We were extremely heartened two weeks ago when the word came from the New York Office of the Budget that statewide allocations for CHIPS and Marchiselli funding appropriations are now available to municipalities,” said Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Inc. Mr. Pepe and CIC Executive Director John Cooney, Jr., wrote to hundreds of elected leaders and public works officials in a seven-county region, urging them to proceed with their capital programs as quickly as they can. “The vast majority of New York’s 1,600 municipalities receive no federal highway assistance, which is why we fight like hell to ensure your public works programs are supported every year in the state’s fiscal year budget,” they wrote.

There are several reasons that make this appeal so urgent, Messrs. Pepe and Cooney explained. “Time is working against us at this point. The pressure currently placed on New York’s highway contracting community and the shortened season due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have compressed New York’s season to begin public works projects, which typically start up in May and continue through October. This time frame makes the situation of local highway infrastructure funding unique—and critical. If we delay, it might be too late for these essential infrastructure projects to be completed during this year.”

The association executives also noted that these local road funding programs are “use it or lose it” propositions. “You as an elected official with fiduciary responsibilities for your community must take action as the guardian of both the fiscal and physical safety of your citizens. Equally pressing is the need to allocate these funds in this 2020 construction season. Rollover balances may be jeopardized as the state works out ways to backstop next year’s forecasted reductions due to reduced federal COVID relief money and the expected decline in personal income tax revenues to the state. In otherm words, you must demonstrate to Albany now that you are spending every highway dollar available to you to ensure your allocations next year won’t be reduced.”

The 2020-21 enacted budget included $438 million for CHIPS, $39.7 million for the Marchiselli program, $100 million for PAVENY, $100 million for BRIDGE-NY and $65 million for Extreme Winter Recovery (EWR).

Messrs. Pepe and Cooney added, “We urge you to spend your local road funding on projects that maintain and improve your local infrastructure. Spending this money now will also put thousands of local residents back to work at this time of historically high unemployment to significantly benefit the local and state economy.”

Municipalities procuring road and bridge construction services each receive a chunk of CHIPS funding annually, determined through a calculation in the State Highway Law. While several factors are considered, the two most influential in how much is doled out are the inventory of roadways and motor vehicle registrations, according to the state Department of Transportation.

It was also estimated by the state Association of Town Superintendents of Highways that 87% of the state’s roads and over half of its bridges are owned and maintained by local government.

June 2020 Construction News cover article

Reopening to New Workplace Protocols, Stronger Calls for Infrastructure Investment

By JOHN JORDAN

ALBANY—Following 86 days of “New York on Pause,” broad swaths of construction and building activities in the Mid-Hudson region resumed on May 26. The good news arrived along with a lengthy list of new jobsite and office practices and protocols to protect workers and the public from the coronoavirus.

The Mid-Hudson became the eighth region in New York to reopen and will possibly reach Phase Two on June 9. Long Island reopened on Wed., May 27 and at press time New York City is expected to reach all seven metrics by June 8 for Phase One reopening.

The broader economy of the Mid- Hudson region had been all but shuttered since March 22, with the exception of essential businesses since the first of a number of executive orders from the state.

During one of his daily news briefing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on May 27 called for an aggressive national infrastructure campaign to restart the economy and create jobs. “Let’s do something creative. Let’s do it fast. Let’s put Americans back to work and let’s make America better,” he said, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“For the past two months, the civil side of construction was lucky to operate through the shutdown, despite the many supply disruptions and evolving workplace requirements,” said John Cooney, Jr., executive director of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “We weren’t just flying the plane while we were building it. We were being asked to design it on the fly as well. This was completely unique in my 40 years of experience in construction.”

Going forward, he said there will be many revisions and changes likely. “This is going to be our way of life and how we earn our way to build our projects,” he explained on a Zoom meeting call to the membership of the trade association. “The first two jobs will always be to mitigate the spread of the disease and to keep our jobs going, in that order. As these regulations change, we will change too.” The program featured CIC Legal Counsel Thomas H. Welby, Esq., PE, and partner Thomas Tripodianos, Esq., of Welby, Brady & Greenblatt, LLP, answering questions posed live and online by CIC members.

Gov. Cuomo said that reopenings have been different in regions all across the state, but virtually all regions with the exception of New York City have met the same criteria to reopen. Specific to the construction industry, phase one reopens the following segments of the construction trades:
          • Building Equipment Contractors
          • Building Finishing Contractors
          • Foundation, Structure, and Building Exterior Contractors
          • Highway, Street and Bridge Construction
          • Land Subdivision
          • Nonresidential Building Construction
          • Residential Building Construction
          • Utility System Construction

While the civil side of construction continued through the “On Pause” period, non-essential commercial and residential was told to stand down. “If there was a silver lining during this stay-at-home period, it might be that public work projects were permitted to proceed at accelerated schedules because of the lack of traffic and human activity in or around jobsites,” said CIC President Ross Pepe. “These temporary closures enabled transportation and utility crews to jump on work and chew up some backlog.”

In Orange County, much of the commercial construction activities on a centerpiece project, the LEGOLAND New York Resort in Goshen, NY, were suspended, with only the infrastructure portion of the project on Route 17 permitted to continue during the “On Pause” period. On the first day back to work, Stephanie Johnson, general manager of enterprise, remarked, “We are excited LEGOLAND New York Resort has resumed construction for its 2021 opening following New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval for the Mid-Hudson Region to begin Phase 1 of reopening. Safety remains our highest priority and enhanced safety procedures to our operations have been introduced, in full compliance with the New York State requirements and best practice guidelines.” The governor’s Executive Order in March shut down the construction of the theme park, but did not halt infrastructure-related work, particularly on the construction of a new exit on Route 17 leading to the $350 million resort property. Among the recreation and leisuretime sectors, campgrounds and RV parks were opened statewide for the Memorial Day weekend statewide.

During his daily COVID-19 briefing on May 22, Gov. Cuomo said that in anticipation of the reopening, he would allow construction staging to commence  in both regions.

The governor’s announcement of the reopening on May 26 for the Mid- Hudson was welcome news to business leaders, government officials and unemployed workers in the Mid-Hudson that have been anxiously awaiting the beginning of the phased reopening of the region. In recent days, county executives and other politicos, including U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, have said the Mid-Hudson region was poised and ready to begin the first phase of the reopening. “All of the cranes that you’ve seen that had to stop because they were not considered essential construction projects can now get restarted,” Westchester County Executive George Latimer said. “The men and women that work on those projects, the carpenters, the plumbers, the electricians, they go back to work.”

Rockland County Executive Ed Day said that, post COVID-19, residents and some businesses now based in New York City may look at counties in the Mid-Hudson as an attractive lifestyle alternative. “I think that folks in New York City are going to find places such as Westchester, Rockland and Orange and other counties in the Mid-Hudson region very attractive to them when they find they don’t have to go to New York City to work,” Mr. Day said. “They can come up to Westchester and Rockland and other places nearby and earn a living.”

It is believed that in two weeks the Mid-Hudson could qualify for phase two of the reopening, which would involve the professional services, retail, administrative support and real estate/ rental and leasing sectors. However, the governor’s office has stated that the governor has the discretion to move a region into another phase. At the May 26 press conference Mr. Latimer said he believes it will take at least two weeks for any region to qualify for an advancement to a higher phase. Phase three involves restaurants/ food services businesses and the final phase reopens segments of the arts/ entertainment/recreation and education sectors.

New $100M Small Business Loan Fund Launched
On May 22, the governor announced the launch of the $100-million New York Forward Loan Fund to provide flexible and affordable loans to help small businesses, focusing on minority and women owned small businesses, that did not receive federal COVID-19 assistance. Officials noted that the state will take a smart, targeted approach for distributing these loans, focusing on businesses with 20 or fewer employees and less than $3 million in gross revenues. Businesses interested in receiving a loan should visit esd.ny.gov/nyforwardloans.

Contractors Applying ‘Best Practices’ to Protect Workers, General Public from Virus Spread

By GEORGE DRAPEAU III

TARRYTOWN, NY—The construction industry is doing all it can to protect the general public from the spread of COVID-19. Operating under the notice to proceed from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on March 18, construction crews are pressing forward with infrastructure renewal projects as well as building programs in the downstate region.
Contractors and suppliers expressed hope that key personnel and crews can continue to deliver their projects to public and private owners. On Fri., March 20, all nonessential employees have been ordered to work from home, by order of Gov. Cuomo, starting Sun., March 22.
Businesses that violate the governor’s order will be subject to fines or forced closure, the governor said, adding, “This is not life as usual.”
Construction continues to operate as an essential service under an executive order issued by Gov. Cuomo in mid- March. Except for occasional projects, which have been slowed or delayed due to staffing shortages or proximity to quarantined communities, employers and leaders of organized labor are taking each day as it comes.
The operations of heavy civil and utility contractors continue to push ahead to protect and upgrade water resource and utility sectors.

Construction is ‘Essential’ - A third state executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on March 20, designating the industry as an “Essential Business,” directed contractors and suppliers to proceed. Crews like those working on the White Plains Hospital on March 17 are showing up fit for duty, and public agencies are planning to continue with bid lettings for projects. Photo Credit/DAVID ROCCO
Electrical workers throughout the region are climbing into bucket trucks and onto lift equipment to ensure telecommunication service remains uninterrupted. Heavy construction highway crews are still reporting to work on interstate, state and local projects to maintain and improve mobility in the region. “Construction work is continuing— we’re hoping for the best, but we’re planning for the worst to ensure everyone is safe, protected and productive,” said John Cooney, Jr., executive director of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. “Crews are showing up fit for duty, and public agencies are planning to continue with bid lettings for projects, even if work-arounds to accommodate social distancing, are ironed out.”
Mr. Cooney added, “But the manner in which the industry is now working can only be described as hyper-attentive to changing conditions. There are so many moving parts and all the parts are moving all the time. But the one thing I do know is that we’re taking the threat of contracting the virus as seriously as is humanly possible.”

“Crews are showing up fit for duty and public agencies are planning to continue with bid lettings for projects, even as workarounds to accommodate social distancing are ironed out.”


—John Cooney, Jr., Construction Industry Council

The construction industry is making every effort possible to keep workers and the public safe and to mitigate COVID-19 transmission risk on the job site. The industry is working under the policy of if you’re sick at all, stay home; if you’ve been in contact with someone with the coronavirus, stay home and get tested. And if you came into contact with someone rumored to have the virus, call before you report to work to determine next steps.

Speaking to CONSTRUCTION NEWS on Fri., March 20, one major contractor in the region announced that 50% of company’s office staff will begin working remotely, on a rotating basis, starting Mon., March 23. His team members, which include corporate legal and safety professionals, spelled out their provisions and protocols for the shop/ yard staff, salaried field employees, and the strict protocols for the many union crews on projects in the region.
The company is also “distributing comprehensive job hazard analysis notices to our subcontractors and vendors detailing its ‘zero-tolerance policy’ to drive home the point that if they have folks on-site that are symptomatic or feeling ill they need them to stay home,” the company’s legal counsel said.
The executive order from the governor on March 20 amended the requirement that all employers undertake workforce reductions (from 75% the previous day to 100%); Gov. Cuomo again excluded construction activity from this edict because it is considered an “essential business.” Until further notice, therefore, the industry is exempt from this executive order to enforce workforce reductions.
A veteran safety director in the downstate heavy-highway industry, who preferred to remain anonymous, noted that the health risks his work crews experience are different from other industries and sectors. “The majority of our work is isolated from the public; they do not have access to our work locations. We’re not working in the city like a building contractor. We’re spread out.” He said his company is sending daily reminders of personal hygiene requirements. “If the work requires the worker to be in a respirator then we make sure the individual is fit tested for the respirator for the task at hand,” he related. He also cautioned about the widespread images of disposable dust masks. “For one, it sends a false sense of security, and if you wear a dust mask all day when you go to take it off whatever might be on the filtration of the mask you’ve now put it on your hands.” He characterized his company’s safety policy efforts as “vigilant enforcement.”
On Wed., March 18, construction activity continued in the New York downstate region, with bucket trucks, cranes and crews showing up on both low-rise and hi-rise projects as well. “The work is ongoing,” said Jeff Loughlin, Business Manager of Operating Engineers 137 of Briarcliff Manor, NY. “But it’s very serious, and on construction
sites everyone is mindful of ‘Best Practices’ to mitigate risk and halt the spread of the virus. So far, we’re all reporting for work healthy and
we are taking extensive precautions to protect our crews and their families.”
In the Mid-Hudson region of Orange County, a major asphalt installer, Argenio Brothers, Inc., in New Windsor, NY on Thurs, March 19 said, “So far, the business is continuing,”according to company principal Genaro Argenio. “The supply chain has been slightly interrupted and our ability to get materials has been hampered, but we’re trying to push forward.”

Mr. Argenio said he has worked extensively with his professional advisors, OSHA and industry experts to ensure that all the pronouncements required to inform and protect workers and the general public have been followed. “I spent two days examining OSHA directives, speaking to lawyers and insurance professionals to ensure we got the verbiage right. We have to be very careful as managers and owners to be extremely accurate and direct when we communicate with our 

“Teamsters are going to work each day in municipalities, cleaning the buildings and picking up sanitation. They’re the ‘unsung heroes,’ cleaning city hall, town halls, nursing homes and healthcare facilities.”

—Louis A. Picani, Teamsters L.U. 456

employees,” he said. Mr. Argenio applauded Gov. Cuomo for designating construction an essential business to continue when other industries have been told to halt operations. “Construction being exempt from stoppage is the right thing to do. That’s where the money starts, and the economy starts—at the ground level. Good infrastructure is essential to maintain our quality of life.”
Another leader of organized labor, Louis Picani, president of Teamsters Local 456 in Elmsford, NY, reported only a mild slowdown of employment in his union local, which he attributed to seasonal adjustments of work in the building and construction industries and not necessarily related to precautions to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus. “The public sector has altered work scheduling in the municipalities, towns, cities and villages, which is the front line of efforts to protect residents,” he said. “So yes, there has been a slight drop off in hours worked. Construction is slowing down, but that’s typical for this time of year during the late winter season.” He said the Teamster local is in contact with state officials in Albany and with other trade locals to increase training to qualify his members to handle hazardous materials.
“We have been in touch with the Governor’s office to be certified to collect and transport hazardous materials—those red bags that are placed outside. These materials need to be picked up and delivered properly to certified facilities.” He added, “Teamsters are going to work each day in municipalities, cleaning the buildings and picking up sanitation. They’re the ‘unsung heroes,’ cleaning city hall, town halls, nursing homes and health facilities. Yes, let’s salute the public officials and the health care workers for the great work they’re doing. But let’s not forget the unsung heroes who are putting themselves at risk every day.”
As of March 21, the statement from NYSDOT issued earlier in the week —that to combat the spread of COVID-19, nonessential NYSDOT employees will work from home until further notice, and that “All highway maintenance and active construction projects will continue as planned”— remained the operative and most current directive to the construction industry.

Westchester County Sets 20% ‘Realistic’ MWBE Goals

TARRYTOWN—An official with Westchester County tasked with revising new hiring goals for its minority and women business enterprise program (MWBE) said that Westchester intends to establish an MWBE participation goal of 20% on construction projects. The county is also setting a goal of 20% for professional services and 10% for the purchase of goods. 

“We will now have the time to work with the Latimer Administration for a plan having realistic long-term goal setting and program features that offer reasonable rules and procedures.” —Ross Pepe, CIC President

Westchester County Director of Economic Development Bridget Gibbons informed members of the county’s MWBE Task Force on Jan. 15 that the county intends to establish the MWBE participation goals for the three categories following four months of research and meetings. Ross Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc., headquartered here and a member of the county’s MWBE Task Force, said the new 20% participation policy is workable for the industry. Based on the limited availability and numbers of companies that are registered as MWBE firms, the construction industry strongly objected to the higher quotas. “We will now have time to work with the Latimer Administration for a plan having realistic long-term goal setting and program features that offer reasonable rules and procedures,” Mr. Pepe said. Ms. Gibbons added in her memo to task force members that the newly established percentages will be increased over time to be aligned with New York State’s goals of 30% MWBE participation. Other MWBE program changes are also in the offing and were to be announced at an upcoming press conference by county government. Westchester County Executive George Latimer formed the county’s MWBE Task Force in August 2018 chaired by Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins. The task force was charged with expanding opportunities for MWBE firm in Westchester County. On another front, Westchester County government and the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester and Putnam Counties, Inc. and other industry interests are in ongoing discussions concerning workforce rules pertaining to development projects that secure incentives from the Westchester County Industrial Development Agency.

Coalition Urges Gov. Cuomo, Lawmakers To Boost NYSDOT Long-Term Capital Plan

By JOHN JORDAN

ELMSFORD, NY—A coalition of leading trade associations called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to increase capital spending for the maintenance, repair and replacement of the state’s road and bridge network by at least 20% in the upcoming budget cycle. At a press conference held on Jan. 17 in Westchester, construction industry executives united under the banner Rebuild NY Now joined with officials of organized labor and elected officials to decry the conditions of roadways in Westchester County. The representatives were unanimous in their call to renew NYSDOT’s multi-year capital plan, which expires on March 31, 2020. The group said based on the backlog of projects and systemic deferred maintenance, the program must be increased from $29.2 billion to at least $35 billion over the coming five years.

The event, organized by Rebuild NY Now, was hosted by Teamsters L.U. 456. Among those calling for more transportation funding were State Sen. Shelley Mayer, Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. Both officials termed the state’s infrastructure as a crisis.

New York State Senator Shelley Mayer (D-WF 37th District) was among a host of state, county and local officials on hand to support Rebuild NY Now’s call for a significant increase in road and bridge funding by New York State. The event was held at the headquarters at Teamsters L.U. 456 in Elmsford, NY. Photo Credit/DAVID ROCCO

The Rebuild NY Now coalition is looking to sway Gov. Cuomo for the need for increased road and bridge spending in advance of the 2020 budget which begins April 1. The governor and State Legislature are facing a $6-billion budget gap, due mainly to rising Medicaid costs. Theresa Burke, secretary of the New York State Association of Town Superintendents of Highways, said that nearly half of New York State’s local roads and bridges are in fair or poor condition. She added that local governments statewide would have to spend an additional $1.75 billion annually (not including New York City’s infrastructure) just to bring the system up to the level of good repair. Ms. Burke, who is Highway Superintendent for the Town of Red Hook in Dutchess County, said that the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIPs) should be increased in the 2020-2021 budget from $438 million a year to $588 million; the Bridge New York program should have funding raised from $100 million a year to $200 million; the Pave New York funding levels hiked from $100 million to $200 million and local and federal construction ratcheted up from $100 million to $200 million. Among her other recommendations included the creation of a five-year $400-million City Routes program to assist municipalities charged with maintaining state tourism routes, including necessary sewer, water and utility work. Ms. Burke also related that the state should determine whether the Marchiselli Program is adequately funded at its current annual level of $39.7 million. “These suggested increases are necessary in order to provide the public with a safe and functional transportation system, one that supports jobs and economic growth for our communities,” she said.

State Sen. Peter Harckham (D-WF 40th District) believes the state can find the revenue to adequately fund highway and bridge repairs, in spite of a $6-billion state budget deficit. Photo Credit/DAVID ROCCO

“This is such an important partnership,” added Sen. Shelley Mayer (D-Westchester). “Rebuild NY Now pledges to push the executive (branch) to put the money into the budget for a five-year capital plan that makes sense for all of our districts, all of our regions and all of the state—and our neighbors and our friends—who are busy in good union jobs doing the work that we know needs to be done.”

Sen. Mayer said that she and her colleagues have fought hard to secure funding for I-684 improvements and for Route 100 (Central Avenue) from Tuckahoe Road south—upgrades that were both not part of NYSDOT’s five-year capital plan.

“These are essential parts of our infrastructure and should be part of our five-year plan,” she said. “They should be long term structural investments that make sense for the drivers and the people of our community.”

John Cooney, Jr., executive director of the Tarrytown-based Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. (CIC) said, “Funding of our infrastructure is a smart investment. Our investment is falling behind. It puts people to work and provides living-wage jobs.”

In subsequent testimony to a New York State panel on transportation, Mr. Cooney emphasized, “It is evident that our federal government continues to neglect highway funding, so it becomes the responsibility of all states, including New York State, to increase the level of highway spending to address the backlog and stay current with maintenance and improvements.”

Among the host of elected officials who offered remarks at the press event included State Sen. Peter Harckham, who said that examples of the state’s crumbling infrastructure are evident on many state roads and bridges and should make the case for “the pressing need to repair, restore and renovate our critical infrastructure, especially roadways, bridges and transportation hubs.”

While acknowledging Gov. Cuomo’s call for a $3-billion environmental bond act and a projected $6-billion budget deficit, Sen. Harckham told CONSTRUCTION NEWS that the state can find the necessary revenue and funding sources to improve its roads and bridges. He noted that lending rates are at historic low levels at the moment.

“It’s time for comprehensive investments in our state’s infrastructure, strong,

Westchester County Executive George Latimer stressed that the federal government must also help fund the improvement of the region’s deteriorating road network and pass a long-term transportation funding plan. Photo Credit/DAVID ROCCO

collaborative leadership and a momentous commitment to assessing what needs to be done—and then completing the work,” Sen. Harckham said. “Moreover, these investments are proven to grow our economy, attract business and create good-paying jobs.” On Tues., Jan. 21 Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his FY2020-21 budget proposal containing his proposal for a two-year, $11.9 billion plan for the state’s DOT capital program.

“We are disappointed with the two-year term of the proposed capital plan but we understand that it is impractical to plan an overall transportation investment lacking a federal highway authorization,” CIC’s Mr. Cooney opined. “We encourage all New York State government leaders to fund a NYSDOT five-year capital plan in the range of $35 billion to $40 billion as soon as a federal highway funding plan is reauthorized.”

A host of organized labor leaders were on hand at the Jan. 17 press conference in Elmsford, NY, to lend support to the Rebuild NY Now’s efforts. Among the members of organized labor included: Edward Doyle, president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties; Jeff Loughlin, business manager of Operating Engineers L.U. 137; Stephen J. Reich, business manager of Laborers L.U. 754; Anthony Ascencao, business manager of Laborers L.U. 60 and Barry Russell, business manager of Teamster’s L.U. 445. Teamsters L.U. 456 President Louis Picani said the turnout at the event and participation by the many construction management and organized labor organizations, along with the support of elected officials from state, county and local governments, clearly show that infrastructure funding must be a priority. More than 80 people attended the press conference and rally.

“The neglect and erosion of infrastructure in New York State and here in Westchester County is an unfortunate sight,” Mr. Picani said. “We were provided with strong infrastructure proudly built by generations before us and because of the lack of maintenance those foundations that were once resilient are now crumbling beyond repair.” He continued, “Rebuilding and revitalizing our transportation infrastructure should be prioritized to address the crucial role for employees of present and future generations. Action needs to be taken immediately to remedy this infrastructure crisis as conditions are worsening with each passing day.”

Westchester County Executive Latimer said the county has been attempting to increase capital spending on county roadways and noted that the federal government must also commit to increased spending and a long-term transportation infrastructure spending plan. “Federal infrastructure improvement should be the bi-partisan issue of America today,” Mr. Latimer said. “There should be a discussion of the ways and means but not a discussion of the necessity of doing it.”

An aligned organization called 17-Forward-86 is advocating for $500 million to be included in the next NYSDOT capital plan to fund the expansion of Route 17 in Orange County and to undertake the improvements needed to upgrade the vital roadway to federal interstate standards to become I-86.

$1.7-Billion Project in South Bronx

With Sheridan Expressway Upgrades Now Complete, Gov. Launches $598M Design-Build Highway Plan

NEW YORK—Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Dec. 11 that the $75-million transformation of the Sheridan Expressway from an interstate highway to a pedestrian friendly boulevard is now complete, giving South Bronx residents and visitors a direct connection to the Bronx River waterfront and Starlight Park.

The transformational project is part of a $1.8 billion state investment in the South Bronx that was detailed by the governor. With the new and improved Sheridan project now complete, the governor also announced that work is now underway on a $598 million design-build highway improvement in the South Bronx, the first phase of a massive, $1.7-billion project to transform the neighborhood by reconstructing the interchange of the Bruckner Expressway and new Sheridan Boulevard, and improving access to the Hunts Point Market. 

“For far too long, South Bronx residents have contended with noise, traffic and physical barriers that have limited mobility and economic growth,” Gov. Cuomo said.

A rendering of the improvements to the Sheridan Expressway, part of a $1.7-billion project to transform the adjoining South Bronx neighborhood.

“Even worse, generations of children had to contend with the pollution and asthma from truck traffic in the community. The new and improved Sheridan Boulevard corrects the planning mistakes of the past by protecting the health and safety of the South Bronx, by reconnecting local neighborhoods, and by improving access to the nearby Bronx River waterfront and parks.” He added, “The new Hunts Point project will build upon that success, further connecting the neighborhood to parks and the waterfront while reducing traffic on local streets and making it easier than ever to access the Hunts Point Market and the significant commerce it generates in the borough and throughout the entire region.”

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., said, “This project has transformed an outdated interstate highway into a boulevard giving residents and visitors a direct connection to the Bronx waterfront and parks. This project realizes a vision Bronx residents have dreamed of for decades, and truly could not have happened without the governor’s leadership, and I thank him for helping to ensure the Bronx continues to grow and thrive for generations to come.

” The Sheridan Boulevard project reconfigured the Sheridan Expressway into an urban boulevard, reconnecting the Crotona Park, West Farms and Soundview neighborhoods. It includes three new crosswalks, as well as a new two-way bikeway along Edgewood Road leading to Starlight Park and the Bronx River Greenway.  A new pedestrian bridge over the Bronx River connects StarlightPark to the multi-use path across the river and provides continuous travel for pedestrians and cyclists along the Bronx River Greenway. 

The Hunts Point project, to be completed in three phases, will provide direct access to the Hunts Point Market from both the Bruckner Expressway and the new Sheridan Boulevard. The market is one of the largest wholesale food distribution centers in the world. More than 78,000 vehicles travel to the Hunts Point Peninsula daily—including 13,000 trucks using local roads—which has contributed to poor air quality in the community. The highway redesign will take traffic off local roadways, significantly reducing both noise and air pollution in a borough with some of the highest asthma rates in the country. The transformational project is expected to create 22,000 new jobs. Beginning this month, the first phase of the project will build three new ramps—a two-way ramp from Edgewater Road to the Sheridan and a ramp from eastbound Bruckner Expressway to Edgewater Road. It will replace four bridges over Bronx River Avenue and
Amtrak/CSX rail lines, as well as improve the intersection of Bruckner Boulevard and Hunts Point Avenue. The current overgrown Garrison Park will be transformed, giving residents access to the Bronx River. It also will construct a shared-use path between Concrete Plant Park and Garrison Park, enhancing safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. The project will improve the Lafayette Avenue intersection and build two new shared use paths along Edgewater Road and Bruckner Boulevard westbound. Under the Bronx River Avenue viaduct, new open space along the Bronx River will be constructed for the community. The portion of the Bryant Avenue pedestrian bridge spanning over Amtrak/CSX will be replaced. The project is being managed by the New York State Department of Transportation and is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2022. New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “This initiative will reduce congestion and enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists in the South Bronx, improving access to the Hunts Point Market, drawing the community together and connecting it with the Bronx River and local parks.” The Hunts Point Market is a vital economic engine for the Bronx, generating more than $2 billion in annual economic activity, state officials noted. It attracts tens of thousands of vehicles per day, which use local streets—particularly Westchester Avenue and Bruckner Boulevard— to go to and from the interstate highway network. The overall reconstruction project will transform the local roadway system by creating 
a flyover ramp from the new Sheridan Boulevard and a new eastbound exit from the Bruckner Expressway to Edgewater Road, which feeds directly into the market. The Sheridan ramp will remove heavy traffic and idling trucks from local roads and is expected to reduce travel time by an average of 30% for each truck that now travels on local streets. For westbound traffic on the Bruckner, the second phase of the Hunts Point project will construct new entrance and exit ramps at Leggett Avenue for more direct access to the market. The third phase of the project will eliminate the bottleneck at the Bruckner/Sheridan interchange by adding a third lane to the Bruckner in both directions. New signing and pavement markings will direct auto, truck and pedestrian traffic within the Hunts Point Peninsula.