By Andrew Tangel and Mike Vilensky
A proposal by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to tighten oversight of
major transportation and construction projects is raising questions
among critics who fear it will be a costly addition to the
The administration's recently released budget documents contain
the little-noted proposal to create an agency that could oversee
public construction projects worth more than $50 million.
The entity, the New York State Design and Construction Corp.,
would be a subsidiary of the state Dormitory Authority, an agency
better known for financing university and health-care
The goal, according to Mr. Cuomo's budget documents, is to
"provide additional project management expertise and oversight on
significant public works projects" as a way to "optimize
efficiency, cost and quality."
The construction entity would be overseen by a board of three
members designated by the governor.
That has fueled worries that Mr. Cuomo is seeking to assert more
control over independent public agencies such as the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority, whose 21-member board also includes
representatives of New York City and counties served by the MTA's
Word of the proposal has puzzled and concerned a number of
people in the construction companies, consulting firms and
government agencies involved with major projects such as the Javits
Center, Second Avenue Subway or Tappan Zee Bridge, according to
"We should fix the infrastructure bureaucracies we already have,
rather than create new ones," said Nicole Gelinas, a senior fellow
at the think tank the Manhattan Institute. "Cuomo already has ample
oversight over the MTA...If he thinks it performs poorly on
megaprojects, he should fix it."
A spokeswoman for the governor said the new system is intended
to streamline projects.
"The state is committed to ensuring that all complex and large
infrastructure projects are delivered on time, on budget and that
the use of public taxpayer dollars is maximized," she said, adding
that "this new process will provide the uniformity, consistency,
and coordination to meet this goal."
The plan has drawn early criticism in Albany from some
"This is a power grab by Gov. Cuomo, who seems to be obsessed
with concentrating political power in his office," said Assemblyman
Bill Nojay, an upstate Republican who sits on his chamber's
transportation committee. "For people responsible for
infrastructure, the feeling is it would be a debacle."
"There should be less agencies, not more," said Sen. Ruben Diaz
Sr., a New York City Democrat. "Why does he keep creating new
agencies? It's a waste of money."
Members of the majority conferences said the new agency hasn't
been formally discussed within their conferences. Representatives
for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, and Senate
President John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, didn't respond
to requests for comment.
Building big projects has become central focus for Mr. Cuomo,
who spent much of January announcing projects as part of an agenda
totaling $100 billion.
As he has staked much of his legacy on infrastructure projects,
Mr. Cuomo has become known for his keen interest in the details of
major transportation endeavors including La Guardia Airport's
transformation and a Tappan Zee Bridge replacement.
Mr. Cuomo has also taken on the state's public agencies, whose
procurement practices and project-oversight are sometimes
criticized as wasteful.
"We've come to a point where we are so bureaucratized where we
suffocate in our own red tape," Mr. Cuomo said at a January event
touting plans to improve the New York City subway. "Our own
bureaucracies strangle us."
It wasn't clear what projects Mr. Cuomo's planned construction
entity might take aim at. Industry insiders who have been following
the plan said the governor's proposal raised policy, financial and
Few details were known about the Design and Construction Corp.
would work. It wasn't clear whether it would apply for federal
funding--or how a subsidiary of the Dormitory Authority's
application for grants and loans might be received in
Nor was it clear how agencies such as the Port Authority of New
York and New Jersey, a bistate that Mr. Cuomo jointly controls with
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, might be affected, if at all.
The Citizens Budget Commission plans to send a letter to the
state legislature urging lawmakers to reject the governor's
proposal, said Carol Kellermann, the Manhattan-based civic group's
"To say that this group--a new body within a body--can actually
review and reject contracts made by places like the MTA is
duplicative, and substitutes the policy-making judgment of this
group...for the boards of public authorities," she said.
Others say the governor's interest can help. "He has no
patience--that can be a virtue in this industry," said an insider
who is familiar with La Guardia and other major projects under
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 19, 2016 20:38 ET (01:38 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2016 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.