Governor Kathy Hochul said she wants to “examine” the controversial $2.1 billion AirTrain for LaGuardia Airport, calling into question the future of a pet project of her disgraced predecessor Andrew Cuomo.
“My personal views on the AirTrain is that this is something that can be examined in terms of our priorities right now,” Hochul said in response to a question by amNewYork Metro at a press briefing Thursday, Sept. 30. “I need to make sure that we have the resources, our funding has dropped significantly for many of the projects that have been on the table, but I also know that we need to continue building our way out of this crisis.”
Hochul is talks with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the bi-state entity tasked with building the pricey people mover, and she will take her cues from the agency’s executive director Rick Cotton and its board, in contrast to Cuomo, who was known to heavy-handedly push the scheme.
“I’m operating things a little bit differently here,” Hochul said. “I’ve had many conversations with Rick Cotton and we’ll be looking for their recommendations and what they’re doing at the board level on moving forward.”
The project to construct a 2.3-mile elevated train line between the Queens airport and the Mets-Willets Point subway station on the 7 line has faced renewed criticism since Cuomo resigned in August, with some activists and local politicians calling on Hochul to postpone the scheme or derail it entirely.
Transit boosters have long criticized the AirTrain for not providing a one-seat, single-fare ride from Manhattan to the airport, and for carrying travelers headed to the island the wrong way east, before they hop on the subway going west, with some calling it a “wrong-way AirTrain” and a “boondoggle.”
The Federal Aviation Administration green-lit the project on July 20, but critics have denounced the feds for rejecting a slate of alternatives, including extending the N/W subway, launching ferry service, or building out better buses — any one of which could offer a one-seat ride from Midtown Manhattan.
On Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the Port Authority to have another look at alternative proposals, denouncing the current plan an “imperial building project.”
“Let’s reassess it and figure out if there’s a better way, let’s go in that direction. If there is not, go with the original plan. But it’s not, you know – it’s no longer an imperial building project. Now it can be looked at objectively,” hizzoner said during his daily press briefing around the same time as Hochul spoke to reporters.
The mayor was just the latest in a growing number of pols lobbying officials to backtrack on the AirTrain, including State Sen. Leroy Comrie (D–Queens), who chairs the legislative committee that oversees the Port Authority, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, the New York Post reports.
Advocates and locals sued the FAA and the Port Authority in federal Appeals Court on Sept. 20 alleging the agencies illegally dismissed other options for the plan.
When asked about the growing number of detractors during the Authority’s monthly board meeting, Cotton said the agency has heeded locals and that he would be willing to provide a review of the AirTrain if the governor asks for one.
“We have been as responsive as possible to the concerns of the community,” Cotton told reporters. “We’ll be, as I say, discussing this in whatever detail, providing whatever review Governor Hochul desires.”