BY TRONE DOWD
As a follow-up to last week’s State of the State address in Albany, members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration are addressing more-local aspects of the governor’s agenda in 2018 for the five boroughs.
On Monday, New York State Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas dropped by the Harvest Room in downtown Jamaica to expound on topics from the governor’s speech, including infrastructure, jobs, taxes and voting practices.
Infrastructure comprised a massive part of Visnauskas’ address. A total of $100 billion is scheduled to come to the five boroughs, with a large amount of those funds allocated to Queens. John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, both of which will receive $10 billion, round out some of the most expensive projects slated for the borough.
Other projects include the new spans of the Kosciuszko Bridge; additional rail lines for the Long Island Rail Road, which “will help congestion” during commuting hours; and cashless tolling “for speed and safety” on roads around the state. Visnauskas said that the large-scale infrastructure plan will help bring new opportunities to New Yorkers everywhere.
“We are creating jobs,” she said. “Since 2011, the Regional Economic Development councils have created more than 6,000 projects across the state.”
A large part of that movement has been the governor’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, of which Jamaica was a direct beneficiary. In 2016, the southeast Queens neighborhood received a $10 million grant to help make it a must-see destination for visitors and New Yorkers alike.
“The economic strategy is working,” she said. “There’s the highest number of jobs in [state] history, with 8.1 million private-sector jobs. Unemployment is down from 8.3 percent seven years ago to 4.7 percent today.”
Visnauskas also touted the administration’s successes with taxes, stating that the middle class has benefited from recent plans.
“This year, we are giving the average New Yorker a tax cut of $250,” she said. “That’s going to grow to $698 down the line. Real money in people’s pockets. We are also going to take action to protect New Yorkers from the assault that is coming from Washington. We will also challenge the constitutionality of the federal tax bill.”
In regard to voting, the governor hopes to makes democracy easier than ever. New York has long been known for its archaic voter laws. Cuomo hopes to mend those issues in the future.
“The best thing that we can do is let people know that their voices are being heard,” she said. “We want to make it easy to vote; same-day registration, automatic voting registration, early voting and so on.”
The governor also wants to crack down on social media’s role in the election process, demanding that sites such as Facebook and Twitter keep a public archive of political ads as well as a record of who or which group paid for those advertisements. This kind of disclosure has existed for years in newspapers, radio and television.
Lastly, Cuomo wants to ensure that New York State is the nation’s leader in high-speed internet access. The governor has invested $1 billion towards ensuring that 99.9 percent of New Yorkers have access to high- speed broadband by the end of 2018.
“It’s critical that every corner has access to high-speed internet,” Visnauskas said.
Reach reporter Trone Dowd via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 123.