Volume 17 • Issue 10 / July 30 - August 05, 2004

Special Report

Bush backs rail link money

By Josh Rogers

President George W. Bush is supporting a $2-billion transfer of unused tax credits to help build a commuter-airport rail link to Lower Manhattan, the governor and mayor announced on Thursday.

The connection between J.F.K. Airport, the Long Island Rail Road and the proposed World Trade Center transit hub is supported by Downtown business leaders, Community Board 1, Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Pataki said in a statement that he “spoke with the White House” and that Bush approved of transferring up to $2 billion in unused 9/11-related tax credits for the rail link. Neither Pataki nor his spokesperson identified the White House official who relayed the message.

“I’m thrilled and excited,” said Carl Weisbrod, president of the Downtown Alliance and a member of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s board of directors. He said assuming the president’s promise is approved by Congress, about half of the $6 billion will be secured, which “means that this project is a go.”

House Speaker Dennis Hastert told Downtown Express in June that he thought Congress would approve more money for Downtown transportation projects.

Weisbrod said the project is essential to securing Downtown’s economic future. He said even with the presidential commitment, “some L.M.D.C. money will have to be used” to pay for the rail tunnel.

Bettina Damiani of Good Jobs/New York said the money would be better spent on affordable housing and job programs. She’s angry that “really rich guys are able to go down [to Washington] and get what they want to benefit real estate interests.”

The $2 billion comes on top of the $560 million already committed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and $400 million by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Todd Alhart, a Pataki spokesperson, said the two agencies and the development corporation would likely have to kick in more money.

“We’re going to continue to look to a variety of sources for the rest of the money and those sources could include the Port Authority, the M.T.A. and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.,” said Alhart.

Community Board 1 has previously expressed support for the rail link, but opposition to using much if any of the L.M.D.C.’s remaining $900 million on the project. On Tuesday, the board passed a resolution calling for shifting $700 million set aside to build a controversial vehicular tunnel under West St. to the rail project.


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