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$2bn in NYC 9/11 aid to be used for LIRR JFK-WTC link

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  • 7/30 New York Times
    Published Friday, July 30, 2004, in the New York Times White House to Allow $2 Billion in 9/11 Aid to Be Used for Airport Link By Raymond Hernandez The White
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2004
      Published Friday, July 30, 2004, in the New York Times

      White House to Allow $2 Billion in 9/11 Aid to Be Used for Airport

      By Raymond Hernandez

      The White House has agreed to let New York use $2 billion in Sept. 11
      aid to help build a $6 billion rail link connecting the World Trade
      Center site to the Long Island Rail Road and Kennedy International

      The decision by the Bush administration is a huge boost for
      Gov. George E. Pataki's efforts to get a direct rail connection from
      Manhattan to the airport. Such a link, common in most other large
      cities, has been a dream of urban planners for decades.

      And advocates for downtown say putting the link at the World Trade
      Center site would significantly enhance Lower Manhattan's efforts to
      attract new business and recover economically from the terror attack.

      The money for the rail project would come from unused portions of a
      multibillion-dollar tax-incentive package that Washington allocated in
      2001 to help spur redevelopment of Lower Manhattan after the Sept. 11
      attack, according to city, state and federal officials. The rail plan
      must still be approved by Congress.

      Governor Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg had pushed the White
      House in recent weeks to redirect the funds, from the so-called
      Liberty Bond program, to the planned rail link.

      The project is expected to be completed in 2013. It would allow
      travelers heading to Manhattan from Kennedy Airport to travel aboard
      new trains on existing AirTrain tracks that loop around the central
      terminal area and then run along a viaduct in the middle of the Van
      Wyck Expressway to Jamaica, Queens. There, a new 1,500-foot elevated
      connector would carry the trains from the AirTrain tracks to the Long
      Island Rail Road tracks heading toward Brooklyn.

      Just before Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, and joined to it by a new
      underground station, a three-mile tunnel would begin, burrowing under
      Brooklyn and the East River into Lower Manhattan.

      The tunnel would come close to Hanover Square, the intended terminus
      of the Second Avenue subway, and the World Trade Center, the existing
      terminus of the E train.

      Once completed, officials say, the link would greatly expand the
      ability of businesses in the financial district to attract workers
      from Long Island, who now have to take both trains and subways to get
      downtown. It would accommodate up to 100,000 Long Island commuters a
      day, according to the governor's office.

      The White House's decision to provide the money was detailed in a
      document prepared by the Office of Management and Budget as part of
      the midyear budget review that the Bush administration plans to submit
      to Congress today.

      The document itself does not specify how the $2 billion is to be
      spent, other than noting that it is being set aside for
      "transportation infrastructure" in New York. But both the governor
      and the mayor have said that they will use the money to pay for the
      rail link.

      The aid request must still go to Congress, where the Bush
      administration's support could go a long way toward quieting protests
      from Republican budget hawks who are increasingly concerned about the
      growing federal deficit, particularly in an election year.

      In a statement, Mr. Pataki said the decision brought the rail project
      one step closer to reality.

      "President Bush's support is a tremendous boost for the rail link
      project," he said. "Now, it is up to Congress and our state's
      Congressional delegation to ensure this proposal becomes law. I look
      forward to working with them to make the rail link a reality."

      Mr. Bloomberg also praised the decision. "By improving regional
      access to Lower Manhattan," he said, "we can continue the area's
      dramatic rebirth from the attacks of Sept. 11 and ensure its future as
      an economic engine for the entire city."

      The decision by the White House comes a few weeks after Mr. Pataki
      made an unusually direct appeal to President Bush, a fellow
      Republican, asking him to provide cash for the rail project in lieu of
      unused parts of the multibillion-dollar Liberty Zone tax-incentive
      package for Lower Manhattan.

      Those tax breaks have been controversial from their inception, with
      some New York politicians, economists and real estate experts
      questioning their value and arguing that Lower Manhattan has been in
      desperate need of a large infusion of actual money from the federal

      The Bush administration and New York officials are trying to figure
      out how the $2 billion will be doled out. The federal government
      could give the city and state hard cash, though that option would
      probably meet resistance in Congress, given the federal government's
      budgetary predicament.

      But another approach is apparently being considered by all sides:
      permitting the city and state to raise the money needed for the rail
      project by selling tax credits on the open market that allow
      businesses to reduce their federal tax liability.

      Charles E. Schumer, New York's senior senator, said allowing the city
      and state to sell federal tax credits was "an elegant solution" given
      the opposition that might arise in Congress to providing $2 billion in
      hard cash to the city and state. "There's more than one way to skin
      this cat," said Mr. Schumer, a Democrat.

      Some New York City Democrats, while describing themselves as pleased
      with the news, said they would be keeping a close eye on how much
      political capital the White House was willing to expend in getting the
      $2 billion aid package approved in Congress.

      Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, suggested that
      the test of the Bush administration's commitment to the project would
      be its willingness to persuade Republicans to adopt the $2 billion aid
      package. "We have to be sure it's real," she said. "We need the
      administration to work very hard."

      Mr. Pataki's office says that financing for the $6 billion project
      will include at least $560 million from the Port Authority of New York
      and New Jersey and unspecified amounts from the Lower Manhattan
      Development Corporation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and
      other sources.

      [BATN: See also:

      NY Gov Pataki seeks $2bn for LIRR JFK-WTC link (30 Nov 2004)
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BATN/message/19089 ]
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