$2bn in NYC 9/11 aid to be used for LIRR JFK-WTC link
- 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
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
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
[BATN: See also:
NY Gov Pataki seeks $2bn for LIRR JFK-WTC link (30 Nov 2004)