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NEW YORK CITY-Gov. David Paterson and Mayor Michael Bloomberg need to take the lead on maximizing the city’s share of the infrastructure stimulus package proposed by President-elect Barack Obama, says the New York Building Congress in a position paper released on Monday. NYBC urges Paterson, Bloomberg, state legislators and members of New York City’s Congressional delegation to focus on projects that could start construction immediately.

“No state or region stands to benefit more than New York, which relies on its vast infrastructure network to meet the needs of a growing population and the nation’s largest economic engine,” says NYBC president Richard T. Anderson in a release. “Pointing out need won’t be enough, however. The situation is dire and calls for something other than a typical ‘business-as-usual’ approach in New York, where critical infrastructure projects can be delayed for years and even decades by bureaucracy, political inertia and needless delay.” As an example, the position paper cites the Moynihan Station plan, still in limbo 16 years after it was first proposed.

In its position paper, NYBC calls on Paterson and Bloomberg to establish high-level task forces that will draw input from close advisors, state and city agency heads, the state and city comptrollers, the state legislature and City Council. According to NYBC, the task forces would quickly create a short-list of potential stimulus projects, examine the current status of each and identify all remaining regulatory approvals, procurement matters or other issues that must be addressed.

“Many critical questions remain unanswered,” the position paper states. “For instance, have we determined which projects provide the most bang for the buck? Should we focus on unfunded projects that have not yet started or augment projects already in the pipeline, such as the No. 7 subway line extension and the Fulton Street Transit Center? How much should be used to fill a $4-billion dollar gap in the School Construction Authority budget or to modernize the region’s electric grid?”

When appropriate, Paterson and Bloomberg must invoke their power to issue emergency declarations to fast-track project starts, NYBC says. Where legislative approval is required, the State Legislature and City Council must be willing to work with the task forces “to shape, review and quickly pass enabling legislation,” according to a release.

“As recent history shows, New York is capable of getting its act together,” Anderson says in a release. “After the attacks of 9/11, government and the construction industry wasted no time in rebuilding a Lower Manhattan transportation network that was devastated on that day. More than $1 billion in cleanup, design, demolition and construction was completed within one year after the tragedy. In the face of crisis, policy differences were set aside, red tape was cut and onerous work rules amended. Despite dangerous conditions and the unprecedented scope of damage, the work was conducted with extraordinary safety, efficiency and quality.”

In a statement, NYBC chairman Stuart E. Graham, who is also chairman of Skanska USA, says, “We cannot squander this opportunity. More jobs are being lost every day. Government revenues are shrinking and yet our infrastructure needs keep growing. The time to act is now.”

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