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Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul and Governor Murphy Nominate Kris Kolluri as CEO of the Gateway Development Commission

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Earlier today, at the Regional Plan Association Centennial Assembly at Chelsea Piers, New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy jointly announced the nomination of Kris Kolluri as the Chief Executive Officer of the Gateway Development Commission, a partnership between New York, New Jersey and Amtrak that coordinates delivery of the Gateway Program with its partner agencies, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and NJ TRANSIT.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

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AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS are available on the Governor’s Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks are available below:

Tom Wright: We know that we’ve got a lot further to go. We don’t have the offshore wind in the ground yet. It’s not just about flipping on a switch or anything else like that. So still, really, in many ways, the big challenges are in front of us. Maybe, Governor Hochul, if I could start with you. What do you see as the next steps that New York needs to take in this area? And especially as we have these electrification goals that are so ambitious, what do you see, how do you see that moving forward?

Governor Hochul: Your question is, are we going to meet those goals? I know what’s behind the question, Tom. And first of all, congratulations on 100 years. It’s not lost on me that this organization was founded just a few short years after the last global pandemic brought this area to its knees.

So you’ve been there transforming the state for over 100 years, but you’ve been there at the times when we needed you the most. So, thank you. Thanks, Scott Rechler for your amazing leadership and your unbounded optimism about this area and I share that as well. I am going to give a quick shout-out to two people that are involved in my operations. Janno Lieber, I think is joining us here if he’s not here already, but we’ve done extraordinary things together with his work at the MTA. And Rick Cotton, our Executive Director of the Port Authority. Superstars, I know talent when I see it. And also, Kathryn Garcia, the Head of State Operations. So, these are the people you want to get to know and work with.

When you think about it, we’re the first generation really feeling the impacts of climate change. And we’re the last generation that can do something about it because too much time has already passed. This is my upbringing speaking. I grew up in the shadow of the steel plants of Lackawanna, New York, where my dad and grandpa worked making steel.

And I always thought that the skies were supposed to be orange because that’s what we always saw. The clouds of orange smoke billowing out of the smokestacks, as well as the pollution that was dumping into one of our great freshwater lakes, Lake Erie, where, believe it or not, we actually swam in the water. So I’ve been an environmentalist since my birth.

I have no choice, but to see what we can do to protect our environment. That being said, when I became Governor, we were talking about two bold opportunities. And I’ll get to offshore wind in a second, but   we needed to figure out how to replace the electricity for New York City. We have found a way to bring transmission lines in from Delaware County, wind and solar, as well as I was presented with the choice, the RFP narrowed it down to two options.

The clean path in from the Catskills, or do you bring in transmission lines down the Champlain Trail, hydroelectric power from Quebec? The option was one or the other. And I said, “No, we don’t have time to wait. We will do both at the same time.” So that bold statement as well as 100 renewable projects around the state, plus a nation-leading investment in offshore wind, we will achieve 63 percent of our goal. We’ll hit 63 percent very shortly when those come online by 2027.

So, our goal of having 70 percent renewables by 2030, we’re going to hit it. So, we’re bold, we’re ambitious and we know we have no time to lose.

Tom Wright: Thank you so much. It is really exciting to see you working there. And Governor, I will say again, it’s just so wonderful to have the two of you on stage. I think it sends a powerful message to the entire region and the nation about the way this region is really aligned and how we work together.

Let’s switch to talk a little bit about another issue that’s traditional RPA concern, which is community development and housing. In the great recession of 2008, our housing production essentially fell off a cliff. And while the economy came back, and in other parts of the country, housing production came back, it has lagged at that level ever since here in the tri-state metropolitan region, which, as our economy grows is just growing a larger and larger imbalance, which we’re all seeing in the crisis of affordability that shows up in the poll results that we see, and everything else. We see this, of course, as a regional housing market.

All aspects, all elements of the region have to be working together. But somehow, it’s been really hard because it’s kind of know, it’s one of these issues where there’s the public sector and the private sector working together,  and of course their state and local government, all of which have to come into alignment to make some progress in this area. Now we kind of think it’s fairly obvious where housing should go in the region. It should go where we have infrastructure, where we have transit and development to try and support it.

And so, we’ve been supporting transit-oriented development and accessory dwelling units, and other strategies around that. But it’s a hard slog and, and we get a lot of opposition to it. I want to give a tip of the hat to Sara Bronin, and Desegregate Connecticut, which has been a partner for us in Connecticut working on this issue. Both of you have really challenged and taken on this issue. Governor Hochul, you with your latest budget, first, really made a proposal to go out there and talk about incentivizing transit-oriented development, and accessory dwelling units.

But there was a lot of local pushback around that. Governor Murphy in New Jersey, there’s a tradition, of course, between the Mount Laurel Doctrine, which kind of provides the builders remedy if communities are refusing to do that. And of course, I have to mention also, we have this thing in New Jersey called the State Development and Redevelopment Plan with the State Planning Commission, which provides that kind of role negotiating between the state and the counties and municipalities about where growth should and shouldn’t go. So we have some tools there, too. But we’re still really confronting a lot of challenges in this area. Can I ask both of you how you see this issue? What kind of engagement you are having with the communities and how you see us moving forward on this. Governor Hochul?

Governor Hochul: I did attempt this in our budget, but I also learned that sometimes it takes a little bit of time for people’s attitudes to change, in the hearts and minds of people, to understand the value of a proposition. So, we’re not done. I just want to say that, but also, we do have an affordability crisis. I mean, the crisis has been exacerbated by COVID. We know that. And I find it just deeply sad that people grow up in a community and they have to leave when they want to raise their own children because they can’t afford their old neighborhood.

Therefore grandparents, and this is personal to me now as well, they can’t be close to the families they want to, and it’s no fault of their own. Also, we’re hemorrhaging a lot of young people from places like Long Island and Westchester that are very expensive and they want to stay, but they say I can’t afford to live here.

So, we understand the severity of the problem. That’s why my budget put $25 billion, largest investment in affordable housing in the history of the State of New York. That will result in 100,000 new units, in addition to 10,000 supportive units. There are so many people, whether it’s people with substance abuse problems, or veterans, LGBTQ, or elderly individuals, I’ve opened housing for them as well. As well as people with mental health challenges, they need supportive housing as well.

But also, as you mentioned, ADUs. This came to light as I was walking the streets of East Elmhurst after Hurricane Ida. Literally, been on the job for about a week. I saw the devastation of people living in subhuman conditions, literally flooded out of their homes and lost their lives. I said something has to be done. So, we looked at it, and having ADUs and people living there anyhow, brought into compliance, just seemed like the right thing to do. This is something that there’s probably more of an appetite for in the city right now. I want to give them that authority. I also come out of local government. I think that the state has way too much power over some of these decisions.

I personally don’t want to be deciding where red-light cameras go in school zones. I think cities should worry about that stuff. You know, we have enough to worry about. So there are so many things I want to transition back to cities. And one of them is to determine this kind of control. So we’re going to keep investing in this, working with communities, as well as incentivizing it.  A lot of our favorite projects, Ronkonkoma Hall in Long Island, that was incentivized by regional economic development dollars. So that’s the other thing. Local governments will give you money to make it happen, and that might be what they need.

Tom Wright: Where do you guys see mass transit next? What are the next priorities that you want to do with those systems? And how do you see that going forward?

Governor Hochul: I’m very, very grateful to have, first of all, a President who understands how important infrastructure is, let’s get that out there. And we’re very, very fortunate to have the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, our own Chuck Schumer. So that’s the double whammy we needed to have that kind of money. I served in Congress, and we could barely get a dime for infrastructure. And when I served with Moynihan as a staffer, back in the eighties, nobody fought over infrastructure. That was the one thing other than maybe a farm bill, where there was bipartisan support. So to get that over the finish line allows the State of New York to have the most ambitious, boldest, five-year capital plan, again, in our history, $32.8 billion for infrastructure, and mass transit being a large part of that.  And our own budget has a 25% increase in mass transit statewide.

We also know, what are we going to do to get people back using the subways? They have to come back. I’m really proud today to announce that we hit a post pandemic record. We have 3.5 million riders today, which is the highest, 3.5 million. Thank you riders. Thank you New Yorkers, for coming back. 3.5 million, we haven’t had that number since March 14th, 2020. So we’re coming back, we’re coming back. But first of all, we suspend any fare increases to give people that sense, as they’re losing more money in their pocketbooks because of inflation, we do what we can to help you. Also, people have to feel safe. You have to feel safe, or you’re not going to take your stroller on there. You’re not going to let your child go on there. You’re not going to want to commute to work everyday, you’re not going to go on, on the weekends for entertainment. So we are laser-focused on the safety aspects of this. Mayor Adams and I, in his first week on the job, we were in the subway, talking about our shared commitment.

Again, you talk about partnerships, this is easy for us. We have a shared interest, for some reason there always hasn’t been that friendliness between a Governor and the Mayor of New York. So we talk about changing things for the better. We have that relation, we bring our resources together, to help with the homeless, give them the dignity of a place over their heads, but also to make sure we have enough people in there patrolling and making sure people feel safe. So we are turning the corner. I really feel it. And I’m really confident, but also in terms of other major projects. PAN Access, what we’re doing to bring in their commuters through that. East Side Access. The Interborough Express. Interborough Express, thank you for the great idea, RPA. Thank you. These ideas are so brilliant, let’s get it done.

And so, you know, we’re going to get that done. The Second Avenue Subway, how many times have I been in that subway? I’ve gone in down below with Congressman Espaillat, he’s very excited about this. And so, we have so much on our plate, but the good news is we have the money to fund them. And we have a very aggressive Governor who’s holding everybody accountable, saying “When is it due? Okay. Shave off six months.” And so we’re going to get it done. And I really look forward to continuing to work together on our shared objective to make sure that this region has world-class public transportation systems.

And no project goes very far without exceptional leadership. And we knew at the Gateway Development Corporation, we needed to find a leader who is battle-tested, who knows how to get his hands on the money, get the resources out of Washington, and so, in the spirit of a Bi-State Collaboration, we’re picking a New Jersey guy. Kris Kolluri is going to be the CEO of Gateway Development Corporation. That’s our announcement today.

Tom Wright: Can I ask you, what do you want to be remembered for 25, 50 years from now? What are the issues that you would like to see as your legacy to the citizens of your states, to the region, to the nation? Because I think both of you have the opportunity, I want to push you to think about that or talk about that a little bit. What would you like to see? What would you like people to think about and remember you for?

Governor Hochul: Well, thank you. I haven’t thought about it that far, but, trying to get through every single day. However, there is an opportunity here. I do believe that history will judge us by what we do in this moment. How we came through this pandemic. Were we knocked back on our knees, and it took decades to recover? I say, no, our legacy will be that we joined together, working collaboratively, working as a unified cohesive force going forward. And I want also my legacy to be not just pulling this city back and reinvigorate it, and bring people back from their homes, and making our downtowns just feel so vibrant again, we’re missing that human connection.

But also I want us to still be remembered as a place where progressive values are enshrined. The Women’s Rights Movement started in New York. We also had the right to abortion three years before Roe v. Wade. So we’re going to continue fighting to protect those rights that we hold dear. We arere the birthplace of the LGBTQ movement. We’re protecting those rights. So, on top of building our way up and lifting up people with historic investments in education and childcare and healthcare as our budget does. We’re not going to cede our mantle as that beacon of hope to states all over this country who are under leaders who don’t respect their human rights. And that is how our laying down the gauntlet right now and saying, “You don’t mess with New York, we’re going to be looking out for our brothers and sisters across the nation as well.”



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