Polish for the Big Apple

NEW York Gov. Mario Cuomo's plan to aid New York City through a $7 billion public works and economic development program is bold and innovative. The governor, now in his third term, has won praise from local business and political leaders with his proposal and has clearly revitalized his own political prospects.What makes Cuomo's program interesting is its combination of state, regional, and New York City initiatives. He is not calling for a 1930s-style top-down WPA program, nor a 1960s Model Cities effort aimed just at rebuilding a downtown. Rather, the program would link construction efforts benefitting suburban and city areas, while relying on funding from diverse sources; private funds would be included. Specifically, the initiative would develop a $1.6 billion above-ground automated rail system to link LaGuardia and Kennedy airports. Newark airport, New Jersey politicians happily note, could easily tie into the rail grid. Meantime, Cuomo favors building a new subway tunnel and developing a 74-acre waterfront site near Long Island City. He also would establish in an old Fifth Avenue department store building a new library devoted to science and industry; and he wants to renovate Grand Central Station and Penn Station. Perhaps most important, he would have the state gradually absorb the city's share of the state's $12 billion Medicaid program. That alone could eventually save New York City almost $2 billion annually. Getting the Democratic governor's program through both houses of the Legislature will be enormously difficult. The Senate is controlled by Republicans. Moreover, the Big Apple's feisty environmental, community-action, and other interest groups can be expected to challenge aspects of the program. Most New York political analysts assume that only a few elements will ever be implemented - and not speedily. They're probably right. But even half a loaf will help. Yes, job creation is essential. But as a major business center, New York City desperately needs to untangle its clogged transportation system. What better place to start than by making its airports more accessible.

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