NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on President Donald Trump for federal help at Penn Station, saying the “impact of the state of disrepair” is at “a tipping point.”
As CBS2’s Brian Conybeare reported, Cuomo appealed to President Trump as a fellow New Yorker in the letter Sunday. The governor painted a bleak picture of what this summer will look like for commuters.
He wants the federal government to help figure out and fund transportation alternatives while repair work is undertaken after a spate of problems including two derailments.
“Amtrak has now announced that they will do emergency repairs on the tracks this summer,” Cuomo’s letter read. “It just isn’t feasible for the system to sustain this trauma.”
He also reiterated a call he has made before, that a private operator should take over operations at Penn Station from Amtrak.
“At a minimum, I believe Amtrak should turn over construction and operations to a private sector terminal operator because all the past experience has suggested that Amtrak does not have the funds and expertise to consistently invest and manage over the long-term Penn Station’s complex combination of track infrastructure and terminal operation,” the governor said.
Amtrak operates the station that is also used by the Long Island Rail Road and New Jersey Transit commuter lines. In his letter, Cuomo said he knew Trump believed in “privatization where appropriate.”
Just this past Thursday, Cuomo was talking about the sorry state of mass transit in New York City.
“It’s not glamourous for politicians to spend money on it, and it’s the first thing to overlook is maintenance,” Cuomo said.
Commuters who use Penn Station are none too pleased with conditions lately.
“Horrible! I’d rather drive in,” said Long Island Rail Road passenger Peggy Loukas.
“When you want to go home at like 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock at night and there’s like delays and stuff like that, you’re kind of pissed off and annoyed, because you’re just sitting here waiting,” said LIRR commuter Antony Jones.
A rash of track problems, breakdowns, and even water leaking from the ceiling has led to chaos at the aging underground station. Commuters have begun to dread even going there.
Cuomo said in the letter, “I request that the federal government treat this as an emergency situation and provide funding for the short-term Penn construction and transportation alternatives and facilitation of a long-term resolution.”
Federally-controlled Amtrak is planning for six weeks of repair work in July and August that Cuomo said will cut service by about 20 percent – sending thousands of people to the already-overcrowded, delay-prone subway system and into cars on clogged roads, bridges and tunnels.
The Democrat Cuomo asked the Republican Trump to see past party, comparing the situation to a natural disaster.
“While this is not a hurricane or flood, it will affect as many people and businesses with dire consequences…. As in most emergencies, this is not a political issue and bipartisan officials will agree that we need immediate help,” Cuomo wrote.
Passengers agree that Penn Station is turning into a disaster.
“Every night it rseems like there is a problem, and I don’t know, but these people have been running a railroad since the 1800s,” said LIRR commuter Gary Suran. “Why can’t they get it right?”
Cuomo did not put a price tag in his letter, but he said the situation has faced a tipping point and it is time for the feds to step in and help.
State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Rockville Centre) echoed the governor’s sentiment.
“I talk with commuters every day, many of whom have taken the LIRR for decades, have never experienced this level of dysfunction,” the lawmaker from Long Island said in a statement sent to CBS2. “As Penn Station is a major rail-hub and a critical part of the Northeast U.S. economy, it certainly behooves the federal government to get involved immediately and provide necessary funding. Lastly, I have repeatedly called for Amtrak to be removed as the operator of Penn Station, and any valid alternative should be reviewed and discussed as soon as possible.”
The White House released a statement Sunday evening acknowledges the level, as President Trump travels overseas.
“The White House received the letter this afternoon. We look forward to continuing conversations with communities across America about the importance in improving our nation’s infrastructure,” the response said.
CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett reported the Office of Management and Budget said Cuomo’s request will be “taken under consideration like al infrastructure requests.” The office did not commit to any funding.
Amtrak did not immediately respond to a call for comment.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)