NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – With the Democratic gubernatorial primary just two days away, Gov. Cuomo is facing new questions about the timing of the opening of the new Tappan Zee Bridge.
A letter written by a state official, obtained by The New York Times, raises questions about whether the Cuomo administration was offering incentives to get the job done ahead of schedule.
In addition to the offer to absorb so-called “premium additional costs,” the document is giving new ammunition to his opponents, while the governor continues to issue denials about the controversy.
“It’s their decision. I have no authority in the situation at all,” Cuomo said Sunday.
The embattled governor is maintaining that contractors make the call in matters of timing for the Tappan Zee/Mario M. Cuomo Bridge construction and demolition.
A letter dated July 18 and written by Jamey Barbas, the project director of the New York State Thruway Authority, to the president of Tappan Zee Constructors tells a different story.
“I am directing Tappan Zee Constructors (T.Z.C.)… to complete all necessary work,” the letter states, before calling for the new span to open on Aug. 24.
“The authority will not hold T.Z.C. responsible for any traffic incidents or damage to the work that results from shifting traffic on the bridge while all elements are not fully complete as permitted by this letter,” Barbas continues.
The letter has Cuomo’s opponents asking if incentives were offered to push the new bridge’s opening closer to Thursday’s primary.
“Is it just coincidence that it opens less than a week before the election at a time when he is under such attack for having done such a poor job with infrastructure?” opponent Cynthia Nixon asked.
Barbas says the extension to Aug. 24, and then to Sept. 7, were due to weather and that the contract contains no incentive clauses.
“I did so without advising or in consultation with anyone in the Governor’s office,” Barbas added in a statement.
Cuomo called any attacks linked to the new Tappan Zee part of “political silly season.”
“The priority was not making sure the bridge was ready, not making sure the bridge was safe. But that all of those were minor considerations when it came to a roll out and a photo op and a ribbon cutting for him a week ahead of the election,” Nixon charged.
The second span of the new bridge officially opened late Tuesday. Crews started shifting lanes around 8 p.m. Tuesday, with the second span officially opening around 10:30 p.m.