State Sen. Carl Marcellino joined local mayors, environmental groups and community activists at a news conference on Thursday to voice his opposition to Gov. Cuomo’s proposal for a cross-Long Island Sound bridge/tunnel. The event took place at Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay — one location that would be threatened by such a project.
Marcellino presented the minutes from a January 2008 public hearing involving the State Senate’s Committee on Environmental Conservation and the Assembly’s Committee on Transportation, which addressed the issues associated with constructing a similar cross-sound tunnel. Ten years later, opposition remains strong.
“This proposal has a huge potential for destroying our communities, our harbor, our homes and changing our way of life,” Marcellino said. “There’s unanimous opposition to this, but for one person.”
The $55 billion project would extend Route 135 a half-mile north through residential and commercial areas into the portal of a tunnel that would extend at least nine miles north of the Long Island shoreline. The structure would then either extend as a tunnel to Westchester County, or transition to a six-mile-long bridge and a one-mile tunnel that would intersect with I-95.
Bayville’s Anti Bridge Crossing Committee, which was formed a year ago in anticipation of the project, is currently in talks with representatives of the governor’s office to voice its concerns, Bayville Mayor Paul Rupp said.
“We’ve now taken it to the nth degree, and plan to get the community heavily involved,” Rupp said. “This is a quality-of-life issue. The taxpayers on Long Island are burdened right now, so why burden them even more?”
The committee is slated to meet with Cuomo’s representatives at the end of the month. “I think it’s positive that we all sit face to face around the table and confront what the issues are going forward, and they were receptive to that,” Rupp said.
Additionally, the village plans to hold a town hall meeting at the end of the month for residents who want to add their voices to the opposition.
Village trustees were also vocal about the negative effects a sound crossing would have on the North Shore.
“History shows most projects come in at four times the estimate, so imagine how long it would take to pay off a project that’s $200 billion,” said Trustee John Taylor. “It’s not a good idea economically as far as the urbanization, and it’ll turn most of Long Island into an extension of Queens.”
Deputy Mayor Joe Russo recommended the state use the $55 billion to repair existing infrastructure. “It’s a colossal waste of money,” he said. “They’re not taking into account what travel is going to look like in 20 years, when this is actually done. We could be building something that may have very limited use.” Russo added that the project alone could almost double state debt.
The proposal also poses environmental questions. Upper Brookville Mayor Elliot Conway, whose grandfather helped build major city tunnels, said the cross-sound tunnel would have a “massive” impact on air pollution. “It’s estimated that 26 million cars will cross through this tunnel per year,” Conway said. “How will that impact our air quality?”
Rob Crafa, coordinator of the Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor Protection Committee, said the environmental implications would be “incredibly destructive” to the area. “This bay supports the state’s fishing industry,” Crafa said. “Planning a sound crossing over or under this embayment is contrary to numerous government designations to protect the ecologic and economic benefits of the sound.”
Bill Fetzer, who has been a baymen for 33 years, said the project would destroy his livelihood. “If [Cuomo] wants the bridge so bad, he can buy my house and live under it,” Fetzer said.
Marcellino said that the goal now is to build greater public opposition to the proposal. “We want to let the governor know that there’s no community support for this,” he said.