Q: Staten Island was among the places that were hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy over a year ago. Is enough being done at the city, state and federal level to rebuild the borough?
MG: Of the $60 billion in federal funds I fought to secure in Congress, both New York City and New York State received recovery funding. New York State prioritized housing, and Long Islanders have already received award letters—receiving an average of $112,000 and additional funds to raze homes. In contrast, the city failed miserably in prioritizing housing, so that only one-third of the 12,000 Priority 1 homeowners will receive assistance from the first funding tranche. Taking care of the people and getting them back in their homes should be our top priority. It’s unacceptable that New York City has left its residents in the dark and without a home.
Q: Last month you criticized New York City and its Build It Back program. What is the problem? Has the city made any progress since then?
MG: About 26,000 New York City residents have applied for Build It Back, yet almost no one has received funding or even an award letter. Christmas is almost here, and some Staten Island families will spend another holiday season without a home. Families are at their wit’s end, waiting in limbo on action from the city. They deserve answers on when they will be receiving funds and how much. Relief is long overdue, and I will not allow this mayor to run out the clock. On behalf of my constituents, I am demanding answers, and will continue to fight for expedient action.
Q: You are a sponsor of H.R. 184, a bill on mechanical insulation installation. What would this legislation do? How likely is it to pass?
MG: H.R. 184 allows manufacturers to increase their maintenance deduction expense up to a maximum 30 percent of the energy saved. By promoting incentives for mechanical insulation installation, Congress will create jobs and help manufacturers successfully compete in the global marketplace. I am pushing to include this bipartisan bill in any tax reform package moving forward.
Q: The backing of construction labor unions, based on your support for project labor agreements and prevailing wages on federal projects, seems to have helped you win re-election. Do you expect labor to help you again in next year’s election?
MG: I grew up in a working class union household, and I know how hard our labor community works, which is why I support competitive wages and safe working environments. Being a strong advocate for these policies is in the best interest of the people I represent. Doing the right thing for the people who elected you to office usually does help to get re-elected, so I do expect to receive strong labor support.
President and CEO, Empire State Development Commissioner, New York State Department of Economic Development
Q: The Cuomo administration recently announced that the state’s START-UP NY tax-free program has received applications from more than 800 companies. Do you expect this to spur new construction projects across the state?
KA: Yes, because some of the schools are including surplus land as part of their start-up plan. New buildings will be built to suit the needs of the business applicants and the universities.
Q: Empire State Development also has a Small Business Storm Recovery Program, which helps businesses impacted by Superstorm Sandy last year, as well as other natural disasters. How many businesses have been helped, and how much money has been disbursed?
KA: Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the New York State Emergency Small Business Loan Program, administered by Empire State Development, a $10 million emergency loan fund program to assist small businesses. Over $3.2 million in low-interest loans were issued to more than 140 storm-impacted businesses. Empire State Development launched the Storm Sandy Emergency Loan Fund in conjunction with the New York Bankers Association and New York Business Development Corporation, or NYBDC. Administered by NYBDC at no cost to New York State, the loan program offers qualifying businesses loans of up to $25,000, with no payment and 0 percent interest for the first six months and a 1 percent interest rate for the following 24 months. The program was launched to support independently owned and operated businesses in the regions designated as disaster areas, with the loan funds used to replace or repair damaged assets and inventory, and for working capital losses incurred due to business interruption.
Q: Some budget experts have praised the state’s Regional Economic Development Council initiative, which is now in its third round of funding, for better allocating capital dollars across the state. What’s the latest development with the REDCs?
KA: For the last three years, the Regional Councils have pursued economic development projects on the ground all across the state, from creating new technologies and supporting innovation to building hospitals and tourism destinations that will further our economic growth. The Regional Councils were empowered to change the face of economic development in their communities, and they have accomplished just that. Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced the third round of awards— $715.9 million to support more than 800 projects. These investments continue the state’s commitment to these creative and groundbreaking plans and further the immense progress that has already been made in revitalizing our economy and putting New Yorkers back to work.
Chair, New York State Senate Committee on Housing, Construction and Community Development
Q: It has been over a year since Superstorm Sandy hit New York. Is enough being done to rebuild?
CY: Superstorm Sandy was an unprecedented disaster, and assisting those who have suffered damage and lost their homes must continue to be our first priority. Officials at all levels are working hard to help people get back on their feet and rebuild affected areas. But people are still suffering, and many are understandably frustrated that recovery efforts may not always move as quickly as needed. At the state level, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature have initiated the NY Rising storm recovery program, which is providing help to affected victims, including assistance with home repairs and rehabilitation, storm mitigation, and house elevation. NY Rising also includes a Community Reconstruction Zone program that is working to ensure local communities and businesses have a strong say in rebuilding plans. With many families still facing tremendous hardships, however, we must not lose our focus, but make sure rebuilding efforts are moving ahead and funding continues to be put to good use.
Q: Senate Republicans this fall put out a report calling for state tax reforms. Could these proposals spur more construction?
CY: Our tax reform plan would encourage homeowners, retirees, job seekers, businesses and all taxpayers to stay here and invest in New York. Through reduced personal income taxes, business taxes, estate taxes and local property taxes, New York will become a much more welcoming destination for construction and development initiatives.
Q: What is your top legislative priority next year for construction?
CY: Expanding economic opportunities for women is also on my agenda for 2014. I sponsor a bill to create the Building Opportunities Program, which would allow more women-owned business enterprises to compete in the affordable housing development arena. A recent disparity study done by the City of New York verified that these businesses have limited prospects to compete. Current law explicitly only provides for such programs for minority-owned businesses in certain areas. This proposal broadens the authority of municipalities to implement targeted development opportunities … for both women and minorities. …. State and federal tax credit programs have been disrupted as a result of the country’s financial crisis. Refundable housing tax credits would spur greater private investment in affordable housing, driving more development across the state. We passed this bill in the Senate, and I am optimistic we can have it become law in the coming year.