The Federal government’s Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and the funding tied to it, can dramatically improve the quality of New York’s infrastructure, while reducing inequality, mitigating against the effects of climate change, and creating thousands of good-paying jobs.
The New York Building Congress, a broad-based membership association now in its 101st year, reaffirms our support for its provisions, and is advocating for abundant funding to reach historically neglected and underserved communities.
Accordingly, we’d like to point out particular areas where we believe we can get the most “bang for our buck,” in the interest of benefitting all New Yorkers:
• Increase funding for mass transit: New York alone requires hundreds of billions of dollars to fund mass transit improvements. We are pleased to know that necessary levels of funding will be dedicated to move the Gateway Program forward, however, we ask that other mass transit projects in New York also receive sufficient funding. Transporting New York’s people and freight more efficiently is imperative to our overall economic growth.
• Fund transportation alternatives: Allocate robust funding to fix our transit challenges through relatively lower-cost design and construction solutions, such as bus lanes, bike lanes, and the pedestrianization of streets. These solutions will reduce the strain on existing infrastructure and improve the quality of life for cyclists, pedestrians, seniors, and people experiencing disabilities. New York has numerous programs and legislation in place to do this, but they require more funding to be implemented successfully.
• Invest in reimagining urban highways: Highways have been critical to the success of modern cities, allowing for people and goods to move with ease, however, they have tremendous social costs, including polluting and dividing marginalized communities. We need dedicated federal funding to reimagine these transportation infrastructure assets into places that provide equitable access to open space, enhanced placemaking, and protection from the effects of climate change.
• Provide funding for New York to implement sustainability legislation: At the state and city level, New York is in the process of implementing, respectively, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) and Local Law 97-2019. These ambitious pieces of legislation require our state and city governments to spend billions of dollars upgrading energy infrastructure and retrofitting government buildings. Yet, funding is needed to make these projects move ahead so that government can lead the way towards a greener, cleaner future. Future resiliency should always be front of mind in all of these policy decisions.
• Increase funding for affordable housing: NYCHA alone requires at least $40 billion, most of which is expected to come from the federal government. Without significant federal investment, NYCHA’s residents will continue to live in dangerously dilapidated buildings.
• Couple funding for housing with removal of exclusionary zoning: The federal government has a long history of driving local policy through mandates and making the receipt of federal funding contingent upon compliance with important national objectives. Therefore, funding to local governments for the development of housing should be contingent upon the elimination of exclusionary zoning practices that are overly restrictive, decrease affordability, and harm our local and regional economies, i.e., single family zoning. These policies have seriously hampered efforts to combat the housing crisis in New York City and its surrounding counties, increased segregation and inequality, and ultimately prevented the housing supply from matching the needs of New York’s residents. The jobs plan offers a unique opportunity to combat exclusionary zoning policies across all of New York.
We will always be strong advocates on behalf of New York’s built environment. We are committed to ensuring that billions of dollars of funding support New York’s economy, especially historically underfunded communities.
We urge all elected officials and organizations that will be involved in the decision-making processes for so many long-awaited projects as a result of this federal infrastructure funding to take our thoughtful, experience-based suggestions into account.
The New York Building Congress provides a unique forum to advance an industry-wide agenda focusing on economic and infrastructure investment, job creation and professional exchange. These goals require the dedicated involvement and cooperation of the contractors, architects, engineers, unions, real estate managers, developers and owners who comprise the building community.
On behalf of more than 550 constituent organizations comprising more than 250,000 skilled tradespeople and professionals, the Building Congress supports sound public policy, promotes productive capital spending, encourages public/private partnerships and evaluates the implementation of major government projects.