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BP Stringer Releases Roadmap to Guide Action on City and Regional Infrastructure Challenges

“Banking on the Future” post-conference report includes summary of meeting of the minds on the need to create an infrastructure bank and six core recommendations for state and federal action

Stringer speaks of “unique moment” for leaders to come together and formulate solutions to region’s infrastructure woes

October 25, 2011, New York, NY – Calling for a renewed commitment to repair the region’s deteriorating infrastructure, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer today released “Banking on the Future”, a comprehensive report and guide to action on a host of infrastructure-related issues. Citing a “unique moment” for such action, Borough President Stringer pointed to new leadership at the MTA and an anticipated vote on President Obama’s push for creation of a national infrastructure bank next week in the U.S. Senate. 

The report summarizes the proceedings of “Banking on the Future: A New Paradigm for Rebuilding our Nation’s Infrastructure,” a conference organized by the Borough President in March and the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College that brought together national experts and leaders to discuss and analyze the creation of national, regional and state infrastructure banks. The conference also focused on issues related to clean energy, transportation and high speed rail, and private and pension investments in infrastructure and job creation.  

“We know that the creation of an infrastructure bank could pave the way for a multitude of badly-needed and long-delayed projects that would help New York rebuild and strengthen its aging network of roads, tunnels, bridges and transportation facilities,” Stringer said. “What’s needed now is a will to act--a desire to turn this extraordinary idea of an infrastructure bank into a meaningful reality. I’m hopeful the release of this report today will help spur leaders at the local, state and national level to take necessary action.”

Featured speakers at the conference included Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Representatives Steve Israel (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), former Executive Director of the Port Authority of NY/NJ Chris Ward, Bernard Schwartz, chairman and CEO of BLS Investments, and Felicity Gates, co-head of Citi Infrastructure Investors. The plenary session was moderated by Mitchell Moss, Director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy. The event was created in partnership with the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute at Baruch College and attracted more than 300 attendees with backgrounds in finance, labor, transportation, energy and government. 

“While there is growing support for an infrastructure bank, a substantial educational process lies ahead,” said Jack S. Nyman, director of the Newman Institute.  “We know it’s time for fresh thinking.  We know the challenge is not only to design new financing models but to sell them.” Nyman continued: “We must help every sector of the economy genuinely understand its own stake in infrastructure issues, and we must engage all sectors fully in building support for new financial models over the long term.”

The report identified major areas of vulnerability for the nation’s infrastructure, including New York City. It concluded that “the need to develop a long-term strategy for meeting New York City’s enormous infrastructure needs cannot be understated,” given that 66% of the City’s bridges and overpasses are rated “functionally obsolete” by the state Department of Transportation. The Borough President’s roadmap to action includes the following recommendations:

  • Plan for the future – Include key infrastructure needs and upgrades in initial plans submitted by each of the ten NYS Regional Economic Development Councils to the Empire State Development Corporation on November 14, 2011.

  • Explore pension investments in infrastructure – New York has several billions of dollars in municipal and private pension funds statewide that can be prudently leveraged for infrastructure investments.

  • Streamline capital planning – New York should draft a statewide capital plan and standardize procurement models across agencies and authorities in order to foster a more cohesive approach to infrastructure investment

  • Do not allow TIFIA funding to be cut during federal deficit negotiations – The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act is a much-needed resource for states and it should not be cut by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.

  • Ensure that strict safeguards protect public monies invested in P3’s – In order to ensure oversight and protect taxpayers, the Attorney General and State Comptroller’s office should review and monitor all public private partnership agreements on major infrastructure projects.

  • Introduce a new infrastructure bank bill in the State legislature – On January 11, 2011 a bill was introduced by NYS Senator Martin Dilan to introduce a $250 million NYS Infrastructure Bank – the bill did not make it out of committee. This report recommends that a new bill should be introduced for the 2012 session.

"Investing in our infrastructure is more critical than ever,” said James Parrott, Ph.D., Deputy Director and Chief Economist for the Fiscal Policy Institute. “It means not only jobs today but a more productive and brighter future. This report highlights new approaches and underscores the urgent need to start building the future now."

"This is just the type of focused attention that every city and state should be paying to this vital set of issues.  Manhattan Borough President Stringer should be commended for his insight and foresight," said Michael Likosky, Senior Fellow, NYU's Institute for Public Knowledge

Much of the conference focused on the creation of infrastructure banks as a possible solution to funding such needs. Such banks use government dollars in the form of loans, tax credits, insurance, guarantees, bonds or direct subsidies to leverage much larger sums of private capital to invest in public works, the report noted. The results are carefully structured public private partnerships that harness a combination of private lending and public financing to produce public goods that are national or regional priorities. A key advantage of such banks is that they support projects which generate enough revenues to provide a return on investment, thus attracting new sources of private capital.

“The good news is that private capital for infrastructure is abundant,” the report said. “According to a recent report issues by Sphere Consulting LLC, there is an estimated $250 billion in global private funding available for infrastructure P3’s – a 40% increase from just one year ago.” The Sphere report estimates that this initial amount can be leveraged to a value of $650 billion and can create 1,875,000 jobs over ten years.

“We have the tools, and we have the vision to make a lasting contribution to the preservation of our infrastructure, both here in New York and nationally,” the Borough President said. “I hope leaders at all levels of government and the private sector will take the ideas and suggestions contained in this report and give us a blueprint for the future.”

The full list of those who participated in the conference’s breakout sessions includes:

  • Mike Fishman, President – 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

  • Gary LaBarbera, President – Building Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. 

  • Tria Case, University Director of Sustainability – The City University of New York;

  • Garry A. Brown, Chairman – NYS Public Service Commission;

  • Reza Ghafurian, Technical Leader-Central Engineering – Con Edison;

  • Jackson Morris, Senior Policy Advisor – Pace University Energy and Climate Center.

  • Robert Paaswell, Director Emeritus – Region II University Transportation Research Center; Stanley Gee, Executive Deputy Commissioner – NYS Department of Transportation;

  • Ya-Ting Liu, Federal Advocate – Tri-State Transportation Campaign;

  • Manfred Ohrenstein, Partner – Ohrenstein & Brown, LLP;

  • Petra Todorovich, Director of America 2050 – Regional Plan Association;

  • Christopher J. Taylor, Deputy Director of High Speed Rail – AECOM

  • Samara Barend, Vice President & Director of Strategic Development for PPPs & Alternative Delivery-North America – AECOM

  • Vonda Brunsting, Eastern Regional Director – SEIU Capital Stewardship Program

  • John Dionisio, Infrastructure Director – Merediam Infrastructure

  • Joyce Miller, CEO – Tier One Public Strategies

  • Cynthia Praschnik, Investment Principal – Citi Infrastructure Investors.

  • James A. Parrott, Chief Economist – Fiscal Policy Institute

  • Richard T. Anderson, President – New York Building Congress

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