Governor Cuomo’s Bridge Light Show Plans Go Dark | Citizens Against Government Waste

Governor Cuomo’s Bridge Light Show Plans Go Dark

The WasteWatcher

Among his many other ambitious projects, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) decided in 2017 that he wanted to add multi-colored flashing light shows with music to every bridge in New York City.  The goal was to have the bridges be an “international tourist attraction,” and the idea came to fruition when the new Kosciuszko Bridge connecting Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Maspeth, Queens, was lit up on Mother’s Day 2017. 

But after this unveiling, nothing else happened.  An August 2, 2021 POLITICO article, which included information from a review of newly released documents related to the project, showed that taxpayers had to foot the $106 million bill for the “Harbor of Lights” project, including $37 million worth of LED lights that are sitting in a warehouse.  The project was expected to cost a total of $212 million. 

Wasting the taxpayers' money is not the governor’s biggest problem right now, but it is another example of his grandiose, failed schemes to improve the state’s economy, including his March 2014 announcement of a “Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries in Onondaga County.”  The hub cost $15 million and was built at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), with the expectation it would create up to 350 jobs and attract $150 million in private investment over seven years.  By 2017, the project was a bust, and seven individuals, including the chief executive and senior vice president of CNSE, were indicted by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan as part of “a lengthy investigation into public corruption related to ‘the Cuomo administration’s efforts to lure jobs and businesses to upstate New York’s limping economy by furnishing billions of dollars in state funds to developers from Buffalo to Albany.’”

Other infrastructure and tourism-related projects that the governor initiated in 2017 included his request that theMetropolitan Transportation Authority spend $30 million to retile several tunnels to match the state’s blue-and-gold color scheme instead of addressing the repairs that the subway needed.  He also had the state spend millions to install “I LOVE NEW YORK” tourism signs on the highways before being informed that they were illegal and had to be removed. 

After a summer of significant delays and breakdowns across the New York City subway system, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (D) said that he would rather see money go to the subways instead of a light show.  New York Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) stated that it was “terrible that we blew $106 million of taxpayer money on a project that never should’ve gotten off the drawing board” and she was grateful that the project did not initially move forward. 

Gov. Cuomo’s spokesperson, Rich Azzopardi, stated that there are still plans to move the project forward as it “will drive tourism — helping to rebuild an incredibly important part of New York’s economy that was destroyed by this pandemic — and make New York an even more dynamic place to live and open a business.”  He said other cities that have bridge lightings include London, Montreal, Paris, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

The idea that the “Harbor of Lights” is still viable after wasting tens of millions of dollars on “tourism” projects is another example of how Gov. Cuomo is tone deaf to the taxpayers’ needs.  It is time to pull the plug and redirect that money to critical infrastructure needs, or perhaps not spend the money at all and give it back to hard-working New Yorkers.