Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in town for a victory lap Wednesday. He used an appearance at Buffalo State College to tout the recently-passed state budget was just passed and how much it meant to Western New York, but he also touched on other topics.
Within the lengthy list of accomplishments Cuomo mentioned were $500 million in capital investments, half of which going to Buffalo State; passage of the Child Victims Act, "because it is no longer a question as whether or not children have been sexually abused by people in authority"; codifying Roe v. Wade, as part of "the most aggressive women's agenda in the United States of America"; and the end of cash bail for 90 percent of criminal cases, which he said would allow "25,000 people in Western New York to remain free until they have their day in court."
Cuomo admitted some big issues have not been resolved yet, particularly legalization of adult use of marijuana. He said it has to be done right from the beginning.
"The use is limited to adults for recreational use and that is more complicated than it sounds," said the governor. "If it's done incorrectly, we have a public safety issue. So we did not have a plan that I felt confident addressed all those needs."
Legislators are still talking about what to do. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is a strong proponent of legalization, with a piece of the action for small corner stores in the neighborhoods.
Cuomo also devoted time to a possible idea for Buffalo's Skyway. He previously had announced a contest to determine the future of the roadway, including posssibly tearing it down. He noted the constant maintenance needed to keep the Skyway safe.
"Whatever plan you're going to come up with, it would still be a significant amount of time before it would be enacted, right? So you need a safe Skyway in the meantime," Cuomo said. "But all urban planners, all across the country, will tell you the classic mistake was building a highway along the waterfront."
The governor then tempered those comments by saying a reverse in Buffalo development plan for "now the major asset is the water" is reason for reversing plans for the Skyway. He offered an idea for keeping the Skyway intact, while transforming its use.
"There are many options that you could consider with the Skyway. You could keep the Skyway and developed the area beneath it. Some cities have done that," said the governor. "You can transform the Skyway into a highline. There's a highline in New York City that was an elevated roadway, rail line that they converted into a walking path, entertainment center that has attracted people literally from around the world. You could take it down and redevelop the area. You could leave it and come up with additional access to the outer harbor. So there are a lot of options. We need creativity. We need some exciting ideas."
New York City's High Line was the result of a contest. State Economic chief Howard Zemsky is leading the Skyway contest, while Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown has been running it locally. The goal is to pick a contest winner within six months and that will decide the bridge's fate.