March 21, 2017

roundtable.pngLICA LI Regional Roundtable Wrap-Up 

On Thursday, March 16, LICA welcomed to a roundtable several regional directors of our state agencies who provided attendees with the latest information on relevant issues within each of their respective departments. Following the pledge, led by Marianela Casas, Regional Representative for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Marc Herbst welcomed and introduced NYS Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon who provided opening remarks. As she introduced herself, Commissioner Reardon noted she used to be both an actor and member of the actors' union and cited her prior experience in union relations, including having led the merger between SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). She believes this gives her a better understanding of our industry and the importance of working with labor partners.

The Commissioner stressed that the Department of Labor (DOL) was not merely a “Sheriff” to police businesses (although she really does have a badge!) but rather, that the DOL is here to make sure that the laws we have, which are meant to protect businesses, are enforced so that all businesses can “compete on a level playing field.” She spoke of the Governor’s Middle Class Recovery Act which includes funding for jobs and infrastructure, including paving 10,200 miles of roads and repairing 2,650 bridges in the New York region. She spoke about the LIRR Double Track and station improvements which will be dramatic, as well as the anticipated LIRR Third Track project which they expect will provide for a great deal of work for our industry (think access roads and parking garages).

Joseph Brown, Region 10 Director for the Department of Transportation addressed the group next and spoke about future projects such as the raising and reconstruction of part of Route 878 (Nassau Expressway) which is estimated at approximately $110 million. When asked, Brown noted that this $110 million is in addition to the region’s average $200 million yearly transportation budget approved as part of the 5 year capital program passed in 2016. However, this design-build project, although “accelerated” by the Governor, isn’t due to be let until 2018 for construction that will take place in 2019. Projects slotted for the near term include a best value contract for Robert Moses Parkway, due out in April; $20 million for Rt. 231/Northern State Parkway; as well as $50-60 million for improvements to fix the Northern State-Route 106/107 interchange.

Comments from the audience included questions about the lack of paving projects recently, especially this past year. Brown admitted that although there has been more money allotted for paving in the last two years versus the three years prior to that, the state was slow in releasing those contracts due to the budget deficit and as a result, they are still "catching up." Another audience member inquired about contracts to complete Route 347. To the disappointment of many, Brown said the remaining 6-8 phases for that project were not scheduled for release until 2023-2025 and through 2031. Audience members also requested that other important projects be “fast tracked” and in general, made a plea to have projects released much earlier in the year, so that work can begin as soon as construction season is underway – noting that many projects last year were not released until late summer/fall near the end of the working season.

Cara Longworth, LI Regional Director of Empire State Development spoke about the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) and their success in winning funding for major projects in the last 4 of 5 rounds of state-wide competition. She stated the REDC has a dozen different funding sources to help move these projects forward, noting that nearly $85 million has been slated to support large-scale infrastructure related projects such as Hempstead (sewers), the Nassau Hub, Wyandanch Rising, Ronkonkoma Hub (sewers/parking garages), Kings Park (sewers), Brookhaven Labs and more. The REDC also announced an award of $10 million for the Westbury Downtown Revitalization project which includes infrastructure improvements such as roadwork and additional parking garages.

Carrie Meek Gallagher, LI Regional Director for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) provided an update on the pending overhaul of DEC Part 360 which regulates solid waste management facilities and the handling of construction & demolition (C&D) debris processing. Following the publication of draft regulations in February, she said thousands of comments were received which the department is now reviewing. Based on those comments, they are revising the regulations again and will open them up for another round of public comments in May. On June 2 they’ll hold one public hearing in Albany, then expect to have the new regulations take effect November 4. Among the issues being addressed in the changes are the definition of road versus building demolition waste and a clearer definition for BUD (Beneficial Use Determination) regarding the separation of materials, stating that the DEC is looking to reduce the amount of concrete and asphalt going to landfills and safely recycle as much as possible. Meek Gallagher noted they were also focusing on fill materials, addressing throughput and storage limits; outlining best practices to control dust and noise; and increasing tracking on transportation of materials to help reduce illegal dumping and disposal.

A member of the audience addressed the director to voice his concerns about the DEC, noting that dealing with local DEC representatives has been historically slow and difficult, claiming there is a tendency to treat all contractors as though they are “the bad guys” when in fact, they are following the law, doing the necessary analyticals, getting the proper permits, etc. Meek Gallagher stated that the agency is working to streamline processes which should help improve relations and noted that once the new Part 360 regulations are finalized, she is hoping to add additional staff which will also help. DOT Regional Director Joe Brown added that his agency, which deals closely with the DEC, has seen a “noticeable difference” in the DEC of late, claiming they are far more receptive to outside ideas and are working more quickly and cooperatively overall.

Diane Lombardi, Assistant to the Commissioner of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reinforced to the audience the importance of tourism to our local economy and noted that last year over 23 million visitors came through our state parks. With $900 million dollars recently allotted by Governor Cuomo to their agency – the largest investment in our state parks in years – the department has begun meeting with Long Island facility managers and contractors regarding infrastructure projects and how best to proceed. Last year, the department released their first PLA (Project Labor Agreement) for a best-value project worth $5 million for Robert Moses bath house improvements, and Lombardi was pleased to note the project was on time and on budget. Upcoming projects include the construction of 10 to 12 luxury rental cottages in Heckscher State Park (slotted to begin this fall and be completed in 2018) as well as $34 million for improvements at Hempstead Lake State Park.

During the last moments of Q&A, DOT Regional Director Joe Brown did acknowledge that his department had compiled a transportation and infrastructure “wish list” for the new Trump administration, noting that several drainage related and other Long Island-based projects were part of that list but no one could confirm if or when any of those projects may become a reality.

The region-specific, casual and interactive format of this event was extremely well received by our audience and productive for our regional directors. LICA would like to thank the Commissioner and our distinguished guests, as well as everyone who attended the roundtable, for joining us. We hope to host more events like this to address the needs of our membership.

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