As Gov. Cuomo faces political scandals, petition still calling for bridge name change
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo faces a pair of scandals that have thrown his political future into question, his handling of a major infrastructure project could shed light on how he'll handle the fallout.
Tens of thousands of people have signed a petition to change the Gov. Mario Cuomo Bridge back to the Tappan Zee Bridge.
Back when it was the Tappan Zee, everyone - from drivers traveling over it to engineers inspecting under it - knew that it needed to be replaced.
For many reasons, it just didn't happen - a problem that then-newly elected Gov. Andrew Cuomo saw as a symptom of something bigger.
And in that, he saw an opportunity to make something happen.
News 12 political analyst John Murtagh says it's risky for a politician to attach their name to a project this size, but also incredibly beneficial if they pull it off, as it happened in this case.
"Yes, it was certainly a way to say 'I was an effective executive. I got things done. I made government work,'" says Murtagh.
And as smooth as things are running now, it's easy to forget the many rough patches the $4 billion project ran into.
By combining the design and construction into one firm, Tappan Zee Constructors was able to use a revolutionary system of fabricating giant pieces upriver on land, and then floating them down and putting them into place with the mega-crane, I Lift New York.
Despite all of the planning, things went wrong - weather caused some significant delays, and tragically on July 26, 2013, a speed boat collided with a construction barge, killing two people.
Three years later, a crane collapsed onto the bridge deck of the old bridge still in use. Three motorists were injured, along with two workers.
Despite those setbacks, in September 2018, Gov. Cuomo drove over the second span of the new bridge, hailing a major project finished relatively on time and on budget.
But there was just one thing - it wasn't the Tappan Zee Bridge any more, it was the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
"To strip another governor's name off the bridge to put your dad's name on it, rubs people the wrong way," says Murtagh.
Since then, more than 150,000 of them have signed a petition to change the name back.
But how does something like that even happen?
Former Democratic state Sen. David Carlucci says the name change was an example of the governor using the mechanics of government to his advantage.
"Either you vote against it and you don't get anything, or you go for it and help your community, help your school district -- well, you got to take the good with the bad," says Carlucci.
And now with Gov. Cuomo in hot water over the investigation into nursing home deaths and allegations of sexual harassment, he is also learning the good and bad of using what some call not governing, but bullying.
"The problem for someone like Andy Cuomo is what makes him effective also makes him a person who, when trouble does come up, he doesn't have a lotta friends if he has any at all," says Murtagh.
"That's it, the political style that's been around since the dawn of time. I think it's one that's starting to change," says Carlucci.
Unfortunately, for the supporters of "Save our Tappan Zee," another budget deal has been reached without a name change. They say they will continue their fight and are pushing for more signatures to their petition.