Leni’s eclectic coverage of the Greater New York Construction User Council Breakfast: Infrastructure
Greater New York Construction User Council Panelists: Jason Bram (economist, Federal Reserve Bank of New York), Seth Pinsky (President, New York City Economic Development Corporation – NYCEDC), Elliot Sander (Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority – MTA), Christopher O. Ward (Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – PANYNJ)
The event was very well attended. Each panelist opened by explaining construction and budget issues during the next period. The real-estate blog GreenPearl covers these facts and figures.
Mr. Sander brought along a rail marker signal; “my friend Mike”, and explained that the signal systems have to be upgraded and that they are doing so for the Number 7 line and Queen’s Plaza. In regards to technology and innovation, he said that when the engineers first removed this, the standard signal, they assumed that it was manufactured in the 1930’s, and it may have been, but it was revelatory when they looked at the engraved patent label, it said 1912!
My contribution was to ask about the importance of aesthetics and innovation in infrastructure developments during the Q&A. Chris Ward cited the concept of “creative cities” and how aesthetics add value to the urban environment. He opined that “engineering and aesthetics can create new models”. And reminded the audience that Christo’s Central Park “The Gates” brought record revenues into NYC. Mr. Ward noted that it was a “balancing act” – “expense versus look and feel” of a in terms of infrastructural projects.
On the question of sustainability and how the agencies were applying these principles to infrastructure, Mr. Ward’s quote is my favorite, “the sustainability prism is a screening process…”
One of my new interests, Public Private Partnerships (PPP), was addressed. Mr. Ward suggested that PANYNJ is not interested in monetization in the model of tollways, but that they might be interested in money to fill a gap, with sovereign funds, for example. He indicated that the Port’s Staten Island Bridge assets were reaching the end of life and that funding that project would be challenging.
MTA said that they were also open to PPP involvement and so was the City – supportive of PPP and leveraging funds.
This interchange was intriguing, as PPP has not made the kind of headway that you see in UK, India, and South America.
The Council announced that they will be holding an event on Public Private Partnerships in April 2009.