Assembly speaker: MTA connects North Country to New York City

Heastie visits Bombardier plant in Plattsburgh

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie talks about the strategic relationship between upstate and downstate New York during a press conference at Bombardier in Plattsburgh Tuesday with Assemblyman Billy Jones, left, and Bombardier Chief Operating Officer David Van der Wee. (Provided photo — Kayla Breen)

PLATTSBURGH — New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the MTA is a major economic engine for places like the North Country.

Covering 5,000 square miles throughout New York City, Long Island, southeastern New York state and Connecticut, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority buys from upstate New York’s transportation manufacturers.

And, Heastie said, the Bombardier Transportation plant in the City of Plattsburgh plays a big role in that relationship.

“I want to make sure that people understand that those of us in the city understand that there is a real connection between all of us,” the assembly speaker said.

“For the MTA, we need the cars; the cars are built here.”

Made in Plattsburgh

Heastie, a Democrat, spoke during a visit to the Bombardier facility on Tuesday afternoon.

That showing, his second to the local plant, kicked off the assembly speaker’s third annual trip to the North Country.

Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) suggested the speaker see that production facility again.

“People ask all of the time: Why are we interested in what goes on with the MTA? Why are we interested in what goes on in New York City?

“It’s very simple,” Jones said. “We manufacture stuff right here in Plattsburgh and in the North Country — that relates to jobs and obviously our economy here.”

Congestion pricing

Heastie said he would usually visit the North Country later in his tour.

“I wanted to come up here early, particularly with what happened in this year’s budget,” Heastie said, referencing the state’s vote for congestion pricing in New York City.

That toll, to be charged to drivers traveling through central Manhattan, is expected to ease travel congestion in that part of the Big Apple.

But, Heastie said, there’s another hefty benefit: increased funding to the MTA.

“The congestion price in the plan is to get us $28 billion of capitalization and, to me,” Heastie said, “it wouldn’t make sense if New York companies were not a part of that.”

With annual funds from congestion pricing, Heastie said, the city hopes to float bonds that will help build more trains and set up a new signal system.

“I think we have 21st century rail cars, I just think we don’t have a 21st century signal system in the city,” he said.

“Bombardier is a big part of what we’re trying to do in the city to just make it a very successful transportation system so my constituents can get to work on time and not be delayed.”

“No disconnect”

And that’s why, Heastie said, he doesn’t agree with elected officials who have suggested splitting upstate and downstate New York.

“People say they’re upset, because a lot of elected officials come from the city,” Heastie said. “Almost half of the state lives in the city of New York, so there will be a lot of elected officials from there.

“It’s all political. I think dividing the state — I don’t know how that would help Upstate New York, particularly with the struggles of the Upstate economy.”

And, the assembly speaker continued, Bombardier “is an absolute example of how there is no disconnect between Upstate and Downstate.

“I think the only difference is always just the miles in between — and you have a little more extreme weather in the winter than the city,” he said.

“But I like to always talk about the things that connect New Yorkers, not the things that separate New Yorkers,” he continued. “That’s why every year we try to make it around to all parts of the state outside of NYC.”

In August, Heastie will stop by other upstate New York cities, like Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse.