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DBIA Milestone: A new New York – Part 2

Following the election of Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York, DBIA gave a presentation at the Democratic Governors Association on the benefits of design-build. Governor Cuomo and his staff were incredibly interested in working with us to change New York’s construction laws that had been in place for 100 years. This had been an elusive goal of DBIA’s for a while and we were excited at the prospect of finally achieving it. Read Part 1 here.

With a new governor came new appointees, new staff and new priorities, so we decided to spend most of the year building relationships. Our Vice President of Legislative Affairs met personally with the new Commissioner of Transportation, Joan McDonald, who wanted more options for building transportation projects. She immediately became a big supporter of having a design-build option and her voice lent great credibility to our efforts.

Making change is hard for anyone, but especially if you’re the only one doing it. Thankfully, our efforts in New York were aided by our success in neighboring and competing states. There was a sense that a time may be approaching when it would be so much simpler to do business in design-build friendly states – such as Florida, California, Texas and Ohio – that the best companies (many of which were DBIA members) would avoid projects in New York. This would force the state to choose from a less innovative, less qualified list of applicants for projects. With that threat present in lawmakers’ minds, the only thing our case was missing were examples of successful design-build projects in the state.

Following Hurricane Irene, however, which devastated parts of upstate New York, Governor Cuomo used his emergency authority to authorize repairs using design-build. The success of these projects was exactly the in-state evidence we needed. Soon after, our language was added to a broader economic package meant to spur job creation through public works projects, and our contacts with Governor Cuomo leant the political capital we needed to change 100-year-old policies. The measure passed with broad bipartisan support.

Without DBIA’s efforts to develop relationships with the Governor’s office, certain legislators and key advocates, this monumental change may never have occurred. New York is now using design-build to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge, improve the route 347 corridor on Long Island and make repairs following Hurricane Sandy. We are confident that New York is moving towards greater adoption of design-build every year and we’ll be there every step of the way to ensure that.


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