New School News

Milano Grad Investigates the Politics of Tappan Zee ‘Megaproject’

Each day, motorists traveling across the Hudson River marvel at the magnificence of the new Tappan Zee Bridge, a sleek tuning-fork design being built just north of the current bridge.

The project has attracted Philip Plotch’s attention, too, but for entirely different reasons. Long before construction on the project began, the 2014 graduate of The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy was asking tough questions about “who was making decisions and why they were making them about such an important and costly project.”

“The more I learned, the more questions I had because I kept on coming across so many shocking things about our transportation agencies, politicians, business leaders, media, and civic leaders,” said Plotch, who wrote about the project in his PhD dissertation and new book, Politics Across the Hudson: The Tappan Zee Megaproject. “It was like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. Once I figured out the outline of the puzzle, I just had to keep searching for the missing pieces.”

In Politics Across the Hudson, Plotch traces the 30-year history of one of the state’s most controversial and mysterious construction projects. He puts the microscope over the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who Plotch claims used “questionable strategies” to fast-track approval of the bridge.

“Gov. Cuomo was able to get construction started on replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge because he made decisions behind closed doors, got rid of the public transportation component of the bridge, and minimized transparency,” said Plotch, who is currently the director of the Master of Public Administration program at Saint Peter’s University.

In addition, the book “reveals some sobering lessons” surrounding the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, Plotch said.

“We’ve allowed our infrastructure to deteriorate because Americans are loathe to pay higher taxes, tolls, and fares,” he added. “It is very short-sighted because it ends up costing us more in the long-run.”

Hopefully, with the construction of the Tappan Zee, New Yorkers will avoid the headaches associated with deteriorating infrastructure. But while there is much to celebrate about the new bridge, Plotch says it’s worth taking a look behind the scenes of the multi-billion dollar project to find out the sometimes sordid details of how it came to be.

For more information about the book, visit sites.google.com/site/thetappanzee/home.

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