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December 15, 2018

Tunnel of love: Trump and Cuomo reach a detente over rail project

November 29, 2018
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters during a press conference about the Hudson River Tunnels in his New York City office on Wednesday in New York. (Barry Williams for New York Daily News)

The tunnel could still collapse, but President Trump and Gov. Cuomo got to shore up their shaky relationship.

Surf and turf and infrastructure were on the menu Wednesday at a White House lunch between the political rivals to discuss the much-ballyhooed, sub-Hudson Gateway Tunnel project.




Cuomo, a Democrat, has been pushing the Republican President to pony up the federal government’s half of the estimated $13 billion needed for a new rail tunnel to connect New York and New Jersey.

Former President Barack Obama had tentatively agreed to foot the bill, but Trump has not backed the bill.

As for the meeting, no promises were made, but neither were any political put-downs, which, in this poisonous political climate, qualifies as a grand success.

Just weeks ago, Cuomo was slamming the President on everything from immigration to tax reform, calling Trump the “main risk to the state of New York.”

But Trump was practically blowing kisses at the President, leaving many to wonder what the White House put in the shrimp.

“I think it’s fair to say that the meeting was a positive meeting,” Cuomo told reporters after the love fest. ”I think it’s fair to say that the President was receptive to what we were talking about and the President said that he wanted to take the next steps to find a way forward.”

Trump, meanwhile, didn’t call Cuomo any names. He didn’t tweet any insults. He let the White House issue a statement that was missing only a Barry White song in the background.

“The President, joined by Secretary Chao and Ambassador Lighthizer, had a private lunch today with Governor Cuomo at the White House,” the statement said.

“The group discussed a number of important topics, focusing on infrastructure. The President cares deeply for his home state of New York and always appreciates the opportunity to engage with the Governor on issues important to the state and region..”

It didn’t hurt that Cuomo had ruled a bid of his own for the White House just 24 hours earlier, saying he would serve his full term unless “God strikes me dead.”

“I’m ruling it out,” Cuomo told WNYC Tuesday. “ I ran for governor, I have a full plate, I have many projects, I’m going to be here doing the job of governor,”

At a Manhattan briefing after the luncheon, Cuomo said he and Trump discussed the run-down 108-year-old Hudson River tunnel, which was severely damaged by salt water that filled it during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Experts say a new tunnel is essential to ensuring reliable rail travel throughout the entire Northeast.

But while Cuomo was playing good cop, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer took on the role of bad cop, bashing Trump for playing politics over the tunnel.




“The Gateway Tunnel project is fundamental to the New York regional, northeast and national economy, and the failure to modernize and rebuild it would lead to Armageddon for commuters and derail the economy,” Schumer said in a statement.

“The president should not play political games with Gateway, but should instead join the governors of New York and New Jersey, and the bipartisan congressional delegations of those states, in getting it built as quickly as possible.”

Cuomo said the two sides should be able to break the impasse.

“There’s no Democratic or Republican way to fix a tunnel,” Cuomo said. “The water comes in, the tunnel collapses. That’s not a Democratic or Republican problem.”

The battle of the Big Apple big shots heated up over the summer after Trump, during a campaign appearance in Utica to stump for a Republican candidate, practically dared Cuomo to run against him.

Cuomo took the bait, and landed in hot water after riffing on Trump’s campaign slogan, and saying America “was never that great,” a statement he tried to walk back.

“Can you believe this is the Governor of the Highest Taxed State in the U.S.,” Trump tweeted in response. “Andrew Cuomo, having a total meltdown!”

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