Senator Tim Kennedy has been getting a lot of newfound attention following the Democratic Party’s takeover the Senate chamber last November. He was even named the Chairman of the Transportation Committee by Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Westchester County.
His fundraising among local and downstate contributors have spiked as a result.
The move was intended to show the region that Stewart-Cousins intended to deliver for Western New York and that she intended to expand her majority by picking up seats in Western New York.
He was expected to deliver big for the region, but now that the first legislative session under Democrat rule has passed, it seems that those expectations were too high for the Senator’s limited prowess.
It was widely hoped that Kennedy would have been able to direct the Department of Transporation (DOT) to remove the Scajauquada Expressway. The funding to reconstruct the 3.8-mile roadway was already allocated, but the DOT has been unable to appease local design concerns and local residents have questioned the need for the roadway at all.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has been vocal in advocacy for an extension of its light rail system to the University at Buffalo‘s North Campus, a project that would cost between $1 billion and $1.2 billion.
Nor has Kennedy secured funding to complete the removal of the remainder of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls.
At the same time, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a contest to redesign the Skyway, raising even greater hopes among local planners and design enthusiasts that the DOT would take a more innovative posture that prioritizes local concerns.
But given the area’s experience with DOT — including the Scajaquada fiasco and the reconstruction of the elevated Route 5 along the outer harbor — local residents are more baffled than inspired by the Governor’s uncharacteristically creative and forward-looking design contest.
With all that is happening locally on the transportation front, political operatives can’t comprehend why Kennedy has been so quiet and inactive in the last legislative session. The only project of note that he’s delivered was a $100 million commitment to modernize the Metrorail, and that was staggered over 5 years.
Given that Western New York has no other Democrat members of the Senate’s governing caucus, the region doesn’t have much opportunity to work the levers of influence in Albany.
That the business community has noticed its remarkable loss of influence could be a silver lining for Republican State Chairman Nick Langworthy, who is feverishly planning a takeover of the chamber next year.