BY JANIE ROSMAN
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office held two meetings in partnership with the Business Council of Westchester and Rockland Business Association regarding the $5.2 billion Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project.
This is the start of the process,” Brian Conybeare said that July 2012 day in White Plains. Cuomo appointed the former News 12 anchor days earlier as his advisor on what became known as the New NY Bridge project.
Earlier this week Conybeare resigned his position effective November 6, thanking the governor for entrusting him to work on the state’s largest infrastructure venture.
“I am incredibly proud of the progress our team made over the past 3+ years together,” he wrote Monday in his resignation letter, calling the rising twin spans “very visible proof that great things can be accomplished when New Yorkers work together.”
“With construction now reaching the halfway point, it is time for me to focus on my future both professionally and personally,” he wrote.
Before construction began Conybeare and the Outreach Team kept the public informed through community meetings. Once the project started in January 2013, his team introduced the first part of a five-year modular program to educate and inspire students from grade school to post-graduate levels.
“If somebody asks me a question about the Bridge and I can’t answer it, I write it down and go right to the experts to get the answer,” he told Westchester Magazine (April 2013 issue). “I go out there and give them the best answers I can.”
Conybeare did that and more, going out of his way to help others.
One unseasonably cold April morning a group of us reporters met for a media tour: the super crane was making its first lift and placement. As we waited in the parking lot he opened the trunk of his car. “If anyone needs a warm jacket, I have a few extras,” he offered.
During his first public meeting in his new role, Conybeare explained the bridge would still be without pedestrian walkways and shoulders, and would have the same amount of problems and pitfalls.
“To rehab it would cost the state $3 to $4 billion during the next 20 years,” he said. “The state spent $750 million so far. (It’s time to) stop throwing good money into bad.”
He would tirelessly repeat these facts at community meetings and educational outreach presentation. During the past three-plus years project officials held more than 700 community meetings, reaching thousands of residents and professionals and more than 25,000 students.
The project was not without conflict: Conybeare often sought resolution between design-build team Tappan Zee Constructors, LLC, and local officials, most recently that the bridge’s shared use path not disrupt a quiet South Nyack neighborhood.
Robert Megna, Thruway Authority Executive Director Robert Megna, who took the agency’s helm in January, said Conybeare was “integral to the success of the New NY Bridge project.”
Megna expressed gratitude for Conybeare’s service since July 2012 and understood his desire to return to the private sector. “The entire project team wishes Brian nothing but success as he pursues new endeavors,” he said.
The Thruway Authority has not named Conybeare’s replacement.