The morning after New York gubernatorial candidate Eliot Spitzer easily won the Democratic Party primary he told more than 500 design and construction professionals at a breakfast fundraiser in Manhattan that he supported debt-financed infrastructure and backed some of the city's major infrastructure and development projects.

Spitzer expressed support for several controversial New York City development projects.
(Photo: Sarah Berman )

At the fund-raising event where a coalition of nine industry associations raised more than $600,000 for Spitzer's campaign, the state Attorney General told the crowd that he would change the culture of state government. Albany has a "World War I mentality," he says. Politicians dig trenches, shoot at their opponents and "whoever has the least injuries is considered the victor."

If elected, Spitzer says, he will create a new political environment, one where the victor will only be declared by results. "If the end product isn't being produced, then we have failed."

Spitzer will face John Faso, a former State Assembly leader, in the general election Nov. 7.

Criticized by his Republican challenger for hinting that he will raise taxes and spend heavily, Spitzer says spending wisely on infrastructure makes sense. "I have an aversion to incurring more debt, but there is a difference between good debt and bad debt," he says. Capital spending for infrastructure is "good debt," he told contractors and designers, and "without what you design, without what you build, we would stagnate."

Spitzer threw his support behind a number of controversial projects around New York City, such as the $820-million Moynihan Station, the $1-billion United Nations redevelopment, Columbia University's Manhattanville expansion plans and Brooklyn's $3.5-billion Atlantic Yards development.

A lack of progress at Ground Zero, says Spitzer, has been painful to watch. "Five years is too long for that site to linger," he says. With construction costs rising 30 percent a year, it also doesn't make financial sense, he adds.

On Manhattan's West Side, Spitzer says there is "no excuse" for leaving such a large and valuable parcel of government-owned land undeveloped. He urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the land, and New York City to reach an agreement on the land's value and move forward in whatever combination of retail, residential and commercial development "makes economic sense."

The New York design and construction industry seldom pulls its forces together to support one candidate. In this case the 500 attendees at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers paid anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for individual seats and up to $50,000 for a "co-Chair's table of 10."

"This coalition has come together with one voice to stand behind one great public servant, and that is Eliot Spitzer," says Dominick M. Servedio, chairman of STV Group and current chairman of The New York Building Congress, a member of the coalition. Servedio was instrumental in bringing the coalition together.

"We want to be part of Spitzer's success as governor on construction-related policies," says Louis J. Coletti, CEO of the Building Trades Employers' Association, an organization that represents union contractors in New York City. "We want to be part of his policy-making team when he is ready to move forward."

The coalition includes the local units of the American Council of Engineering Companies and the American Institute of Architects. It also includes the Building & Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, Building Trades Employers' Association, General Contractors Association, Independent Power Producers of New York, New York Building Congress, New York State Transportation Engineering Alliance and the Subcontractors Trade Association.