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Banking legend Rohatyn appointed to NY infra bank

Lazard veteran Felix Rohatyn will serve on the board of a $25bn infrastructure bank put forward by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Rohatyn became a household name in the 1970s with his success in helping the Big Apple avoid a fiscal crisis.

Politically seasoned investment banker Felix Rohatyn has signed on with the budding New York infrastructure bank proposed by state Governor Andrew Cuomo last December.

Rohatyn will serve as a board member with the bank, a $25 billion entity that emerged as part of the “New York works fund and task force” that Cuomo detailed in his January state of the state address. 

Cuomo, who became governor in January 2011, has emphasised that the rehabilitation of surface transportation, such as his call to build a new Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson River, is a central theme of his platform, but he has faced criticism for failing to detail his plan to revitalise infrastructure.

Cuomo, for his part, has stressed his vision to involve the private sector in rebuilding infrastructure statewide, while citing construction as crucial to job creation.

Rohatyn, 83, earned a reputation as a crafty deal-maker with financial services outfit Lazard and has a storied track record in the Big Apple based on his role in helping the city avoid bankruptcy in the 1970s, when he restructured its debt. A Democrat, Rohatyn long-aspired to become US secretary of the Treasury, and became US ambassador to France under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2000.

Vienna-born Rohatyn has been vocal in his opinion that infrastructure is a crucial ballast for economic health. He authored a book, Bold Endeavors: How Our Government Built America and Why It Must Rebuild Now. In a 2010 interview with Infrastructure Investor, he stressed his belief that a larger effort from the federal government was needed to bolster infrastructure throughout the nation.

“The auto industry gets more attention than infrastructure,” Rohatyn told Infrastructure Investor. And clearly, it should be the other way around”.

Last week, Chicago, under the aegis of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Clinton, unveiled its plan for a billion-dollar trust to revitalise infrastructure in the Windy City. Current US President Barack Obama in his state of the union address pressed for the creation of a national infrastructure bank.