Bloomberg Upbeat, Media Less So, Ahead of PlaNYC Hearings

excelsior.jpgWith a scant few weeks left in the session, the state Assembly has scheduled the first of six hearings on PlaNYC — including, of course, congestion pricing — for Friday at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, at 42 West 44th Street.

The Daily Politics reports:

The hearing will be conducted by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee,
chaired by Herman “Denny” Farrell, Jr.; the Transportation Committee,
chaired by David Gantt; the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions
Committee, chaired by Richard Brodsky; the Energy Committee, chaired by
Paul Tonko; the Environmental Conservation Committee, chaired by Robert
Sweeney; and the Cities Committee, chaired by James Brennan.

But is it too little, too late? Though Mayor Bloomberg has refused to criticize state lawmakers for premature criticism of congestion pricing, the Daily News, for one, has not held back:

No bills have been introduced, no hearings held. Gov. Spitzer didn’t
mention the topic when he met with legislative leaders last week, until
Senate GOP leader Joe Bruno chided him for the oversight.

At this rate, the waters of melting glaciers will be lapping at the
Empire State Building doors before Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal gets out
of committee. When it comes to gridlock, the Manhattan streets have
nothing on the Capitol corridors.

The editorial board at the Times has expressed similar sentiments (though you’ll need a subscription to read them at this point). And the News blog’s Elizabeth Benjamin wonders if the hearings are a sign of progress at all.

I asked [Press Secretary] Stu Loeser whether Mayor Bloomberg plans to participate in
the Assembly Democrats’ first hearing on congestion pricing in
Manhattan this Friday, and also if he considers the event a positive
development or a stalling tactic.

Bloomberg is "looking forward" to testifying, Loeser replied,
adding: "It’s very encouraging that the Speaker has made it a priority
in the last month of session to find time to discuss the merits of
PlaNYC."

So what are Assembly members — the ones who haven’t already endorsed PlaNYC — concerned about? Pricing opponent Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) told Benjamin that Bloomberg can expect questions regarding "the consequences of installing hundreds more cameras throughout
Manhattan
to determine who needs to be charged for entering the
congestion pricing zone and the idea of charging for access to public
roads based on an individual’s ability to pay
."

Photo: stgermh/Flickr

  • Yabba

    Isn’t it Brodsky’s m.o. to make life difficult for anyone he comes in contact with? What is the guy actually for?

  • mork

    Hey — guess what? Access to other transportation facilities, like subways, is already based on an individual’s ability to pay.

    Oh, and here’s the Times OP-ED mentioned above.

    Get Moving on Traffic Relief

    Published: May 25, 2007

    Congestion pricing, a system of charging drivers for traveling on a city’s most-crowded streets, is a proven success that New York City is right to want to emulate. It has worked in Stockholm and London, where skepticism gave way to resounding support. Residents of both cities were turned around by the unclogged streets, quicker commutes, better public transportation and cleaner air. Now that Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to give congestion pricing a try, state leaders, starting with Gov. Eliot Spitzer, should get on board.

    Mr. Bloomberg’s proposed traffic reliever — charging $8 for most drivers on streets south of 86th Street in Manhattan during prime weekday hours — requires state approval to move forward. With less than four weeks remaining in the regular legislative session, time is short.

    Mr. Spitzer’s enthusiastic support could help give the plan the boost it needs and burnish his own environmental credentials. So far he’s been noncommittal, and the clock is ticking.

    There is good reason to act quickly. As much as $500 million of federal funding for a three-year pilot project is hanging in the balance. If there is no green light from Albany before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, the money may have to be reauthorized.

    The financial case for congestion pricing is compelling. The fees that are collected would help pay for $31 billion in mass transit capital improvements over the next two decades. State lawmakers have not offered any other ideas for coming up with that critical funding. If congestion pricing does not go through, transit riders can expect a fare hike, perhaps as early as this year, along with tax increases. That would be a greater burden on New Yorkers than a voluntary fee.

    The cautious reception that congestion pricing has received so far is understandable. The Spitzer administration is concerned that it would give the city more control of transit purse strings. But a city-state power-sharing agreement can be worked out. Opponents in boroughs outside Manhattan, meanwhile, have been complaining that working people will be hurt. But studies show that relatively few working people drive to jobs in Manhattan right now. Many more commuters from these boroughs would benefit from the money that congestion pricing would contribute to improved transportation.

    Mr. Bloomberg’s plan, introduced just one month ago, clearly got a late start for this legislative session. But that is all the more reason to move expeditiously, so New York’s commuters will be able to do the same.

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