City Holds Its Breath for Silver

silver_speaking.jpgAt the end of last week it appeared Mayor Bloomberg was on the verge of pulling it off. Having scored a congestion pricing bill in the state Senate, coaxed a cautious endorsement from the governor, and all but securing a near half-billion dollar pledge from Washington, Bloomberg sailed into Friday’s state Assembly hearings on a wave of green apple-fueled adulation.

By most accounts, the mayor ran circles around his Albany inquisitors, as recounted in the Daily News:

Yesterday’s Assembly hearing smacked of obfuscation and obstructionism. [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver stacked the witness list with critics while failing to invite the MTA or any of the dozens of environmental and public health groups who back congestion pricing. The questions from lawmakers ranged from the skeptical to the outright hostile… But Bloomberg parried every thrust, and those testifying on the other side did their cause more harm than good.

And the Observer:

Mayor Bloomberg fought off the bridge-and-tunnel Assembly Members who showed up at this morning’s hearing on congestion pricing, knocking down their objections one by one and dusting himself off afterward.

Them: It taxes the middle class. Him: No, it gives money to the transit system used by the working poor. Etc., etc.

Bloomberg even scheduled an unusual Sunday press conference to announce the enlistment of congressman and Queens Democratic Party chief Joseph Crowley, an unexpected ally the mayor described as "as influential in this as anybody can be."

Then Speaker Silver, a notable no-show last Friday, finally spoke:

We do all have a desire to do something positive about the environment, about preventing children from growing up with asthma. I’m not sure that this congestion pricing hits that, since many of the neighborhoods that have children with asthma are not within the congestion-pricing zone… Some of those areas will not benefit by the target of congestion pricing; in fact, some of those areas will become parking lots with people driving around the neighborhoods looking for parking spots in order to avoid congestion pricing fees.

There are people that have questions about putting a thousand cameras in the streets of Manhattan from a perspective of Big Brother watching you. And are there other ways you can do it as well? Are there other ways to achieve the goals? Will mass transit be ready to handle the overage? What’s the significance of it? So these are all questions that hopefully good minds will get to work on answering and we’ll have a comprehensive plan that makes sense.

Now, at least for the moment, all eyes turn to Silver, who so far has publicly posed no questions that haven’t already been addressed, but who nonetheless has the power to stop congestion pricing in its tracks. The speaker, though, has not indicated he will do so, hinting instead that, even if time runs out on the regular session, passage by state lawmakers is quite possible before the August deadline for federal funding.

This leaves the Post wondering what he’s holding out for:

The buzz in Albany is that pay raises for his members just could do the trick.

Lawmakers, who’ve wanted salary hikes for years, would sell their souls for a few more bucks – and consider the deal a bargain. (Recall how they quickly dropped their opposition to charter schools in exchange for pay hikes in the late ’90s?)

Maybe it’s something else Silver wants. The bottom line: Bloomberg, Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno are all on board, as is an impressive array of civic, governmental and political leaders.

Only Silver stands apart.

Biding his time.

Waiting for his deal.

So is it about children with asthma, or pay raises for politicians? Regardless, far from being baited by his would-be foil, Bloomberg is sticking to the high road:

"We have to keep working with Speaker Silver, and he couldn’t be more open," said Bloomberg… "He’s given us every opportunity to make our case and continues to be receptive to us working with his staff… Whether we get there or not, that’s up to us to convince him, and I think, certainly, he has a very open mind and will do what’s in the interest of all the city."

Thereby confirming another recent Post accolade for the mayor: "If nothing else, Mike’s a leader."

Photo: Stop Me Before I Vote Again

  • EVKeith

    There’s no doubt Silver is holding out for something –that’s the way the game is played.
    But lets not forget that he did the right thing when the chips were down and killed the nightmarish West Side stadium plan.

  • momos

    Get on the phone and call Silver. All hands on deck. This is too important an issue to be playing politics with.

    DISTRICT OFFICE
    212-312-1420

    ALBANY OFFICE
    518-455-3791

  • Damian

    He killed the stadium plan out of purely his own self-interest (allied with Cablevision/MSG; wanted development money for downtown).

    Don’t forget, he could have stopped Atlantic Yards some months back but didn’t.

    He needs to be woken up with a flood of constituent phone calls in support of congestion pricing.

  • v

    this guy talks for a living? sheesh.

  • jmc

    Just pay this obstructionist off…

    Bloomberg should just give him the keys to his house in Bermuda. It would be hard for him to get back to Albany that way.

    I love how the metaphor of traffic as “water” that needs to “flow” and will spillover if “blocked” is still commonplace. If traffic was water, it would go faster when the number of lanes decreased!

  • drose

    Silver should not need to be reminded that his constituents in Lower Manhattan are the ones suffering the most from the insane amount of traffic that flows (crawls?) over the three free East River bridges that all terminate in his district. In addition, he can kiss the 2nd Ave Subway goodbye without the additional revenues congestion pricing would provide. Unless, of course, he has an alternative plan 😉

  • momos

    Damina, v, jmc, drose and others:

    I hope you have all called Silver’s office. Ask for the legislative aide who deals with congestion pricing and make your case directly. You should call every other day.

    DISTRICT OFFICE
    212-312-1420

    ALBANY OFFICE
    518-455-3791

  • mfs

    Silver does not take well to being bullied. That is the central lesson of W. Side Stadium. I hope that Doctoroff et al. aren’t trying to sell this in the same way to him.

  • rhubarbpie

    It would have been a coup if Bloomberg had pulled it off this time around. And still would be. But I think Spitzer likely deserves the credit for getting Crowley on board, and maybe even with the feds. I think ultimately this will go through, but it’ll take more than a campaign of a few weeks to win it.

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