Espaillat to Westchester: My District Is Your Doormat

espaillatsander.jpgEspaillat and Sander in March 2008. Photo: Brad Aaron.

Last March, Assembly Member Adriano Espaillat stood with Mayor Bloomberg in Fordham Plaza, celebrating the announcement of the city’s inaugural Select Bus Service line. In the thick of the battle over congestion pricing, its fate to be determined within days, Espaillat was one of few state pols to vocally support the mayor’s proposal. Flanked by Bloomberg, Elliot Sander, Janette Sadik-Khan and other pricing advocates, the Northern Manhattan rep did not mince words.

"This [congestion pricing] is not a bogey monster," Espaillat said.
"This is a rational, practical solution to a very serious problem."

Nearly a year later, Espaillat stands with Rory Lancman and David Weprin in opposing East and Harlem River bridge tolls. Espaillat, one of 20 state lawmakers to sign an anti-toll letter delivered to Sheldon Silver this week, says he favors a proposal by comptroller and mayoral candidate William Thompson to increase vehicle registration fees — a plan that has no traction in Albany and would do nothing to cut congestion in Northern Manhattan.

Though just 20 percent of households in Espaillat’s district own vehicles, the area is burdened with heavy auto traffic — a "very serious problem," as Espaillat used to say — much of it on its way to and from free bridges. Yet rather than get behind a viable, long-overdue plan that would both reduce cut-through driving and spare the majority of his constituents from crushing transit fare hikes and massive service cuts, Espaillat has joined the crowd that wants to keep the floodgates open to Westchester County.

More traffic, more asthma, and a transit system in collapse. What’s rational and practical about that?

  • Meanwhile, in Espaillat’s native country, the government has the will to not only fund transit, but also to build two new subway lines and an intercity passenger/freight railroad connecting the capital with his hometown.

  • New Yorker

    Hes against the tolls because he has a lot of livery businesses based in his district. The bridges in question arent real bridges like the throgs neck and queensborough bridge; they are essentially roads that cross a body of water. Small tiny bridges. I know this is hard for some people on this blog to believe, but people need to make a living somehow and transportation is an excellent way of doing it. Punishing livery drivers for operating a business will hurt businesses and create more unemployed people to sit around in washington heights and breathe the polluted air you are all so concerned about.

  • I know this is hard for some people on this blog to believe, but people need to make a living somehow and transportation is an excellent way of doing it.

    I know this is hard for you to believe, but insulting the people you’re arguing with is a really bad way of getting your point across.

  • Tom

    I live in Espaillat’s district, close to one of those aptly described “roads that cross a body of water.” I cross that bridge to buy groceries, to go to church, and to use the nearest park.

    It’s true that I am one of the 20 percent with a car, but it also true that all of the the people without cars in the neighborhood take dial cars regularly across the same bridges.

    And what’s more, I don’t want a toll plaza with all of that extra noise and fumes in my neighborhood. That’s why I am pro-congestion pricing and anti-toll. I seriously doubt that there are many pro-toll people in the district.

  • There would be no toll plazas: Most tolls would be collected through a system of E-ZPass readers. Drivers without E-ZPass would be identified and could be billed using digital cameras that snap a picture of each vehicle’s license plate.

    From http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/27/nyregion/27mta.html

  • Tom

    Thanks, J. Mork. That makes it a lot better as far as I am concerned. But if they are doing it that way, why not make the pay-point further downtown, where it belongs, like with the original congestion pricing proposal?

  • Tom, that’s a great way of putting it. It is totally possible to be pro congestion pricing but against this particular toll. It’s just a lively debate about how best to institute a certain policy, not NIMBYism or angry car owners who don’t want to pay a toll (I’m one of the people who bikes across the broadway bridge and takes the 12 across the 207th st bridge!)

    Honestly, I was initially against this sort of toll structure, but accept it now since it’s clear that this is where the policy momentum is headed. An imperfect scheme that approximates congestion pricing and limits the subway increase is better than no scheme at all. But, this is not a desired outcome at all. It is simply the best outcome out of a bunch of bad options.

    Espaillat’s stance doesn’t represent a flip-flop, and it would be considered in hindsight an extremely successful move if the debate turns and traditional congestion pricing is put back on the table.

  • Peter

    The article from makes me think that you either do not own a car or hate the fact that others do own them. The Assemblyman is absolutely correct and you can ask anyone that crosses that bridge if a $2 toll would have a positive affect on their life. At least with congestion pricing our district would not be impacted as much because a majority take mass transit to and from work if they leave the district to work. I do not know you but you seem to be a reasonable man and to say that $4 a day to go to and from work will have no impact is not reasonable. So which is it are you reasonable or are you a hack trying to get people’s blood pressure up for some purpose of your own. I would like to believe the first but if you keep this up I will have to believe the latter.

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