Late last week, Brooklyn City Council member and current candidate for public advocate Bill de Blasio released this statement on MTA funding:
"In just two months, New York City commuters will face drastic fare
hikes and service cuts unless our state government solves the MTA’s
budget crisis. Time is running
out and Albany needs to act now. In light of these troubling
circumstances, I am supporting Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s
proposal to combine a payroll tax with a toll on the East and Harlem
River bridges set at two dollars, the same amount as a subway fare.
Final legislation must permanently keep these tolls at the level of
subway fares and the revenue generated should be used to maintain and
improve outer-borough transportation services. In the past I have
supported several different solutions to this problem, from reinstating
the commuter tax to increasing driver registration fees. Now, above
all, I believe Albany needs to fix this problem before straphangers
across our city are left carrying the burden by themselves."
De Blasio’s support of bridge tolls is notable for a few reasons. As far as we know, he’s the sole City Council member to come out in favor of new tolls, when he could just as easily have remained silent. And considering his opposition to congestion pricing, de Blasio’s stance on East River tolls is all the more surprising.
The timing is also significant. Now that Albany’s suburban contingent has put its foot down on the proposed payroll tax, could de Blasio help revive Silver’s toll plan, rousing key senators like Velmanette Montgomery to do the right thing?
Meanwhile, candidates for de Blasio’s council seat have also weighed in. Brad Lander, Josh Skaller and Gary Reilly have all called on Albany to take action, with Lander and Reilly specifically endorsing East River bridge tolls.