Traffic Relief Advocates: Meet Your Opponents

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Front row, left to right: Councilmember Melinda Katz, Councilmember Leroy Comrie, Councilmember Helen Sears, Councilmember David Weprin, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free spokesman Walter McCaffrey,  Ray Irrera from the Queens Chamber of Commerce is behind McCaffrey, Joe Conley of Queens Community Board 2 and John Corlett from AAA. (Photo: Aaron Naparstek)

In response to the Partnership for New York City’s report, Growth or Gridlock: The Economic Case for Traffic Relief and Transit Improvements for a Greater New York, Queens City Council and Community Board members, labor groups and the Automobile Club of New York rallied on the steps of City Hall yesterday afternoon to make the case that a London-style congestion charging system would be unfair to New York City’s outer borough neighborhoods, workers and businesses.

Here is some of what they had to say:

John Durso, President of Local 338, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union: 
Congestion charging would transfer congestion from Manhattan to the streets of the other four boroughs. Traffic congestion is a citywide problem. It’s not fair to shift the burden to one borough over another. We dispute the claim that this has worked in London.

John Corlette, Automobile Club of New York:
There were some good ideas in the Partnership’s report but congestion charging isn’t one of them. Better ideas to solve the city’s congestion problem: Fixing signal timings, more enforcement of blocking the box, more off-street parking, and bus rapid transit. We’ve got a new governor and a new Congress. Hopefully they will bring home more dollars for transportation.

Joe Conley, Queens Community Board 2: 
We’ll be bearing the price for congestion charging. It will force more traffic into our neighborhood streets.

Councilmember David Weprin:
A tax is a tax is a tax but what’s different about this one is that it predominantly effects four of the boroughs. The nearest subway station is three miles away from my constituents on the Nassau County border. The answer to congestion is better enforcement. In Manhattan you’ve got double and triple parked cars all over the pace. Taxis pick up passengers wherever they want. They stop in the middle of the street. That’s where our resources should be going in reducing congestion — enforcement.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie:
Congestion charging has proven not to work in London. The answer is better mass transit into Queens. Better express bus service.

Councilmember Helen Sears:
We’re not against the environment. We have to think about pollution and health problems. But this is such a punitive measure. If you do this, neighborhood streets around the subway stations will be loaded with parked cars. Trucks are a big problem. We should study trucks. Before we do something harmful this has to be studied further.

Councilmember Melinda Katz:
We have to think about what kind of precedent this sets — to make people pay to go into a particular area of the city [Editor’s note: You mean, like subway riders do?]. People will be parking on our streets and taking subways into Manhattan. We are all one city. We have to work with each other and deal with each other.

Walter McCaffrey, Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free:
The economic effects of this plan will be devastating. The Partnership’s proposal is all fluff at the moment.

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