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On Behalf of 5.2% of His Constituents, Dinowitz Opposes Pricing

1:12 PM EDT on September 6, 2007

The16% of Bronx residents who own cars tend to have significantly higher incomes than those who do not, according to data from the State Department of Motor Vehicles and the 2000 Census.

In an editorial in this week's Riverdale Press, Bronx Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz says that if the vote on Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan were held today, he'd vote "no." Though he presents his position as a change of heart, Dinowitz was railing against the mayor's plan back in July.

Dinosaur.jpgDinowitz represents and lives in Riverdale, a relatively well-heeled Bronx neighborhood where, according to the 2000 Census, only 5.2% of workers commute by car into Manhattan's Central Business District. As noted in his editorial, Dinowitz is one of them.

So, what are the Assembly member's objections to the Mayor's plan? Dinowitz's first and seemingly most passionate issues are procedural and political:

    • He is "outraged" that the Legislature "had a gun held to our heads" to pass legislation before the July 16 federal funding deadline which, Dinowitz says, "was a lie." No mention of the $354.5 million grant that New York City won thanks to this outrage.
    • Despite the formation of a 17-member commission and the opportunity we now have for months of public debate, Dinowitz is still "troubled" that the Mayor and congestion pricing supporters are trying to "ram it through with as little discussion as possible."
    • The commission "appears stacked in favor of one side of the argument, putting into question its ability to be fair. The 17 members consist mostly of Manhattan residents and, it appears, no residents of the Bronx or Staten Island."
    • Dinowitz says that he has raised "serious concerns" about the plan but the Mayor's people haven't "given satisfactory responses."

And what are these serious, un-addressed concerns? Dinowitz writes:

    • Because their crossings are already tolled, New Jersey drivers will only have to pay an additional $2 to $4 to drive into the congestion pricing zone while "most Bronx residents" would have to pay a new fee of $8 to drive south of 86th Street on city streets. The car-commuting Assembly member, it seems, may be unaware that the vast majority of Bronx residents actually use mass transit to travel south of 86th Street -- and they pay a fare to do so.
    • Congestion pricing's air quality benefits would only benefit "children who live in Midtown." Cleaner air, Dinowitz seems to believe, would magically stop at the 86th Street border.
    • After complaining that it takes an hour and a half to get to Manhattan by transit, Dinowitz argues that Manhattan-bound car commuters will use his district's streets as their park-and-ride lot resulting in an increase in traffic and pollution.
    • Taxis and car services shouldn't be given an exemption.
    • And my favorite: The Mayor's plan fails to address the scourge of "bicyclists driving the wrong way or ignoring the traffic rules."

Dinowitz also raises this point:

Despite his opposition to a plan that would provide New York City with its most realistic opportunity for traffic reduction and increased transit funding in decades, Dinowitz praises Mayor Bloomberg "for attempting to take bold steps to improve the environment" and says that he is "very open to taking major steps to reduce traffic in Manhattan and throughout the city."

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