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Congestion Pricing

Bloomberg-Fatigue May Dampen PlaNYC Support in the Bronx

11:47 AM EST on November 8, 2007

We've heard plenty of congestion pricing complaints (and some kudos, too) from the Bronx, but what about the rest of PlaNYC? City Limits reports on a recent community summit where Bronxites said they are unhappy with how the Bloomberg administration composed its legislative centerpiece, among them some who might ordinarily support pricing but are put off by what they see as PlaNYC's top-down execution.

While many supported congestion pricing inprinciple, the assembled group – including community board members,clean water advocates, local elected officials and members of the BronxCouncil for Environmental Quality and of Sustainable South Bronx –questioned its financial projections and implementation.

More fundamentally, the forum revealedskepticism about the overall PlaNYC initiative and frustration withwhat some called the Bloomberg administration's heavy-handed approach.Speakers voiced concern that PlaNYC was formulated and will beimplemented without sufficient input from grassroots urbanenvironmentalists who know what works. Others said the currentsustainability goals are too modest and that PlaNYC is more publicrelations than policy.

"You don't have to skim the surface much tosee some real collaboration and change happening in New York and othercities. That's why this is really frustrating, because it feels likethe door has been closed and they aren't interested in new ideas," saidMiquela Craytor, deputy director of Sustainable South Bronx, an urbanenvironmental justice group that unsuccessfully pushed the architectsof PlaNYC to include the creation of "green-collar" jobs – those withinor promoting environmentally sustainable industry – as a central tenetof the initiative.

"They are saying, 'we just want to get thisplan done and then we'll think about other ideas.' Well, then you justwant to tell me what you are doing. You are really not interested inwhat I say," Craytor added.

In addition to the oft-repeated concerns about motorists using the borough as a park-and-ride hub, there is also doubt, founded on precedent, that transit dollars will reach low-income Bronx neighborhoods.

Craytor and Dart Westphal, a former presidentof the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, said the city needs tomake subway and bus improvements before the plan is implemented, notafterward.

Westphal said he found it hard to trust that therevenues from congestion pricing would be equitably directed towardstransit improvements throughout the city.

"I'm really concerned,"he said, recounting promises made by City Hall when the Third AvenueElevated train was dismantled during the Lindsay administration that itwould be replaced with an extension of the semi-mythical Second Avenueline. Buses that troll the route of the old El were supposed to be atemporary fix, Westphal said. "I'm really concerned all this congestionpricing money will go to the Number 7 train extension and the JFKexpress link in Lower Manhattan and building the west side, and we'llstill be stuck waiting for the bus."

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