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Albany Reform

Proof That Congestion Pricing Supporters Do Exist in Queens

1:29 PM EST on January 25, 2008

Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee Chair Mike Heffron sends along this report from last night's traffic commission hearing at York College in Jamaica, Queens.

No huge surprise, Assemblymen Andrew Hevesi and Rory Lancman both came out against congestion pricing, citing not enough evidence it would work and demanding transit improvements without explaining where the money would come from or why as state legislators they haven't allocated more money to the MTA themselves. Then they left.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall didn't even make it, she sent her Chief of Staff to repeat the same speech from the last public hearing, also calling for lots of great transit improvements without explaining where the money would come or why Queens hasn't gotten it before now.

That was one step better than Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan who was listed as first to speak, but didn't make it to the hearing. It's too bad our elected officials, with the exception of City Councilman Leroy Comrie, couldn't have stayed or even bothered to come because they would have seen something that they claim doesn't exist in Queens… supporters of congestion pricing who live in the borough, several for their whole life.

There were still the usual opponents to congestion pricing. One woman voiced concern that the fee on trucks would raise the price of food and essentials. Another man claimed that transit improvements would never come to Queens, although isn't that really our elected officials fault? One delightful woman claimed that to reduce congestion all we had to do was rewire all the traffic lights to only allow pedestrians to cross when all traffic was stopped. She then blamed the new meters placed near the Bronx subway stop where she used to ride and park before their presence for forcing her to drive into the city, when after all her tax dollars were paying for the streets. I guess my tax dollars go to pigeon birth control and not the city streets.

But the real story last night was the turnout of congestion pricing supporters in the borough that supposedly refuses to accept anything that would keep them from driving. Angus Grieve-Smith told the story of a motorcyclist that was struck by a speeding car and killed, the motorcycle then striking and crippling his friend who was walking along Skillman Ave. all because Skillman is designed to get drivers through Sunnyside and Woodside and to the Queensboro Bridge as fast as possible.

Emmanuel Fuentebella said they he owns a car for work, but because of oil issues worldwide we must be spendthrift in its use. Dan Hendrick of the League of Conservation Voters, Neysa Pranger of the Regional Plan Association and Karla Quintero of Transportation Alternatives, all Queens residents, gave their respective groups' support for the plan.

The quote of the night came from Eddie Hernandez, a lifelong resident of Queens. "Opponents of congestion pricing preposterously claim that congestion pricing hurts the middle class. I have news for them, if you can afford to throw away $10,000 per year in parking fees in Midtown because you don't feel like using the subway: Congratulations, you're rich, you're not middle class and you can afford an $8 toll."

Will congestion pricing pass? Time will tell. But as Angus said, "I hope tonight has put to rest the myth that no one in Queens supports congestion pricing."

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