Has Richard Brodsky Ever Paid a Subway Fare?

brodsky.jpgTelevision news legend Gabe Pressman hosted a debate on congestion pricing between Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Partnership for New York City President Kathy Wylde on Friday. The transcript is online at WNBC and it’s worth a read if you want to see Wylde catch Brodsky in a couple of small but significant mistruths and get a sense of the arguments that free motoring advocates are using to try to kill the Traffic Commission’s anti-gridlock plan.

The first such argument is a condensed version of the dramatic, impassioned plea-to-justice that Brodsky delivered at the final Congestion Mitigation Hearing a couple of weeks ago:

"For the first time in American history, someone is seriously proposing to charge the public for access to a public space."

It makes one wonder: When was the last time Brodsky paid a subway fare, bridge toll or train ticket out of his own pocket? Could it be that his windshield perspective on the city is so deeply ingrained that he doesn’t realize that of the hundreds of thousands of people walking around Manhattan’s traffic-choked public spaces every day — 85 percent of them — paid for "access" via mass transit?

Wylde countered:

Well, I said I live in Brooklyn and I have a choice. I can drive my car into Manhattan to work, in which case I pay nothing, or I can take the express bus, in which case I pay $9.00 a day. So right now we don’t have a fair system. The people who take the bus are paying more and stuck in traffic. The people who are taking the subways, we don’t have the resources we need to improve conditions. This program will raise almost a billion dollars between the federal grant that is promised if we pass this by March 31st and half a–half a billion dollars a year in revenues to support the system.

Towards the end of the interview, Brodsky got caught telling two apparent lies. First he claimed that local environmental organizations are not in favor of congestion pricing. Yet, he can’t name one. Then he said the Traffic Commission is calling for a repeal New York State’s environmental review laws. Not true. Wylde was having none of it:

Ms. WYLDE: Why is every environmental organization in the city and state in favor of this, then?

Mr. BRODSKY: They’re not.

Ms. WYLDE: They are. Name one that’s not in favor of this.

Mr. BRODSKY: Well…

Ms. WYLDE: Every health organization…

Mr. BRODSKY: Gabe…


Mr. BRODSKY: Help me, Gabe.

Ms. WYLDE: …every environmental organization, every business organization…

Mr. BRODSKY: I–all I want to do is just get my…

Ms. WYLDE: …are supporting this. This isn’t–it…



PRESSMAN: …and she raises a legitimate issue, which is why are the environmentalists for it if it’s so terrible?

Mr. BRODSKY: Well, I–some environmentalists are and some environmentalists are against it.

Ms. WYLDE: Who’s against it?

Mr. BRODSKY: You want organizational names?

Ms. WYLDE: In the environmental community?

Mr. BRODSKY: Yes. I–some of the witnesses who testified, very clearly, are against it, the chairman of the Assembly committee on the environment, among others.

Not letting the facts stand in his way, Brodsky continues:

Mr. BRODSKY: There’s a state law–I do, too. There’s a state law that says you have to do an environmental impact study before you approve a project.


Mr. BRODSKY: They want to repeal that law and say we’re going to approve the project, then do the study.

Ms. WYLDE: That is inaccurate. There’s no one calling to repeal that law.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “For the first time in American history, someone is seriously proposing to charge the public for access to a public space.”

    As people like Brodsky have diverted more and more tax dollars to pensions and other perks from services like parks, in NYC charges have been introduced in many parks in order to maintain them. If not changes, then contributions. And these have been rising, and will rise more.

    And if you are a resident of the Bronx, I advise against trying to go to a park in Westchester. Non-residents are certainly charged in many of them.

  • tmchale

    you’re not paying for access. you’re paying for the luxury of hauling an expensive, polluting, resource-hungry hunk of metal into the congestion zone. you will still be able to walk through for free.

  • Another analogy that disproves Brodsky’s ridiculous assertion would be drawn to a national park. You have to pay to drive your car into those as well, and you can’t drive all over them. We charge money and restrict motor vehicle access to national parks to limit the toll taken on the environment by the public’s use.

    Suburbanites like Brodsky think the city is different because they think of the city as a toilet that is impervious to all forms of pollution. In fact, the city is full of sensitive things–people, children, architecture, and even a few trees. There’s nothing wrong or unprecedented with levying a charge to discourage overuse/abuse of the urban environment, and to pay to alleviate some of the human toll by investing in mass transit.

    If there was enough traffic riding by Brodsky’s house that it it turned black every decade and had to be steam-cleaned at considerable expense (raising questions about the effect upon the occupants’ lungs), maybe he would get it.

  • Deborah WTF

    Sad, sad, sad to see Deborah Glick look like such a moron as she repeats Brodsky’s imbecilic call for license plate rationing.

    Deborah WTF are you doing? I used to be such a fan

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    In response to what Larry said about parks, in most of the parks I know, the charge is not for entering, but for driving. I’ve been to several parks in Westchester, and none have charged me a fee. The only parks I know that charge fees to pedestrians are the botanical gardens, beaches and zoos, and Wave Hill.

    It’s true that the better-funded the “Friends of XYZ Park” is, the better maintained XYZ park is, and the less likely it is to have golf courses and highways in it. And that’s a shame, because all New Yorkers deserve clean, safe, relaxing, well-maintained parks, regardless of how much they contribute to “Friends of XYZ Park,” or whether they can afford a set of golf clubs.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The pools and beaches have fees for non-residents, unlike Coney Island.

  • rhubarbpie

    I do know environmentalists who support congestion pricing but oppose this plan because it will not go through the state environmental review process. They believe that the law does require SEQRA review, and that proponents can’t pick and choose which projects SEQRA applies to.

    Ideally, in my view, it would go through that review, though I do support this plan. If opponents sue on this question, they may successfully delay the plan.

  • momos

    Brodsky is full of lies and mistruths. But he understands something supporters of congestion pricing don’t.

    The public doesn’t respond to statistics and facts. It responds to stories.

    Brodsky has a compelling narrative about “charging for access to public space,” even if the facts don’t quite add up. CP supporters need to tell our story better. Not facts, but stories. Something like: “CP charges the wealthy to make NYC better for everyone else.”

  • Dave H.

    I think that’s an excellent point momos.

  • Josh

    I’m continually infuriated by the LIE that congestion pricing is “charging for access to a public space”.

    A) As Aaron points out, many of us pay for access to public space in Manhattan by our subway/bus/train fares every day.

    B) CP is only charging you for access to that public space IF YOU INSIST ON DRIVING THERE.

    I know I’m mainly preaching to the choir here, but it’s just… bah. Like I said, infuriating.

  • rhubarbpie

    I think Brodsky’s been a bad actor throughout this…but I don’t think it’s fair to characterize his statement on environmental review a lie.

    He’s mistaken in using the word “repeal,” but isn’t a decision to bypass a state law and then do a review after the fact (if that is what is really proposed) something like a “repeal”? It certainly sounds like an attempt do an end run around the law, doesn’t it?

  • mork

    WHat better way to perform the environmental review than to do congestion pricing and see what happens?

    Bloomberg’s version, at least, specifically stated that it was a trial and that adjustments could be made as necessary. Obviously an environmental disaster, unlikely as it would be, would be a factor that would warrant changes in the trial.

  • rhubarbpie

    My understanding is that is not how the law works, monk, though I am by no means an expert. You need to do the review first, then implement the program, whether or not you define it as an experiment.

  • rhubarbpie

    By the way, laws requiring environmental reviews on major projects (trials or not) were major victories for the environmental movement in the 1970s. They have been used since in fighting and mitigating (and, sometimes, defeating) bad projects across the state and country. We abandon or ignore them at our peril.

  • barcar

    who said that CP isn’t going to go thru SEQRA? has that been officially announced?

  • seeker

    rhubarb, environmental review laws are good at stopping bad projects, but not good at encouraging good projects. essentially, what they do best is maintain the status quo – for better and for worse. they focus on negative criteria without considering positive criteria that might outweigh it. for example, a project triggers environmental review if it sacrifices automobility for the benefit of pedestrian or bicycle mobility. that stacks the cards in favor of the status quo.

  • Jeffrey Hyman

    re: SEQRA — I thought the idea was to do the environmental review concurrently with the trial.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (re: SEQRA — I thought the idea was to do the environmental review concurrently with the trial.)

    The environmental review process has become a joke, a game that has nothing to do with its original intent. The right thing to do is to exempt CP from the process to avoid the possiblity that opponents will try to tie it up in court for ten years, then do a real environmental review of the pilot project.

    That’s why the commission’s proposal is better than Bloomberg’s original — it’s cheaper, quicker and easier. If it works, it could always be expanded to other areas later.

  • rhubarbpie

    Yes, environmental review laws aren’t perfect, as seeker points out. And they often don’t do enough to stop bad projects, of course. (Whether a project is “good” or “bad” is debatable, depending on one’s perspective, no?)

    Environmental review laws are a bit like free speech, which applies even to those I disagree with, as annoying as that is. SEQRA should apply to projects I support as well as those I object to, and should be implemented even if inconvenient.

    And if the city is trying to do an end-run around the process by conducting the review while a “trial” is going on, then we support it at our own peril, because we are weakening a useful, though imperfect, law.

  • Hilary

    Environmental reviews include a project’s impact on historic resources. If there’s any danger that this impact could be irrevocable, it certainly would be crucial to do the review BEFORE not during or after a project – pilot or not. So far we have not seen any visual representation of what the physical infrastructure will be. The modified plan (eliminating the cameras throughout the zone) makes it far less scary to defenders of the city’s aesthetic and historic values. But it would still be reassuring to see what will be required at the entrance points. Discreet cameras attached to existing structures, or new scaffolding and stanchions? Cameras that flash at night like strobes into the windows of adjacent buildings?
    Reassurances on these questions would help the cause greatly.

  • I remember the thrill of defeating Westway over the failure of the EIS to consider the bass in the Hudson. That was a great, galvanizing moment for environmentalists on the Upper West Side. As much as it pains me, I agree that we have to protect the EIS/Seqra process and other mechanisms so they will be available when we don’t have an environment-friendly mayor.

    But if we can uphold the principle of a mandatory EIS by studing the effect of a congesting pricing tiral, we can have our cake and eat it too. A program like congestion pricing that is easily reversible will not create a precedent that will allow, for example, landfilling advocates to say they only need to do the EIS after the land is already filled.

  • rhubarbpie

    Not sure this will fly, BicyclesOnly. Maybe.

    But I’m concerned that once we get into a debate about what is reversible and temporary we enter a minefield. For instance, is a “temporary” stadium not subject to an EIS, as I think was recently argued? How reversible is a program where hundreds of millions of tax dollars have been spent, esp. federal dollars? Maybe not so much, eh?


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