Pricing Advocates Hear Excuses from Queens State Senator

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Michael O’Loughlin of the Campaign for New York’s Future leads the congestion pricing rally on the capitol steps.

Streetsblog’s Brad Aaron files this report from Albany.

A contingent of about 80 New Yorkers is in Albany today to advocate for congestion pricing. Following a brief rally on the capitol steps this morning, led by the Campaign for New York’s Future, the crowd broke off into small groups for a day of sit-downs with individual lawmakers.

I shadowed a group assigned to Senator Frank Padavan of Queens, who is against pricing, though he represents a district where just six percent of the population commutes by car to Manhattan’s central business district. An amiably cantankerous fellow, Padavan started the meeting with a question: "Did the mayor send you up here?" The senator then went on for a bit about Bloomberg’s helicopter and private jet before getting down to business.

"We’ve gotten tons of info," Padavan said. "We have reviewed it all, and I don’t really have any questions."

Padavan said Residential Parking Permits would help his car-owning constituents avoid park-and-ride problems, and allowed that new express buses would be a welcome addition to his district. But he also said that, according to the MTA, there is no way to add subway capacity from 179th Street in Jamaica.

Then, when the senator was presented with specific plans for transit improvements in Queens, things got off track.

"When are we going to do something about the taxicabs and the limousines?" Padavan asked, apropos of nothing. "There’s nothing in the plan that addresses that."

Padavan proceeded to rail against limos double-parking as they wait for affluent Manhattanites. (He was unaware of the proposed $1 surcharge for yellow cab rides.) He then suggested a fleet of jitneys along the avenues, which would be financially self-sustaining. ("What does he think buses are?" wondered one advocate after the meeting.)

Padavan pointed out how many City Council members from Queens and Brooklyn are against pricing, concluding, "You ought to be down there talking to them."

A cyclist in the group spoke eloquently of the vision needed from Albany to move the plan through, to make New York a city of livable streets. "We’d love you to provide leadership," one advocate said.

Padavan responded that City Council members don’t listen to him. In fact, he said, one of them is running against him.

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