Three Questions for Richard Brodsky

brodsky.jpgWe called Assemblyman Richard Brodsky yesterday to get his comments on the demise of congestion pricing. While he wouldn’t talk to us on the phone, he fielded a few questions over e-mail. 

Streetsblog: With congestion pricing off the table and the deadline to receive $354M in federal support about to pass, will other traffic mitigation measures surface in the state legislature?

Brodsky: Several have already been proposed, including better enforcement (block-the-box and double parking being the prime targets) and reforms of yellow cab and black car services. But there is no support for using pricing or any other ability-to-pay mechanisms.

Streetsblog: How will the projected shortfall in the MTA capital plan be addressed? Pricing would have taken care of a big chunk of it — what are some likely alternatives that will be proposed?
Brodsky: The Assembly has already passed a small increase in the income tax rate for those who earn over $1,000,000 a year, with the proceeds largely going to mass transit capital across the state. It has the added advantage of being pay-as-you-go, saving billions in interest costs.

Streetsblog: What’s your reaction to today’s news after such a long campaign to achieve this outcome?
Brodsky: I introduced my first bill opposing congestion pricing in 1995, for reasons that are still valid. I simply do not believe we should solve difficult social problems, or distribute public goods, or provide access to public spaces, based on ability to pay. Pricing mechanisms such as congestion pricing are regressive, unfair, divisive and inconsistent with the progressive policies I’ve tried to reflect in my public life. Additionally, the Mayor’s plan eviscerated SEQRA, failed to include Jersey drivers, had no coherent way of collecting the fee from those who do not have EZ-Pass, and had numerous other practical failures. The Mayor, and many of his allies, would not acknowledge that opponents of congestion pricing were motivated by principle and philosophy, and the public debate became increasingly personal and angry. In the end, Members of the Legislature would not respond to threats, were disappointed by the failure to seriously consider their concerns, and remained philosophically uncomfortable with regressive pricing mechanisms. So it’s no surprise that the plan failed, and rightly so. Next will be to continue our good faith efforts to deal with the real problems of congestion and mass transit funding.

  • nobody

    When you hear this:

    “…opponents of congestion pricing were motivated by principle and philosophy…”,

    remember that what he’s really saying is this:

    “I want a free ride, while the rest of society pays for it.”

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    Although we DO need better enforcement (hey, you can’t argue with that) every time you see that strategy pushed as a way to combat congestion is laughable.

  • Dave

    “Ability to pay” coming from Brodsky whose constituents are the most able to pay of all those driving in the city. Pathetic he hides his elitist views behind supposed caring for poor people.

    Toll the East and Harlem River bridges; if you don’t have EZ-Pass use the Triboro, QMT or BBT. A lot easier and we’ll have to recoup the $354 million we lost but let’s do it and get it done now. And make them 24 hours; no exceptios for the phantom poor drivers or for those driving into Manhattan every day to see doctors.

    And those of you with the “this is one city” “tolls on the bridges are unfair” schtick get over it. Manhattan is the CBD and as such needs to be access controlled.

    Do this first then let’s work on ousting Silver and reforming Albany. When’s the last time secession was discussed?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    There are many good subjunctive ideas, things we could, should or would do. However, the political effects here will militate against that. The political failure of this effort will empower the opponent of congestion pricing. You can hear it in their voices. Weiner has been gracious and would probably like to tap some of the positive energy the new urbanist advocates demonstrated here. McCaffery and Weprin will have no such intentions. I’m trying to observe the classical devisions into confrontation and cooptation, accomodation and resistance. Like a snake shedding its skin.

  • Mark

    Bloomberg passed on the idea of tolling the bridges long ago — though what he’s thinking now I can only guess. It’s probably not something he can do unilaterally. Though I’ve always thought the city might have the authority to toll the streets in front of the bridges, which would amount to the same thing.

  • Jake

    pathetic. really.

  • Sell the Bridges

    The city should stop paying to maintain the TBTA bridges starting now and offer to sell them to the MTA.

  • Now that he’s screwed us, let’s see Brodsky prove his mass transit advocacy is more genuine than Millman’s.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Next will be to continue our good faith efforts to deal with the real problems of congestion and mass transit funding”…and accept accountability for the consequences if those fall short?

    Oh yeah, there will be a tax increase. And not just on millionares. And not just one percent.

    And not for the MTA. All that is uncertain is the timing.

  • Spud Spudly

    Dear Nobody:

    Principle and philosophy are exactly what motivated me to oppose CP. And I don’t get any free ride, I’m on the train every day with my Metrocard. I can’t vouch for the sincerity of Brodsky though.

  • How do we know this increased income tax is going to go towards the MTA? Where’s the lock box? Who gets the key?

  • Dave

    Tolls on the bridges are the easiest solution and for those who say they unfairly burden the poor, look at it this way; if two people were to take mass transit to Manhattan they’d pay what, $7 total assuming an average fare of $1.75. Compare that to the $0 they currently pay to drive and you will see the incentive to drive. Ridiculous.

    We need an economist to look into the numbers. If we want to subsidize the poor give them discounted MetroCards, not discounts on driving.

    If you want to drive around the city by car it will cost more to drive than to take mass transit. And I am fine with two-way tolls so I will have to pay to drive from Manhattan to the outer boroughs.

  • Low cost metrocards

    I’d be totally willing to pay $3 for my metrocard if I knew that low-income folks could buy them for less than $1.

  • Can we all work towards changing our discourse from CP limiting access to Manhattan to limiting CAR access to Manhattan.

    This is essential to countering the “once city” argument against CP and other initiatives.

    Every person has the right to come into Manhattan; it’s their CARS that don’t.

  • MRS-MAN

    Another problem that does not seem to be addressed is whether more political support for tolling the East River Bridges (Queensboro, Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn) could be accomplished if it was tied to reducing the toll on the non-CBD crossings (Triboro, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Verrazano).

    While I do not believe there are many middle class drivers who take the free bridges to come to the Manhattan CBD (unless they have placardss), there are probably many who use the bridges to avoid tolls on the non-CBD crossings.

  • Dave

    I’d like to also suggest that tolls on the HR and ER are always in effect, but with varying rates depending on time of day and day of the week.

    CP had a fault in that it was only 60 hours per week and traffic is always bad. On weekends it should not be free to drive into the city and park for free. Make the toll $4 or something equivalent to the transit fare.

    Also can we put the meters back into effect on Sunday? Separation of church/state, whatever the argument is but stop the free curbside give-away.

  • Dave

    How about tolls on the HR and ER are partially used to pay for subsidized Metrocards for those qualifying for the Earned Income Credit, or some other widely-accepted measure of poverty.

    Take the wind out of the sails of those politicians why cry that tolls are regressive.

  • md

    The fundamental dishonesty of Brodsky’s and Fidler’s position is that they know quite well that access to Manhattan already is based on one’s ability to pay and that the status quo merely favors those who can afford to drive.

    I like Dave’s idea about using CP money to subsidize mass transit for the poor. Let’s add commuter trains to that proposal.

  • Mark

    I don’t think Fidler is fundamentally dishonest, just a good man who’s mistaken. Brodsky on the other hand is a world-class pathological liar and I wouldn’t want him on my side even if he wanted to be.

  • Dan

    I’m guessing that for generations of car owners like Brodsky the automobile is a sunk cost and even though they pay constantly for gas and occasionally for repairs(and loans), most of the time you’re driving around you feel like it’s basically free. I don’t think this is 100% right but I think it’s close, at least for middle class suburbanites. Maybe people who pay money to park their cars tend not to think that way but I for most people who aren’t retentive about their finances(people who pay for coffee at Starbucks)the costs are hard to identify. That makes the congestion charge so psychologically difficult for them to deal with as it adds a real fixed cost to something that they thought was pretty much free. People are terrible at identifying the cost of their time lost to traffic and other transactions. But that’s because we’re human not because we’re indifferent. It’s just hard to figure.

    I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to get around the idea of paying for public stuff. People pay to park in public parking lots ALL THE TIME. People pay to park at transit stations all over the place(too little if you ask me) and it’s not exactly anarchy.

  • md

    Lew opposed this policy on the grounds that it is regressive or elitist. But he knows it would transfer money downward – to mass transit riders who can’t afford cars and/or parking.

    He complained that it is unfair to charge for access to Manhattan. But he knows most New Yorkers already pay for access to Manhattan.

    He argued that mass transit is not convenient for people in the neighborhoods he represents. Yet he knows that most of them get to Manhattan that way.

    These don’t seem like honest positions to me.

  • Brooklyn Dad

    Has Fidler or Brodsky or anyone ever presented any data to back up the claim that congestion pricing is a regressive tax? These three reports presented a lot of facts that suggest otherwise. Did anyone in the press (or even Streetsblog) ask these guys to put numbers to their claims?

    Drum Major Institute:
    http://www.drummajorinstitute.org/library/report.php?ID=52

    COMMUTE:
    http://prattcenter.net/commute.php

    Transportation Alternatives:
    http://www.transalt.org/newsroom/releases/115

  • Melky Cabrera

    The arrogance of pro-congestion pricing advocates continues to amaze me. Charging middle class people $8 a day extra (and soon to be $15-20) is an unfair tax on middle class people any way you slice it. $2,000 a year more in fees (soon to be $4,000 – 5,000) is a lot of money whether you earn $50,000 or $100,000. The majority of people don’t want to pay it. They simply don’t feel the benefits outweigh the costs. Right or wrong, New Yorkers do not feel that driving is a “privilege” that only the rich should enjoy. If you want a tax on a few thousand people to pay for transit improvements then lets start advocating for the “millionaires tax”. They can easily afford it.

  • JF

    The arrogance of pro-congestion pricing advocates continues to amaze me.

    The arrogant cluelessness of anti-congestion pricing advocates in repeating the lies that have been drummed into their heads in the echo chamber continues to amaze me.

    You won, okay? Now hurry back to your community boards; I think there might be a development with only two parking spaces per unit up for approval!

  • Sproule Love

    Melky, you’re on StreetsBlog and you still think CP is a regressive tax on the middle class? Are you kidding? Do a search on Schaller on this site and straighten yourself out. Your ignorance amazes me.

    Here’s to hoping that the folks who did listen to the facts will stay motivated and find other ways to reclaim our streets from cars. Let’s not drop the ball.

  • Brooklyn Dad

    Melky,

    For once I’d like to see one of you people provide some data to back up your claim that congestion pricing would be a “regressive tax” in NYC. That’s an economic argument. You should have some numbers to prove it. What have you got?

    Nothing.

    Anyway, don’t you have a gas tank to fill up, a car horn to blare or some particulate matter to spew out your exhaust pipe? What are you sticking around here for? Your state Assembly gave you the right to drive for free in and out of Manhattan all you want. Go enjoy it while you can.

  • Dave

    Amazing how the CP-opponents ignore the fact that the CP fee is only 6AM-6PM. They also fail to give a number of how many of these so-called middle-class drivers are actually impacted.

    What is real clear is that transit fares will go up which is absolutely regressive. Somehow the brain disorder that accompanies CP-opposition stops them from looking to the next steps after CP has failed.

    A millionaire’s tax ain’t going to cut it so transit cutbacks, canceled projects and the inevitable steep fare hikes will absolutely be regressive.

  • Melky Cabrera

    A millionaires tax will raise 5 billion over 5 years. Thats a lot more than the few hundred million you will raise with a regressive congestion pricing tax.

  • Brooklyn Dad

    Melky,

    Like Brodsky, Fidler and Weprin, you continue to prove unwilling or unable to back up the claim that congestion pricing is “regressive” with any data. You argue with no facts or data.

    Fine, institute a millionaire’s tax. Go for it. Let’s see what effect that has on the Manhattan-based corporations that hire all of your middle class workers. I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be OK.

    But, more important, how will your millionaire’s tax help remove the life-crushing traffic congestion from New York City streets? Congestion pricing would have gotten rid of 120,000 cars a day.

    Oh, right, Brodsky had a plan to give us 100 new cops out to handle the double parkers and box blockers and smooth out traffic flow. I suppose that’s your plan. Melky, if you were standing in front of me, I’d punch you in the head.

  • T.S. Garp

    Brooklyn Dad-

    The fact that you have stated you would punch Melky in the head says you are irrational and should not be published. Is this what pro-congestion people have resorted to? Violence? Can’t people disagree on policy without personal attacks? It’s very disappointing. I wish people would realize that the government is not addressing the fact that middle class and working class people are hurting. The only people congestion pricing won’t hurt are multi-millionaires. We need to find policies that make the ulta-wealthy pay. As someone from a place where the mean salary is $30,000 I am not sympathetic to those who make $200,000 but I do understand that that is not that much money anymore. Congestion pricing is bad public policy but it also highlights something worse; the fact that the left will cut off its nose to spite its face. We should not be fighting each other. We should make the wealthy pay their fair share. But please Brooklyn Dad, cut the attacks. Would you really punch him in the head?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    The fact that you have stated you would punch Melky in the head says you are irrational and should not be published. Is this what pro-congestion people have resorted to?

    Brooklyn Dad is an exception and does not speak for all pro-congestion-pricing people. Many of my neighbors have expressed similar positions to what Melky said, and I have no desire to punch any of them anywhere.

    You want to make the wealthy pay their fair share? We’d all love to see the plan. In the meantime, we tried to make them pay for driving and failed. Now what do you think we should do about all the cars driving through my neighborhood because there’s a “free” bridge on the other side?

  • drose

    Someone should ask Brodsky why he voted to cut $52.6mm out of the MTA budget for this year, after repeatedly stating that he would find money for the agency “if only we were asked”. We’re asking, and he’s taking it away. Great leadership.

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