Dick Gottfried Blames Bloomberg for Pricing Non-Vote

Care of the Politicker, here’s 38-year incumbent Assembly Member Dick Gottfried explaining to the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club, whose endorsement he wants for his re-election bid, how democratic Shelly Silver’s house is in comparison to the state Senate. All things considered, it’s a jaw-dropping spiel.

Then, at about the three-minute mark, an audience member asks why congestion pricing didn’t come to a vote. Though he has just said that every member is guaranteed that his or her sponsored bill will be "considered" by committee, Gottfried — a professed congestion pricing supporter — replies that there was no need for pricing to be voted upon, as it would have been "resoundingly trounced." He then pins the blame for pricing’s failure on Mayor Bloomberg’s "astonishingly abominable" job in selling Assembly members on the plan.

"If think if he had done a decent job of lobbying for it," Gottfried says, "I think it might well have passed." Next question?

So, according to Gottfried, it’s Michael Bloomberg’s fault that state Assembly members didn’t see fit to stand up and be counted on a plan that had been vetted and tweaked for a year, was endorsed by the governor, the City Council, and virtually every major business and environmental group in the city, and was pulling a 60 percent approval rating among those who would have been most affected by it.

A while back we wondered what pricing "allies" were doing in the closed-door session where congestion pricing died. As far as Dick Gottfried is concerned, I think we have our answer.

Craigslist, anyone?

  • So, there was no need to vote because is would have lost anyway? That seems like a good reason to suppress a vote. After all, more people supported CP when linked to transit improvements…if our Assembly members were going to vote it down despite that fact, they were able to avoid any potential fallout by killing it without a vote.

    I don’t see how blaming Bloomberg fits into that equation. Shouldn’t the Assembly members answer to the people?

  • To blame the Mayor here is nothing short of absurd. He may have done an imperfect lobbying job, but he began the conversation with a bold plan.

    Furthermore, legislators should be less concerned about the niceties with which they are approached than with the merits of the proposal.

    The Assembly failed to put the vital health and quality of life concerns of New Yorkers first. Mayor Bloomberg’s lobbying style is a sorry excuse.

  • Competitive primaries

    Amen Paul. I’ve often heard the phrase in political circles that’s it’s not about “What” a proposal or issues is on its merits but “Who” is proposing it and your political relationships might be with them. That’s classic cynical politics. I don’t dismiss the importance of personalities and building relationships, but choosing to keep a grudge against a popular Mayor over an issue that benefits the economic lifeblood of city is near absurd. I’ll say it again, I wish R. Brodsky were my assemblyperson. He gets results. Not sure what our Manhattan delegation stands for or who they represent.

    I hope folks come tomorrow night to Paul’s meet and greet:


  • Larry Littlefield

    (I wish R. Brodsky were my assemblyperson. He gets results.)

    One of those results will be a much bigger fare increase and a decline in neccessary transit repairs. Let’s see if he takes credit.

    Just remember, as upset as everyone is about this issue, the CP process was in fact better than virtually anything that the legislature has done. The fact that there was a commission, with real facts collected AND published for all to see, and the CP question considered in relation to the MTA Capital Plan makes it unique. As is the fact that divergent views were actually allowed to be expressed.

    The reason the legislature didn’t vote? It only votes a 4 am, and only if the vote is going to be 212 to zero. If people who are upset about this knew about the rest, they’d be…as nuts as I am I guess.

  • Competitive primaries

    LL – By results, I mean that he stood up for his constituents who don’t want to have to pay to drive to Manhattan. It’s more than we can say for the NYC delegation

  • rhubarbpie

    And remember that Brodsky’s main aim is to become speaker after Silver, which is why he led this battle and the one against the fare hike. Won’t happen, but that sure motivates someone.

    Was there a need for a vote in the assembly? I think that’s largely besides the point. I don’t think we would have learned much more than we already have.

    And, in some ways, a vote might have hurt future prospects (dismal as they are) for congestion pricing, because it would have been such a resounding defeat.

    The dismissal of Bloomberg’s role in poorly promoting congestion pricing by many here still confounds me. Whom do we blame for the defeat of Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan (however imperfect it was)? We give credit to the opponents and their clever ad campaign, but we also note that she did a lousy job of putting it together and promoting it. There is some similarity here, no?

    If we don’t face up to the lousy job our chief ally did, and analyze what WE could have done differently, we’ll have a tough time winning these kinds of battles.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Whom do we blame for the defeat of Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan (however imperfect it was)?)

    Republicans and no-balls Democrats. It became their fault, rather than Hillary’s, when they failed to follow with a better alternative.

    People need to be held accountable for their non-decisions. All those who failed to support and enact either Hillary Clinton plan or an alternative in 1993-94 in fact CREATED THE CONDITIONS WE HAVE IN HEALTH CARE NOW.

    Just as those who failed to support what was, in fact, an alternative Congestion Pricing Plan rather than Bloomberg’s plan by the time it would have been voted on will be responsible for what happens going forward.

    “If think if he had done a decent job of lobbying for it,” Gottfried says, “I think it might well have passed.”

    So the state legislature rejects Bloomberg’s plan, comes up with a commission to create an alternative plan, refuses to vote on their own plan and blames Bloomberg for not doing a decent job lobbying for it?

  • jake

    i completely agree with 12:20.. this site sometimes reminds me of george bush — you’re either with us and our policies or against us — you either understand how enlightened we are or don’t. i agree with pretty much every policy proposal mentioned on this site but find it ridiculous that you keep on attacking liberal manhattan assembly members who supported pricing but didn’t do enough “for the cause.”

  • Competitive primaries


    What would you have us do? We have convinced the mayor, a majority in the city council, the governor and all the major unions and newspaper editorial boards that we are right on congestion pricing. Why would we roll over on this when it’s the one serious proposal that would dramatically reduce traffic and fund mass transit?

    I’m sorry – Albany needs to get over itself and if they don’t get in shape quickly, they will find that transit riders and other non-motorists are a powerful latent political force in NYC. If they get angry and activated, it will be hard to see “liberal” dems hang onto their seats in contested primaries.

  • Brad Aaron

    It isn’t that they didn’t do enough, it’s that most of them didn’t do anything. At least not anything of note. Anti-pricing legislators were in the papers nearly every day, getting in front of mics and getting on the phones, issuing press releases and holding press conferences. If Gottfried and pricing’s other Albany “supporters” had been making that kind of noise, they would be above criticism. Not that there weren’t exceptions, but they were few and far between, and they were acknowledged on this blog.

    Streetsblog repeatedly prodded the Bloomberg admin to step up from the marketing standpoint, so we were not blind to the fact that more could have been done. But in the end, those responsible for killing congestion pricing — which was, as has been pointed out, an alternate compromised plan proposed by an Assembly-driven panel — were cloistered in that proverbial smoke-filled back room. As far as I know, neither Bloomberg nor any of his subordinates were among them.

    In the long run, well-intentioned as they may seem, by standing on the sidelines rather than asserting their influence as elected representatives (a la Richard Brodsky), ineffectual “allies” like Gottfried did more harm than good. To expect them to carry the torch for the livable streets movement would be naive, if not foolish.

  • chestnut

    I’m with Jake.

    Too many on this blog are myopically parochial.

    Fact is, there are far more suburban/outer boro assemblymembers than Manhattan members. Their constituents – and most NYC residents – did not want CP.

    Gottfried can count.

    Also. in the interest of full disclosure, poster #2 is a candidate for the Assembly! Caveat emptor

  • Mark Walker

    Chestnut, “most NYC residents” live in car-free households. The car-free majority is 54 percent of the city’s population according to the 2000 Census.

    And your statement that we “did not want CP” is also false. Polls showed that 57 percent of New York City voters supported congestion pricing if the money were used to prevent increases in fares and tolls. And that was exactly how the money would have been used.

    Finally, we know exactly who Paul Newell is. The question in my mind is — who are you?

  • Sheila


    The New York City Council also consists mostly of outer borough representatives yet they voted 30-20 in support of congestion pricing.

    Bad though your points may be, it’s unfortunate that you can’t make them without resorting to name-calling. “Myopically parochial?” Save that one for your outer borough friends in the state legislature.

    And, yeah, thanks for the big news flash re: Paul Newell. Given that you can click his name and be taken to his campaign web site, he doesn’t seem to be keeping his candidacy a big secret.

  • Jake

    Brad — I understand your frustration, but this is the most controversial vote any elected official could take — the legislative process simply doesn’t work the way you think it should work. I’m not saying it’s fair or right, but it is what it is and you will continue to be frustrated and lose on the politics if you can’t develop a more sophisticated understanding of the political process.

    It was not an Assembly driven panel that came up with congestion pricing. They mayor announced 5 days after the commission was created that congestion pricing supporters would dominate commissions membership. He was right. The only “opponents” of pricing who had appointees was the Assembly.. who appointed 3 of 15.

    Not only did Bloomberg not do enough PR, he never sought out legislative allies to support his plans. Christine Quinn became his allie in this, but she has basically made a strategic decision to run for mayor as an heir to bloomberg and does whatever he wants her to do. She sees political advantage in her position.

    My point is: why do you keep on attacking those who should be your allie instead of engaging them? I think this blog has attacked every manhattan elected official.. many of whom are progressives on this and other livable streets issues. Do you really think this is how you’ll convince them to support your policies?

  • Sheila


    Wow, Jake, you’re so “savvy” and “pragmatic.” Do you work for a political consulting firm? Thanks for the valuable lessons in how it works in NYC.

    It’s long past time for someone to take on these people and I’m happy to see Streetsblog getting up in their faces. Dick Gottfried has been in the Assembly for longer than I’ve been alive and I’m 35-years-old. At what point do we stop giving him a pass for the problems in Albany? At what point do we stop pretending that he and Silver and Glick and quite a few others of them are “progressive.” They are old fashioned Democratic Party identity politics Liberals and they are totally out of touch with today’s needs and realities.

    Attacking these people is exactly what needs to happen. Playing nice with them does nothing. They aren’t even in a position to really help with all that much the state government is so broken. They don’t win their seats with all that many votes. It won’t be all that hard to get rid of them. By 2012 I suspect we’ll see quite a few of them losing their jobs, Gottfried, for sure. I know that’s hard for today’s NYC political class to understand this but so was the Obama phenomenon.

  • let’s try again with a winning strategy

    While the City Council voted in favor of congestion pricing by a vote of 30 to 20, it is not surprising that the Assembly, which includes many suburban members, could not come up with a majority. Whether a negative vote, registered by member, was important is debatable.

    Congestion pricing would have found more favor in the suburbs if there were some real pluses offered to suburban transit riders. The proceeds of congestion pricing were targeted to support Mega Projects, which would take years to complete and, in the case of Westchester commuter rail users, even if completed would have made little significant change in their daily lives. Yet some 40% of revenues would have come from surburban motorists.

    The Mayor’s four reps on the MTA Board voted for fare hikes (for city and suburban riders)just before the congestion pricing vote in the legislature. An “all pain and little gain” scenario clearly did not play well in the suburbs.

    As a supporter of congestion pricing, I went to the MTA fare hike Board Meeting, standing in line for over an hour with Theodore Kheel, to plead to the Board not raise fares. The two of us were the only supporters of congestion pricing to raise our voices in opposition to the fare hikes at the meeting.

    I think it is time to calm down, get over the blame game and devise a winning strategy for transportation reform that includes disincentives for driving to the core, including very substantial levels of cordon pricing, closing key single-occupant arteries to the core like the Central Park loop roadways and converting the entire upper deck of the Queensboro Bridge to bike and pedestrian use, eliminating fares entirely on subways, buses and commuter rail lines and creating a grid of pedestrian streets with surface rail transit, using vision42 as a prototype.

    To his credit Assemblymember Gottfried, who publically supports congestion pricing, is one of five elected officials who have signed on to vision42.

    George Haikalis
    Institute for Rational Urban Mobility, Inc.

    http://www.irum.org http://www.vision42.org

  • Davis

    George, there is no “winning strategy” for congestion pricing in the NY State legislature.

    No one is going to expend political capital on congestion pricing or anything like it.

    This was our shot. There isn’t going to be a second chance.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (No one is going to expend political capital on congestion pricing or anything like it. This was our shot. There isn’t going to be a second chance.)

    Perhaps not. But as a result of turning down CP the political capital the state legislature will lose via every transit fare cut, service decrease, and capital project postponed just increased substantially.

    People might not support CP if they think there is a cost without a benefit. But once the cost of its absence comes in, they aren’t going to forget who turned down CP and drives and parks for free.

    You’ll see lots of state legislators coming out in favor of all kinds of stuff now. Much of it will be phony, but there is a question how long they can get away with it. That’s why they are so keen to blame Bloomberg, or anyone else.

  • Assemblymember Richard Gottfried is, by my lights and that of MOST eco-transport advocates, the most SUPPORTIVE and THOUGHTFUL of all members of the NYS Assembly. He was totally on our side in supporting the Congestion Mitigation Proposals, and has been a A+++ enviromentalist since his first election. Gottfried also brought much street/Albany cred as the premier public health advocate in the capital. As for Mayor Bloomberg, I was in Albany when he announced that “NYC was going to keep all the congestion pricing $,” which set our cause back, and displayed lack of sophistication in the ways of Albany. I salute Mayor Bloomberg for putting our long time advocacy of congestion road pricing on the politcal agenda, and the many fine NYC staff he fielded for pricing. But nobody can say that he managed the process well in Albany. Dick Gottfriend, on the other hand, HELPED us persuade legislative colleagues and was TOTALLY ON BOARD and HELPFUL at every hearing and behind the scenes. He should be THANKED, not idiotically attacked. 150 Gottfrieds in the Assembly and NYS would THE global enviro leader.

  • Cap’n Transit

    Dick Gottfriend, on the other hand, HELPED us persuade legislative colleagues and was TOTALLY ON BOARD and HELPFUL at every hearing and behind the scenes. He should be THANKED, not idiotically attacked.

    Jeffrey, I was not in Albany and did not see or hear any support from Gottfried, only the same line of “we have to do something, but I’ve got so many concerns about this plan,” which did not enable me to differentiate him from the majority of the anti-CP legislators who were too chicken even to come out against the plan.

    Is it idiotic to criticize someone for not supporting a plan if his support would have taken an Albany reporter and a Kremlinologist to identify?

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Jeffrey, I guess I missed Gottfried’s press conference in response to Richard Brodsky and the other congestion pricing opponents. I never really saw him come out guns blazing to support the concept and stand up for the city.

    With all due respect, because I love the work that you guys are doing on Vision42: Perhaps if we had a more energetic and effective Assemblyman than Gottfried we’d be a lot closer to your dream of a Midtown light rail loop and pedestrianzed 42nd Street. The guy has been there forever. Time to move along and get some new blood in there. Environmentalism has changed a bit since Gottfried was elected — a few months after the very first Earth Day — in 1970.


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