Senate Dems Denounce Bridge Tolls as Doomsday Draws Closer

Diaz_2007.jpgTake it to the bank: 67 percent of households in Ruben Diaz, Sr.’s Bronx district are car-free.

While the looming MTA doomsday scenario is desperate enough that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has put forward a proposal to charge drivers roughly the same as transit riders to cross East and Harlem River bridges, Democrats over in the Senate are balking at the prospect of requiring drivers to give up their free rides. The Daily News reports on yesterday’s Ravitch plan talks.

"If that is in there, there’s no way I’m going to vote for it and you can take that to the bank," Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx) said after the afternoon meeting.

Streetsbloggers may remember Diaz as one of the legislators who opposed congestion pricing on the grounds that it may adversely affect the environment. His district faces a slew of subway and bus service reductions [PDF] without transit funding equal to that proposed under the Ravitch plan, but Diaz is as yet unwilling to stand up for the whopping 67 percent of households that don’t even own a car.

Ditto Brooklyn’s Carl Kruger, another congestion pricing opponent, who has called tolling "a non-starter" and "an insult to every outer-borough resident in New York City." Kruger should check his census data. Almost half of the households in his district alone are car-free, and those who own cars have an annual income that more than doubles those who don’t. Yet it seems Kruger is willing to let the non-driving half of his constituency bear the brunt [PDF]. But what should we expect from the legislator who wanted to fine pedestrians for listening to iPods and talking on cell phones.

It’s still unclear where Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith stands on bridge tolls. Smith’s own Queens district, where some 34 percent of households don’t own cars, also stands to lose bus and train service in lieu of increased MTA funding [PDF]. Like his counterpart Shelly Silver, Smith owes it to his constituents and all New Yorkers to come out strongly in favor of bridge tolls and gain majority support.

  • Did anyone really think we wouldn’t be here again? It’s not even worth arguing about anymore. The leaders of New York will once again dodge, obfuscate and pander their way out of the tough decisions forcing the rest of us to shoulder the burden of their cowardice.

  • The city’s central business district — which happens to be a cash cow for the entire state — simply cannot function at its current density without transit. Subway service cuts would be especially damaging. Surface transit just can’t move the same number of people. So this is a loaded gun pointing straight at the heart of the city’s economy. You have to wonder about people so blithely willing to pull the trigger.

  • These are the same two jerks who are blocking the legalization of gay marriage. I’ll note that in this respect we were better off under Joe Bruno, who made a deal with Bloomberg to support congestion pricing. His successor Dean Skelos, being from Long Island, probably would have the same reaction as Kruger.

  • James

    Do these reps realize that they serve residents who live in boroughs of the city, not separate suburbs? New York City is one city yet some of these outer borough pols behave like those in Nassau and Westchester. I really do think they would screw the whole city over on what they believe to be the behalf of their constituents. The degree of parochialism they exhibit is pathetic and sickening.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “So this is a loaded gun pointing straight at the heart of the city’s economy. You have to wonder about people so blithely willing to pull the trigger.”

    Assuming all other public services and benefits would be eliminated first, how much could the downstate New York economy shrink before their wages, pensions and health benefits were threatened? And in that case, does it really matter?

    My view — the die is cast on doomsday. The only question is will today’s seniors be around to experience the consequences, and who will get the blame. As long as they can’t stop me from riding a bike, and I wouldn’t put it past them, let it come. And let people see the same New York State legislature I see.

  • Rhywun

    The degree of parochialism they exhibit is pathetic and sickening.

    Welcome to NYC politics.

  • Larry Littlefield

    So what is the price they want for “saving the MTA” by postponing the day of reckoning five years?

    Everyone in government gets to retire five years early?

    Senior citizens and public employees don’t pay taxes on any income, not just retirement income? And get domestic servants funded by Medicaid without the need of finding a friendly physician willing to declare it “medically necessary?”

    Those with placards travel free over all bridges, not just city bridges? Bike lanes replaced with angled parking placard only zones?

    Enough. I prefer doomsday to this nonsense. It might wake some people up.

  • “the die is cast on doomsday.”

    Actually, “the die is cast” means that we have thrown the dice but we do not yet know the outcome.

  • Larry Littlefield

    How about this cliche then. The state legislature crossed the Rubicon on doomsday years ago.

    Here’s the game. They and theirs took money off the top. It’s gone. We’ll be paying ever higher taxes and fees as a share of our income for deteriorating public services and benefits, and they are laughing all the way to Florida. And their only concern is to:

    1) Make sure someone else is blamed, and

    2) Make us grateful if things are less bad than threatened.

    I’m tired of being treated like an idiot.

  • Actually actually, “the die is cast” is not referring to dice, but to the sort of die used in metalwork.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Whether it’s the die or the Rubicon, enough of these people!

    They are a tribe of non-productive parasites that has been on the tit their whole life, charging a toll for anything that good happens in this state.

    That’s what they do — charge a toll. They take our money, pretend we’ll get it back in services or it will be distributed to those less well off that we are, and charge a toll as it passes by, a toll that goes up every year.

  • Maybe the MTA should cut service to districts of the politicians who are against the Ravitch Commission Recommendations. Take that pols.

  • rex

    Silver’s proposal is the most civically responsible thing he has done in a very long time. It is kind of like the end of a horror movie where the villain turns his powers to good, and all the other monsters turn on him.

    As an epic battle of good and evil unfolds in Gotham. Some one aks, “Who is that little dude in the silver mask?”

  • Actually actually, “the die is cast” is not referring to dice, but to the sort of die used in metalwork.

    Actually no, Mike, but thanks for playing!

    I think it’s interesting that Lancman chose the Rubicon metaphor. Is he afraid that one day he will be as irrelevant as a Roman senator under the Empire?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Then there is the Robert Heinlein take on it “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.”

    I think Larry is giving them a little too much credit in the conspiracy department, enough of the legislators are working in the lowest level of thought to pretty much preclude a good solution even if they did not have bad faith.

  • Dave

    I wonder how many of you whiners are protecting your own little slice of free crossings.

    Tolling the crossings is the logical thing to do, and if it is set at the same rate as the subway there is no argument against the tolls that holds water.

    – It should not be cheaper to drive into the city than to take mass transit.
    – Bridge maintenance should be funded by those who drive across them not by transit riders (this argues strongly for higher tolls than the current $2) or by the city budget
    – Congestion impacts the Bronx and Brooklyn around the free crossings. And Staten Island residents have no free crossings and they don’t even have subways; let’s put all of the city on an equal footing.

    So Silver has finally done the right thing and suggested tolls which I hope will pass and I hope will increase sooner and more than transit fares.

    Enough of mass transit riders subsidizing the bridge crossings of the car-owning elite!

  • Bill

    Bravo to the heroic State Democrats who are stand against an unfair tax on motorists in order to bail out the MTA. Automobile onwers are already suffering at the hands of Mike Bloomberg who uses an army of Traffic Agents to dole out parking tickets to keep NYC operating. Perhaps tax people who shop at Organic Stores instead, because they are not paying their fair share.

  • Bravo to the heroic State Democrats who are stand against an unfair tax on motorists

    Actually, no, Bill, it’s a fair tax on motorists, and it doesn’t go far enough. We’re sick of drivers mooching off the system for “free” streets and parking – paid with our tax dollars.

  • J. Mork

    Which laws are Organic Store shoppers breaking?


Bronx Transit Riders to Rally Today at Diaz Sr.’s Office

Communities United for Transportation Equity (COMMUTE) will hold a rally today at the office of Ruben Diaz, Sr., one of a handful of state senators whose opposition to bridge tolls threatens to sink the MTA rescue plan. Says COMMUTE: Dozens of South Bronx residents and constituents of State Senator Rubén Díaz will rally outside his […]

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Constituents picketed outside the office of Ruben Diaz, Sr. yesterday to urge the Bronx state senator to get behind the MTA rescue plan, which includes new tolls on East and Harlem River bridges. Though some 140,000 people in his district use transit every day, and are facing serious service cuts along with steep fare hikes, […]

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Today’s Headlines

Republicans Won’t Back MTA Rescue Without Road and Bridge Funding (NYT, Newsday) Study: Particulate Pollution Shortens Life in Urban Areas (BBC) Most Straphangers in Ruben Diaz, Sr.’s District Are Just Fine With Bridge Tolls (WNYC) How Transit Doomsday Brinkmanship Played Out in Chicago (Politicker) Price of Oil Is on the Rise, and the Feds Still […]