When Will Western Queens Assembly Members Sign on to Move NY?

Members of the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives' Queens Committee rallied for toll reform at the foot of the Triborough Bridge on Saturday. Photo: David Meyer
Members of the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Committee rallied for toll reform at the foot of the Triborough Bridge on Saturday. Photo: David Meyer

With the clock winding down on the legislative session in Albany, Queens activists are making the case for the Move NY toll reform package. Volunteers with the Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives rallied at the foot of the Triborough Bridge Saturday to call for a tolling system that works better for drivers and transit riders than the city’s current hodgepodge of free bridges and priced MTA crossings.

Neighborhoods in western Queens are overrun by traffic heading to and from the free Queensboro Bridge. Move NY would put a price on that crossing, greatly reducing congestion in the area. But so far, State Senator Jose Peralta, whose district includes the northern part of Astoria, is the only Albany representative from the area to publicly endorse Move NY. (In the City Council, Jimmy Van Bramer is a supporter).

Western Queens representatives Cathy Nolan and Margaret Markey are not among the 28 Assembly members currently sponsoring Move NY legislation. (In eastern Queens, Vivien Cook and Andrew Hevesi have signed on.) State Senator Michael Gianaris has said he’s “skeptical” of the plan.

Move NY aims to reduce congestion by putting tolls on the four East River bridges and a cordon across 60th Street in Manhattan. It also cuts the tolls on the Triborough, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, and Verrazano, where congestion is less intense. The net revenue from the toll swap would raise billions of dollars for transit, relieving the constant upward pressure on MTA fares and accelerating investments that can add capacity to a system straining at the seams.

Long Island City and Astoria are two neighborhoods that would benefit enormously from the traffic reduction effect of Move NY. The vast majority of residents don’t own cars, and a truly small share car commute into downtown Manhattan each day. But everyone who lives in the area suffer the consequences of the city’s dysfunctional tolling system.

qboro_traffic
The free Queensboro Bridge is a disaster for western Queens neighborhoods. Video still: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

For instance, 21st Street is plagued by drivers seeking a shortcut to the Queensboro. “Look around, look at all the cars… not to see anything or shop in Astoria, but to shop bridges, to go to the Queensboro Bridge,” said TA Queens volunteer Angela Stach. “21st Street is where most of the traffic goes between the bridges and it’s one of the top ten high-crash corridors in the city.”

Outside the Astoria Boulevard subway station, volunteers passed out flyers touting the benefits of Move NY for straphangers.

“Transit riders would finally have a source of dedicated funding for crowded and delayed subways and buses instead of living in fear of additional fare hikes,” said Riders Alliance organizer and Queens resident Masha Burina.

  • realposter

    Some people just can’t see the big picture. More Queens residents would benefit – than not – by Move NY

  • tachyonzero

    As a New yorker, living in Queens. I’m giving a biggest middle finger ever to MoveNY organization.

    MTA bridges and tolls has to biggest revenue and windfall of $250mil plus. Also NYC has a $6 billion in 2015, go find somewhere to troll not toll.

  • Mackle

    For those of us in LIC the toll equalization will bring the traffic and congestion from the 59th Street bridge to the Midtown Tunnel entrances. I would expect to see Jackson Avenue backed up and less safe as well as Borden.

    This will also impact the B62 and B32 buses that connect LIC and our neighbors in Greenpoint and Williamsburg as well as many bicyclists on the Skillman conduit and bridge conduits.

    Southern LIC currently benefits from the toll disparity.

    As for the 21st street issues, I would hazard a guess that the greatest number of accidents are north of the queensboro bridge and that’s not going to change until they create traffic calming and take away some lanes.

  • new yorker

    What here is bad for Queens?

    1) Less traffic diverting off the LIE to the local streets/59th street bridge. People can stay on the LIE and take the tunnel into Midtown.

    2) Lower tolls on the Triborough, Whitestone and Throgs Neck.

    3) Additional funds for LIRR/Subway/Bus expansion in the borough.

  • new yorker

    Majority of the traffic will be on the LIE, not local streets.

  • Mackle

    You’re equalizing demand for the crossing through pricing. That means additional pressure on LIE which right now is backed up to Greenpoint Avenue.

    That excess demand will trickle into local streets to try and end run the traffic.

  • Joe R.

    You’re also to some extent reducing demand overall. Those who now use the free bridges to go into Manhattan may well conclude the trip is not worthwhile if they have to pay for it.

  • new yorker

    If that problem occurs, it is easily solvable. Just require all tunnel traffic to funnel onto the LIE earlier.

  • Mackle

    Maybe. So you think they will just park their cars on the street in LIC and take the train.

  • Joe R.

    Many will opt to just take the LIRR or subway for the entire trip. It’s not like parking in LIC is all that plentiful. The general idea behind congestion pricing is to get those who can switch to other modes to do so, leaving less traffic for those who really must drive, like delivery truck drivers.

  • Theo Sahos Fotografia

    New Yorker sounds like a plant for MOVE NY.

    As a life long native of Astoria/LIC (4 decades) I can tell you that if all you needed to do was put a toll on the 59th st bridge and that would somehow alleviate “congestion” in the area I have a bridge to sell you! Pun intended. I commend all the new residents of this neighborhood for coming in with their fairy dust ideas on how to make the neighborhood better but I can tell you this. Congestion planing a toll does not make.

    Firstly the claim the article makes that “The vast majority of residents don’t own cars” is ridiculous. There are more cars in the neighborhood than there has ever been. You cant find parking anywhere.

    Secondly a toll on the 59th Street bridge is just a regressive tax on the middle class. The only people who don’t own cars are the ones that are using uber and the train to get everywhere. If that is you congratulations for living like the 1%. The rest of us have cars. If I showed you my kids weekend calendar you would understand that it would not be possible without a car and financially prohibitive without one.

    Lastly, the congestion on the trains (especially in LIC) are deplorable. The claim that “New Yorker” makes that the majority of the traffic would be on the LIE and not on the local streets is laughable. In the age of Waze and Google Maps I have taken local streets more and more and so will others. Also what do you think the people who aren’t readily serviced by mass transit in Queens and Long Island will do? Take the LIRR? I have another bridge to sell you. Take a bus or two buses to a train? I have two bridges to sell you. They are going to drive here from those poorly serviced areas park as close to the city as possible and take the already congested subway system.

    Congestion planning is comprehensive. There are no quick fixes. Please do not insult our intelligence with these ideas because we are neither gullible or stupid enough to believe them. Come up with a real plan.

  • new yorker

    1) First off over half of Astoria’s households do not own a car +/- 52%. Lower % than other areas of the city but still a “majority”.

    2) Traffic diverts to the 59th today because it’s free and the tunnel has a toll. Put a equal toll on both and traffic will go the fastest route a.k.a the LIE

    3) Tunnel traffic diverting off the LIE onto local streets is an incredibly easy problem to solve. Just adjust exits off the LIE and entrances into the tunnel.

    4) Show me evidence of these middle class people driving private cars into Manhattan every day. You can’t because they don’t exist and even if they did they can choose to stop once the toll is in place.

    5) You make the point that “you can’t find parking anywhere”. That is because the city is growing in population rapidly and expected to continue. Short term we need to reduce congestion in the city center and put financially and political pressure toward massive transit expansion.

    You are correct that this is not a magical fix-all plan, however it’s needed as part of a process to open up space and fit more people and transit into Manhattan.

    p.s also a life long resident so your stupid newbie quote is not only inaccurate, it’s unnecessary. What does a person’s tenure in a city have to do with their ability to participate in discussion?

  • Theo Sahos Fotografia

    1) According to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles there are 808,122 active vehicle registrations on file in Queens. Acording to the US Census there are 849,505 households in Queens. According to my math that equals 95% of households in Queens. By extrapolation we can deduce that in Astoria/LIC that number is more or less similar. But not 47% off as you are suggesting.

    2) Traffic diverts to the 59th street bridge today. Yes that is true but you are implying that there is no traffic in the midtown tunnel. I cannot speak empirically but in my own experience which is taking the midtown tunnel every day for the past 15 years the traffic in the tunnel is a nightmare and deplorable. It by no means can be described as a fast route.

    3) Tunnel traffic diverting off the LIE and onto local streets is not as easy as you may think. Adjust exits off the LIE? Really? I guess the drivers would be too stupid to get off the exit before or three exits before and just make their way down to LIC? This is not a real solution. Also by “adjusting exits” in Queens off the LIE you will negatively impact residents in LIC from using the roads that their taxes pay for. It cuts both ways or do you not have the residents of LIC/Astoria in mind.

    4) I never said the middle class are driving their cars into Manhattan everyday. Please argue the examples I’m giving. Ill expound on my original example. This past Saturday I drove my oldest to the South Bronx for a track meet, then I drove my youngest to band practice on the upper east side. Also in the car were two cousins visiting from overseas which I took to the Intrepid. I went back to the South Bronx picked one up then picked up the youngest then drove everyone home. That’s would have been $27.50 in subway fare. Sunday was similar. Which would total $55.00 in subway fare. Now you might say don’t your kids have train passes? Well let me tell you how smart the city is. Train passes don’t work on the weekends!! Also they don’t work after 8:30 PM on the weekdays. Why is that an issue you might say? What is a kid doing on a train at 8:30 pm anyway? Well the youngest was in a play for 3 days during the week which ended at 9:30PM. Guess what, he has to pay to get home from a school play. If that isn’t a regressive tax I don’t know what is. Charging children to get home from school extracurricular activities is disgusting. I simply do not have that kind of money to blow every weekend when I’m already getting screwed paying train fare during the week for children looking to better themselves.

    5) Why do you keep on harping on reducing congestion in Manhattan. Isn’t the pay wall around that island high enough already? I’m talking about LIC/Astoria. It already costs enough for residents of this city to enter the crystal palace called Manhattan. Enough is enough. Have you visited the train stations in Queens recently? There is gum stuck to platforms from the 60’s. They have not been touched! My neighborhood train station looks exactly like it did in 1970. The only difference is that it has a metro card machine. The subways in Manhattan have been redone over and over and not one dollar has touched Queens. Tell me how we are going to alleviate the traffic in Astoria and LIC not Manhattan.

    Closing an exit is just going to push the problem further up the road. It doesn’t solve a thing.

    You said “You are correct that this is not a magical fix-all plan, however it’s needed as part of a process to open up space and fit more people and transit into Manhattan.” Really? What about our quality of life? Does that not matter? Or do you think if Manhattan is less congested so will the rest of the city? Isn’t LIC turning into an extension of Manhattan anyway? Manhattan has always looked after itself don’t worry it doesn’t need your assistance. Tell me how you are going to make life better for LIC/Astoria and Queens in general. Who is looking out for them?

    You asked “What does a person’s tenure in a city have to do with their ability to participate in discussion?” I never said you can’t participate. I said the views of the short tenured are sometimes shortsighted. There is something that comes with the “tenure” of living in a neighborhood, its called perspective. A neighborhood is a living organism just like your body. I don’t think you would argue that someone else knows your body better than you do? Its the same with a neighborhood.

    One thing I need re-emphasize is that this approach needs to be comprehensive. We can’t rob Queens to pay Manhattan. There is no easy way to do this. Tolls alone do not help and tolls are not the first logical step. They should be the last step. Innovation and creativity will solve this problem not toll booths.

  • fdtutf

    1) According to the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles there are 808,122 active vehicle registrations on file in Queens. Acording to the US Census there are 849,505 households in Queens. According to my math that equals 95% of households in Queens.

    I didn’t realize there was an ordinance prohibiting Queens households from having more than one car each.

    By extrapolation we can deduce that in Astoria/LIC that number is more or less similar. But not 47% off as you are suggesting.

    I’m not all that familiar with Queens as a whole (although I do happen to be familiar with Astoria), but even I know that the neighborhoods in Queens vary widely in their access to transit, and consequently in the likelihood that households in the neighborhood will own cars.

    I’d be pretty surprised to find that more than half the households in Astoria own cars. It’s quite a dense neighborhood that doesn’t have all that much parking or other space for cars.

  • ahwr

    http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/tm/1.0/en/ACS/14_5YR/DP04/0500000US36081.14000?mapyear=2014&bm=gray&zl=12&minx=-8240287.787239536&miny=4956813.589588241&maxx=-8192094.240905796&maxy=4983566.549488016&mm=&by=&bl=&catsetid=ESTIMATE%3DHC03!GEO%3D1400000US36081000100!SUBJECT%3DVC84&trans=0.8&sr=248&sg=249&sb=249&er=4&eg=6&eb=0&cc=2&cm=USER_DEFINED&ud=0:50|50.1:100

    Here’s a shortened URL if the direct link doesn’t work for you.

    http://goo.gl/c59E0p

    Queens county census tracts by percent with no vehicles available. Black is >= 50.1%. White is <=50%

    http://i.imgur.com/w9mUglA.jpg

    FYI the 808k includes ~30k taxis, ~30k commercial vehicles, ~13k rental vehicles, a few other things. ~712k passenger cars, which roughly matches the census number.

    https://dmv.ny.gov/statistic/2015reginforce-web.pdf

  • new yorker

    Warning: Long reply ahead…
    tl:dr you understand very little about the topic at hand. Educate yourself a bit on reality.

    1) Perhaps you didn’t read carefully enough. I said ASTORIA households not Queens.

    2) Faster and fast are not necessarily the same thing

    3) As previously mentioned a majority of Astoria residents do not own cars. So how are they driving on the LIE? Also are you really of the impression that a material % of LIC/Astoria is driving in each day? Let me answer that for you with — they are not.

    That is why the N/Q/7/E/R/F are all quite busy. Perhaps you’ve heard of those trains in your 40+ years

    4) Your example doesn’t illustrate how this is a regressive tax. Have you ever heard of the concept of “first world problem”? That is what you are experiencing. Don’t conflate the true middle class and lower income people of New York with your minor trivial inconveniences.

    Anyhow that trip will still be possible under Move NY and possibly faster. However you can still make the decision on whether or not its cheaper than the subway and act accordingly.

    5) I’ve already explained how this balances traffic in Astoria/LIC.

    You mention “Quality of Life”.

    Is sitting in traffic? = “A Quality Life”
    Are pedestrians and cyclists getting run down? = “A Quality Life”
    Is ever declining air quality? = “A Quality Life”
    Is giving away massive amounts of public land for free car storage, while housing prices skyrocket? = “A Quality Life”

    Whether you like it or not,you are not defending the middle class of your neighborhood here. You are just defending your own greedy needs and unfortunately for you there are other people in the world.

    Regarding your tenure point, I’m going to again say a person’s tenure does not reflect their ability to contribute to the neighborhood. NYC was and is a transient city with consistent change being the constant. If you don’t like change you are free to leave anytime. General point the needs of the 9 million residents here outweigh your trivial inconveniences.

    Regarding your point of robbing Queens to pay Manhattan. That shows both your holistic misunderstanding of the proposal which I doubt you have even read. In addition it illustrates that YOU are out-of-touch with your neighborhood not the newbies you call out.

  • new yorker

    The latest number I’ve seen is about 52% of Astoria households are car-free. So surprisingly high % of car owners but not a majority.

  • Brokelyn

    As someone who lives on Crescent Street directly north of the Queensboro Bridge and has the joy of waking up every morning to the incessant honking of impatient, selfish assholes, I say make the toll $20!

  • Gus Kyriakakis

    Having the small amount of drivers pay for the large amount or subway riders makes no sense. I drive a lot the traffic is terrible at 59th st bridge… believe me Noone is bridge shopping, what a lame excuse for trying to milk the middle class.

    What I think is Cuomo should try to get the corrupt construction business to lower their pricing, not raising money to pay them! Look at the budgets we have to make for the projects we are doing…. we in nyc are paying exponential compared to other countries and even states like California for their infrastructure construction. Maybe the city should make their own construction dept!

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