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2017 Primaries

Fox and Cumbo Stake Out Diverging Positions on Congestion Pricing

Challenger Ede Fox, left, debated incumbent Council Member Laurie Cumbo on NY1 Tuesday night.

Council Member Laurie Cumbo -- whose district encompasses Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and parts of Crown Heights -- faces a spirited and well-funded primary challenge from Ede Fox, a former council staffer who also ran for the seat four years ago.

The two candidates appeared on NY1 Tuesday night for a debate moderated by Errol Louis. Most of the discussion focused on gentrification, housing, and the ongoing fight over the redevelopment of the Bedford-Union Armory. But Louis did manage to sneak in a question about transit.

Nearly every subway line in Brooklyn runs through the 35th district, he noted. Would the candidates be open to congestion pricing to help fund improvements? (The question comes at the 6:20 mark in "Part 2" of NY1's debate video.)

Cumbo attempted to equate the specter of charging for car trips into the most crowded parts of Manhattan to the district's affordable housing crisis.

"I do not support any version of congestion pricing," she said. "The everyday New Yorker is already faced with so many different fees, and we're getting fee'd and fee'd and fee'd -- up until the point where so many people are displaced and can no longer afford to live in New York City."

She then pivoted to the proposed "Fair Fares" program, as if people who can't afford MetroCards are the same people who can afford to own cars. "If we already recognize that so many New Yorkers can't afford to even come into the city on a day-to-day basis, we don't need yet another fee to tack onto the fees that people are facing all across the city," she said.

Fox wouldn't endorse pricing, but she expressed openness to it, noting that improving transit -- and the district's north-south bus routes, in particular -- was one of the top concerns she heard from voters.

"What I want to see is great improvements in our transit system," she said, including better buses and the "Fair Fares" program. "I am willing to consider any plan that will address those things as quickly as possible."

"I was not in support of the proposal under Bloomberg because the improvements would come so much later down the road, but with immediate improvements, especially with the bus service, it's worth considering."

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