Knockout Punch On CP
I would like to applaud the New York State Assembly, its members and Speaker Sheldon Silver for delivering a knockout punch to Mayor Bloomberg's wrong-headed Congestion Pricing (CP).
Much as I support the idea of reducing vehicular traffic and alleviating chronic asthma conditions in NYC, most people in Queens were very upset by the CP. They saw it as a new regressive tax and I agree.
We in Queens have the worst public transportation in the city, and the longest commutes in the nation. Folks from outside the City already take tolled bridges and tunnels, so the Mayor's plan would've hit the people who use the free East River bridges hardest. Being a borough of middle class folks we use these free crossings because we don't have the extra disposable income to pay for the more direct and expensive methods. There was no guarantee that CP would've increased transportation funding. I remember how when the NYS Lottery originated it was sold to the public as a way to supplement our state's education budget. In reality, all it did was allow politicians to decrease funding from the general budget by the amount that came in from the lottery. There was no "Lock Box" provision in the CP scheme either and Mayor Bloomberg or future mayors could've deviated from the plan and diverted money from mass transportation at their whim.
The Mayor tried selling the CP as an environmental issue, then why didn't he have an Environmental Impact Study performed. I guess, he's now a scientist too, but I'm not buying it.
I think most rational people understand there's a need for some sort of reduction in traffic, but the big problem here is that no one trusts the MTA or Mayor Bloomberg to use the revenues in the way that they promised. I also wonder which set of books the MTA would've shown auditors.
There was no specific amount of funding from Washington. The monies promised depended on how many other cities went for it. And if none did, the money would still exist to be allocated another way to mass transit.
Senators Schumer, Senator Clinton and the NY congressional delegation can still try to
secure and properly
allocate that money to NYC's transit ridership's benefit.
The Mayor's rhetoric kept saying the amount of funding ($354 million) possibly lost was huge. I think he was being somewhat disingenuous, since the City is financing improvements to Yankee Stadium which amount to over $409 million, the last I heard the Yankees were the most profitable team in the world and they're privately owned.
So let's see, when another billionaire needs $409 million the Mayor states it's a small investment but when it comes to the publicly owned subway system $354 million is a huge amount of money. Something doesn't add up.
I believe that the proposed concept of "residential parking permits" was a Pandora's box that was best left closed. We already subsidize curbside parking with our taxes, but allowing our streets to be reserved for residents is even worse. Every neighborhood with a parking problem - which means every neighborhood in Queens - would've wanted some consideration. I live near the Rockaway Blvd train station in Ozone Park and we have hundreds of cars a day circling our streets, looking for subway parking.
CP is just a regressive form of taxation. It means nothing for the wealthy (like the Mayor) who would've likely just written it off as the cost of doing business. It would mean that only the wealthy would be able to drive into Manhattan. And, the fees would keep going up, as in London, until that was true.
And don't get me started on the privacy intrusions of more cameras. Our Constitutional civil liberties were at stake. The CP proposed installing an additional 25 cameras and I'm certain that it would've only increased enabling the Mayor to monitor our comings and goings to a greater extent.
In my lifetime I can honestly say that southern Queens always gets screwed by Manhattan projects. How would the elderly or infirmed have climbed the steps on the "A" train on Liberty Avenue without any escalators or elevators? And, you know the additional CP funds would end up paying for the 2nd Ave subway line and the Fulton Street station in Manhattan, not spent here in Queens.
If the Mayor was serious about reducing traffic in the City, maybe he would instruct his Building Department to implement real environment solutions by eliminating over development of our neighborhoods and the problems it spawns. But that would negatively impact his beloved real estate industry.
Word on the street is that the Mayor used large sums of his own money and his ample influence to twist the arms of legislators to vote against their own constituents' best interests and bought off environmental groups seeking their support. When Mayor Bloomberg was running for office there was much made that being a billionaire he couldn't be bought. I think little thought was given to him being the buyer of other legislators' votes, which he evidently tried to do in this case and others.
Until Queens has a reliable, efficient and comfortable way of getting into the city by public transportation, then no CP measure should be considered. It is simply not an option for most of Queens riders.
There was a way of raising more money for transportation, it was called the Commuter Tax but since it was revoked, it's elimination has cost the City over a half a billion dollars a year.
I think the Mayor should try to work with Albany on reinstating that before he starts charging Queens drivers. Why do drivers from the suburbs get to travel NYC roads for free, when we all have to pay. Where's the outrage?
As an environmental advocate, I agree wholeheartedly in reducing traffic and bronchial conditions throughout NYC, but in my eyes the CP would've brought absolutely no benefits to the communities of southern Queens nor the environment - therefore I did not support the Mayor's CP scheme.
I think the proposal was just another way for the Manhattan-centric Mayor to make Manhattan an island for only well-heeled, wealthy people, like himself and tourists.
By making CP so cost-prohibitive, it was just Bloomberg's way of keeping the riff-raff from Queens from having access to our own City.
In closing, I feel we all owe a debt of gratitude to Sheldon Silver and the NYS Assembly for not allowing Mayor Bloomberg to bully the residents of Queens into a misconceived plan and for making it dead on arrival in Albany.
DAVID M. QUINTANA