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Western and Central Queens Legislators Generally Support Congestion Pricing, Suburban Queens Not so Much

Gov. Andrew Cuomo Delivering the State of State Address (Photo: Cuomo)

Jan. 16, 2019 By Christian Murray

Governor Andrew Cuomo urged lawmakers to pass legislation this year that would charge motorists a fee for entering Manhattan below 60th Street.

Cuomo said that the charge, known as congestion pricing, would help fund a crumbling subway system by raising $15 billion in coming years. He said it would also reduce gridlock around the toll-free entry points to Manhattan, such as the Queensboro Bridge.

“We need to do it this year,” Cuomo said during his State of the State speech yesterday. “Riders are fed up, the situation only gets worse. It’s like the old commercial: you can pay me now or you can pay me later. The system is just continuing to deteriorate.”

The elected officials who represent western and central Queens told the Queens Post yesterday that they are largely supportive of the congestion pricing concept. However, officials who represent more suburban Queens districts, which are not served by the subway, are more skeptical.

The plan, which was put together by a task force convened by the governor in 2017, would charge every passenger vehicle and truck a toll that enters Manhattan below 60th Street.

The task force, called Fix NYC, proposed a charge of $11.52 for cars and $25.34 for trucks that enter the zone. Vehicles that come in via the MTA’s tolled East River crossing–such as the Queens-Midtown tunnel—would be credited.

Cuomo said the plan would be equitable and would reduce “bridge shopping.” Currently, commuters can cross the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges for free—yet are tolled when using the Queens-Midtown and Hugh L Carey tunnels, as well as other bridges.

“I’m a Queens boy,” Cuomo said. “You can take the 59th Street [Queensboro] bridge and not pay a toll or you can go through the Queens-Midtown tunnel and pay a toll. I’m cheap, so I go through the 59th Street Bridge. But literally you are directing traffic by where there’s a toll-free bridge and where there’s not a toll-free bridge.

The Fix NYC plan would also add a surcharge to for-hire vehicles that go into the district, which would be passed onto the consumer.

While the finer points of the plan still need to be determined, many Queens legislators back the concept.

Assemblymembers Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), Catalina Cruz (D-Jackson Heights), Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) told the Queens Post that they support congestion pricing. Additionally, State Senators Mike Gianaris (D-12th District) and Jessica Ramos (D-13th District) have expressed support.

SImotas said that congestion pricing is needed since residents require a system that they can rely on. “What we have now is a broken system with awful service, chronic delays and an atrocious lack of accessibility [for the elderly and disabled],” she said in a statement.

She said that congestion pricing provides a sustainable source of funding if it is done correctly.

Fix NYC

But some Queens legislators are unsure about the concept at this point.

State Senator Joseph Addabbo (D-15th District) said in a statement that he is still deciding. “I am looking into all the pros and cons of this initiative before I make a decision to support something as major as this.”

Assemblymember Nily Rozic (D-Flushing), who represents a section of greater Flushing that isn’t served by the subway, has not decided at this point, according to her spokesperson. She is still talking to constituents.

Assemblymember Brian Barnwell (D-Maspeth) said he wants to see a bill before announcing his support for or against.

Meanwhile, Assemblymember David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) is outright opposed to congestion pricing. He said that the neighborhoods in northern, southern and eastern Queens are not close to the subway and cannot afford a tax hike in the form of congestion pricing.

“A congestion tax would be disastrous for Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island residents,” Weprin said in December. “It could cost a commuter an additional $3,000 a year in expenses.”

Assemblymember Cathy Nolan (D-Long Island City) could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Cuomo said that the funds raised via congestion pricing are needed since the MTA needs $40 billion in the next decade just to modernize the subway. He said that cost, over and above what is raised via congestion pricing, should then be split between New York City and the state.

 

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16 Comments

Martin J. Olszewski

Wait , let’s get this straight. Giant corporations get billions of dollars in tax breaks that are supposed to pay for themselves. Yet the politicians what to tax the average working people to pay for the MTA’s maintenance and upgrades. We have begun the race to the bottom. The bottom of our wallets folks. Beware of the B.S. name of this thing “congestion pricing ” . Probably best to be called what it is , drivers tax . Let’s come up with another plan for the cash friends. Our leaders are letting us down if this passes. Vote them out if this becomes reality.

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Anonymous

I have no idea whether a congestion charge in Midtown would help lessen congestion, but at least policy makers are talking about doing SOMETHING. I am especially concerned about the noticeable buildup in traffic in LIC, especially on the southern ends of Vernon Blvd and Jackson Avenue approaching the Midtown Tunnel and LIE entrance. In just the past few years, it’s become pretty much jammed for large parts of the day. Are there no plans to alleviate this condition? Is vehicle traffic going to be allowed to continue to cram our roads? Are any ideas being contemplated to reroute traffic? Why are planners in NYC always behind the ball when it comes to mitigating the effects of development? I’m totally in favor of seeing the neighborhood evolve and grow, but we need to be smarter about it for everyone’s sake.

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Vin Dieselsmoke

Congestion will not be eased by this kind of proposal. It is nearly another Political Plot to separate working people from their hard earned pay.
They don’t like to call it a Tax, but that’s all it is. If they were interested in minimizing congestion, they shouldn’t have allowed the Uber and other Ridesharing operations to put 100,000 more vehicles out on the streets.

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Sara Ross

The MTA always has plenty of money – it’s called subway fares, advertising revenue and taxes! This city is worse than a subway pickpocket because on the train, you don’t know you’re being robbed. Tourism is always touted as being in the millions in this city and they take mass transit – they don’t drive (MTA extra revenue). There is no need for congestion pricing. Although I would be in favor of pricing those cars with out of state plates (except NJ and CT) – like Pennsylvania, Florida, California, Illinois, etc. (I see plenty of those plates in my area of Queens).

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Patret

I travel into Manhattan from Queens at least twice a week to check on an elderly parent who lives on the lower east side and to bring her frozen home made leftovers. Taking the subway is physically strenuous, so I drive. The increased cost of the metered parking downtown is bad enough, but now the governor and other proponents want to add an additional burden on caring for others. Can anyone imagine how crowded the FDR will become because the drivers won’t be charged the extra price to use it?

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Flushing Skeptic

Such a scheme might work if it were to be made avoidable. By which I mean if there were sufficient parking at the various chokepoints in Queens that commuters from Long Island could leave their vehicles and take a subway. As well, the #7 line could be amalgamated with the LIRR from Flushing at least to the County Line, if not further. That could reduce vehicle use between Great Neck and Flushing Main Street. There were accommodations made to extend the #7 that were abandoned, more’s the pity. Northern, Eastern and Southern Queens are so poorly served by mass transit that it surprising that any resident would want to commute to Manhattan. Perhaps if one were to think outside the box, more Manhattan employers might consider either allowing their employees to telecommute, or establish regional offices in parts of Queens. And I have to tell you, telecommuting works! My daughter lives in Missouri, and works for a company in Boston, Mass.

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D

All for hire vehicle compsnies—not driver—have the obligation to pay this. It is a free ride on our streets for Uber, Lyft and the rest, the Queensborough bridge was built and paid for by 1920, for goodness sake. Cuomo should man up, admit he likes their payoffs, but stick the ride services for making life hell for Queens commuting residents, elders who can’t use the stairs, but drive, the workers who service luxury hi-rises and businesses in Mahattan, from cranes to cleaners—you know, people.
Albany sure swells the head, leads to “Let them eat cake,” attitudes, right?
Stick it to Uber. Dare you….

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Get your slimy hand off my pocket!

Hey, the man needs our money. He likes spending it! No proposed cuts. None! No proposed reforms for the bloated, enormously wasteful MTA. Guggetaboutit! Just hand him our money! And after the congestion-whatever-they-call-it-just-tax-those-suckers money is all spent, well, we’ll need to give out some more of our money to him. He likes spending it.

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East Queens Boi

Eastern Queens has three LIRR right of ways (West Hempstead, Far Rockaway, Port Washington) which have been considered for subway use, in addition an LIE line was considered leaving only one underground line under Hillside Ave to cover Eastern Queens. Every borough has $2.75 rail subway service going to the depths of the boroughs (even SI) except Queens. With better transit there could even be slight changes to density and help create affordable housing/cheaper office space. Definitely think a subway would justify most development. Just a thought.

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Mass transit is extremely limited to millions of NYers

Staten Island has “rail service to the depths of the borough?” Have you been to Staten Island? There’s one rail line going along the south shore! And what about south Brooklyn? Eastern Bronx? This is the ignorant, clueless callousness that is beind the car haters’ justification to make driving as difficult and as costly as possible.

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East Queens Boi

My point was that Queens subway service ends in Jamaica or Flushing, while the other boroughs do lack adequate rail lines, the ones or one (SI) that do exist goes all the way into the end of the borough. (aside from the Utica Ave Line) My real point was if they want to pass congestion pricing in terms of Eastern Queens we should have adequate rail service and I AGREE that other boroughs do need better service too before they consider this. We’re on the same page!

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John O'Reilly

People looking to save a few dollars, like Gov. Cuomo, can take the subway into Manhattan with no worries.

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Frank

I wonder if you would get charged if you were coming from upper Manhattan and drove onto the 59th St. Bridge, since the on-ramps for it are on 59th and 58th Sts. If so, it is a de facto toll on the 59th St. Bridge

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Peter B.

My understanding is if you approach form upper Manhattan on the FDR there is no toll, but if you come down in to the congestion zone from upper Manhattan, say driving down 2nd Ave, then you get charged as you enter the zone.

In any event I am all for it and hope my Senator Toby Stavisky and Councilmember Karen Koslowitz will suppport it (Thank you Assemblyman Hevesi!) 23% of our greenhouse gas emission in the City come from transportation, reducing those emissions and providing cleaner air for us to breath need to be priorities. At the same time, congestion will be reduced, cars and massive trucks cramming in to local neighborhoods near the free bridges should be dramatically reduced, and the streets both in Manhattan and those bridge neighborhoods will become much safer. All while money is raised to start filling the funding gap we have to fix and hopefully expand the subways and buses – though more will be needed. Lets get this done.

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D.O.

Pah-leeze, political lackey of Uber…this commenter who knows too much about car pollution except where the majority of it originates–except that ride share drivers spend long shifts riding around texting and driving, impeding deliveries to support tech industries and residents, food to hardware. Uber and their ilk started us down the long road of needing them to get into the city, ride in the city, and to destroy the air and values of free access by the citizens to Manhattan. This poster even has names to pressure–how very convenient Uber drivers–kill some more cab drivers.

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