Assemblyman David I. Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows, Richmond Hill) yesterday joined City Council Members Barry Grodenchik (D-Bayside, Queens, Bellerose, Douglaston, Floral Park, Fresh Meadows, Glen Oaks, Hollis, Hollis Hills, Holliswood, Jamaica Estates, Little Neck Oakland Gardens, Queens Village ) and I. Daneek Miller (D-Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, Jamaica Estates, Laurelton, Queens Village, Springfield Gardens, St. Albans), and a number of civic and business organizations to rally in strong opposition to any proposed congestion pricing tax.
Congestion pricing is a proposed traffic congestion fee charged to vehicles traveling into or within a predetermined area in the Manhattan central business district.
While a number of mass transit advocates favor the plan as a way to generate revenue for needed upgrades to the subway system, others who live in and /or represent neighborhoods in the outer boroughs not as easily accessible by public transportation say this amounts to tax to those that must drive to work.
Weprin and others say that neighborhoods in northern, southern, and eastern Queens, along with certain areas of Brooklyn, do not have the same amenities as those in Manhattan with readily accessible subway systems near their homes and businesses. These middle class communities cannot afford a tax hike in the form of congestion pricing, which will add hundreds of dollars in additional monthly expenses for working class families and will serve as another tax on New York’s middle class.
“A Congestion tax would be disastrous for Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island residents. It could cost a commuter hundreds in additional expenses each month. It would raise the cost of doing business with the cost of congestion taxing being passed onto businesses. It would raise the cost of consumer goods, with business passing along extra costs to consumers. It would limit the competitive ability of these local small businesses; and it would impose a monetary barrier to Manhattan for outer borough residents, who often travel to the city to visit a doctor, watch a show or enjoy a night out in Manhattan” said Weprin.
“New York cannot burden the backs of these other borough working and middle class residents, already struggling with the rising costs of living with a new congestion tax. We must find alternative funding streams including the restoration of a commuter tax, an increase in the gas cap, and the use of revenue from marijuana legalization for transportation funding,” he added.
Grodenchik said many in the outer boroughs already lack accessible and efficient transportation options and these New Yorkers will be hit hardest by this financial burden.
“Not only are seniors going to pay a higher price to see their specialist, but these costs will be passed on to the consumer and to small businesses,” said Grodenchik. “According to multiple studies, the effect of congestion pricing would be negligible, with findings indicating a speed increase of just 1-2 miles per hour. There are alternatives we can explore that do not involve disproportionately impacting communities and residents of Eastern Queens who will bear the brunt of this toll.”
Miller pointed out that most observers now agree that a congestion pricing scheme would not generate enough money to compensate for the MTA’s projected $1 billion revenue shortfall, and no dedicated funding stream will ever be safe from the State’s abusive practice of diversion without a lockbox to secure any new streams of revenue.
“My southeast Queens community shouldn’t be forced to pay a regressive and burdensome tax when it doesn’t have a multitude of accessible transit options like those in Manhattan, especially when programs such as the reduced fare LIRR Atlantic Ticket offer viable alternatives that actually benefit outer borough residents. Transportation is the great equalizer between communities, but there is no equity to be gained from congestion pricing,” said Miller.