Congestion Pricing Opponents Brace Themselves for a Repeat

Opponents of congestion pricing are worried it's about to stage a comeback. Although confident that it would be dead on arrival in Albany, Queens Assemblyman David Weprin voiced concern about a possible resurrection.

"It's resurfaced over the last couple of weeks, in the media," said Weprin, standing with other opponents outside City Hall. "We understand that there is a coalition of groups that's forming a proposal. We'd like to prevent that proposal from seeing the day of light."

Congestion pricing was heavily promoted by Mayor Bloomberg beginning in 2007. The mayor argued that charging drivers to enter the central business district in Manhattan would achieve multiple goals, including raising money for mass transit and reducing traffic and pollution. But opponents attacked the plan as a "tax" that would hurt small businesses and outer borough commuters, especially those who don't have easy access to subways. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to bring the legislation to a vote in 2008, dooming the initiative.

Queens Assemblyman Michael DenDekker warned lawmakers not to revisit the proposal.

"And if they do, in these economic times, I feel that although the city may reap a small quick benefit, from the tax that they'll put on these cars, they'll lose a much larger benefit, on the amount of money we make off tourism," said DenDekker.

There is no new congestion pricing legislation yet, but environmentalists have been studying ways to create a steady stream of revenue for mass transit. The Working Families Party has also been mulling a similar measure, and Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie (a Working Families Party candidate) argues that earlier problems with congestion pricing could be sorted out.

Heastie said it's too early to tell whether the legislature would back a proposal.

"You probably have to poll individual members," he said, "but I think when you're in desperate fiscal times like this I think every option should be on the table."