Carrion: New York Needs Congestion Charging

He was once Bronx Borough President. In the battle over whether charging drivers to enter Manhattan's business district was good social policy that would discourage driving, lower the city's carbon footprint, and push funds towards transit -- or unfairly penalize residents of the "outer boroughs" -- Aldofo Carrion chose the first option. But in a bitter public battle that painted Mayor Michael Bloomberg as trying to restrict access to Manhattan's streets to the wealthy, the proposal went down to defeat.

Now Carrion is director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, promulgator of best practices. And in an appearance before the Regional Plan Association's annual conference, Carrion laid out a wish list for New York. Mostly easy things to get behind: Moynihan station, a one-seat transit ride to the airports, seamless commutes from Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island. And then he added, "and dare I say it, congestion charging." After his remarks, reporters tried to get elaboration: What would such a plan look like? Should Bloomberg try and resurrect the plan Assembly Speaker Shelley Silver killed and buried? Try something else? Would the Obama adminstration endorse a plan, as the Bush administration had, that would give New York hundreds of millions of dollars for transit in exchange for congestion charging? Carrion wouldn't elaborate, insisting that local officials and planners should develop the policy. Even though, it was pointed out, he was in the last fight? "I wear a different hat now," he said.