Gotham Gazette Thu, 16 Aug 2018 10:44:51 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) Cuomo Accused of ‘Bait and Switch’ on Congestion Pricing Cuomo driving bridge

Gov. Cuomo at the wheel (Philip Kamrass/Governor's Office)

Though Governor Andrew Cuomo has expressed support for instituting a congestion pricing program to reduce street congestion in Manhattan and create a dedicated source of revenue for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and said that he is fighting for such a scheme in state budget negotiations, the governor has recently indicated that he may only be able to win a modest first step, raising the ire of those expecting more.

“Congestion pricing doesn’t happen in one fell swoop,” Cuomo said on WNYC radio last week, acknowledging that the sole component of congestion pricing likely to make it into the budget due by April 1 is a surcharge on taxi and for-hire vehicle rides. “There are phases to the congestion pricing and I’m cautiously optimistic that we could start the process.”

On Wednesday, Cuomo told reporters in Albany that the state is “taking first steps towards congestion pricing” by including the surcharge on rides in taxis, black cars, and app-based services like Uber and Lyft. Those charges were part of the first of three phases to a congestion pricing plan proposed by the “Fix NYC” panel Cuomo had put together last year. The governor never fully embraced the recommendations publicly, but has said he’s “pushing that very hard,” in negotiations with the Democratically-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate, both home to significant skepticism.

“The congestion in Manhattan is incredible and if you want to fix the subways you need a long-term funding stream,” Cuomo said. “There is no magic.”

But many, including City Council Member Brad Lander, have voiced frustration with the likely lack of a comprehensive congestion pricing plan in the budget. “This is a classic bait-and-switch,” the Brooklyn Democrat said Tuesday during a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. “If the governor is the least bit serious about the reality that we need long-term congestion pricing, and not just the FHV [for-hire vehicle] bait-and-switch, then he’ll insist in getting that money in the budget.”

Lander, who had predicted such a possibility in January on social media, added, “Had [Cuomo] been serious about real congestion pricing, instead of appointing the Fix NYC commission and not following their report by not putting it in his budget, and made it a real top priority and put it in his budget, then it would have had a chance, I believe.”

Lander said that the insufficient effort toward including a more complete congestion pricing plan was yet another example of nearsighted political maneuvering in Albany standing in the way of implementing effective policy. 

“Every year, for many years, politicians in Albany made decisions that seemed good in the short-term: to borrow more, to put a little less in the subway. Because in the next few months, those decisions were not going to harm service,” Lander explained. “What we need is a big, long-term investment, but we’re in an election year and so the politics suggest find a way to look like you’re solving the problem while just doing a little something for the short-term.”

The governor is seeking a third term this year, and the entirety of the Legislature is also up for election in the fall.

Congestion pricing, a system of strategically tolling vehicles entering a certain geographic jurisdiction, has long been regarded as the right policy for New York City, according to the lion’s share of transit experts and advocates and editorial boards, as well as some city elected officials. The policy would reduce traffic and carbon emissions, encourage commuting via public transportation, and provide a much-needed influx of funding for repairs of the MTA subway infrastructure, its proponents say.  

In August 2017, as calls for officials to provide a fix to the poor-performing MTA subways reached a fever pitch, Cuomo reversed his position on the policy and said that congestion pricing “is an idea whose time has come.” In October 2017, Cuomo convened the “Fix NYC Advisory Panel,” a group comprised of elected officials, community leaders, and representatives from New York businesses, to produce a report suggesting policies.

And in January, the panel released the report. It recommended a three-year, three-phase plan including a congestion pricing proposal that would eventually mandate a surcharge of $11.52 per car to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street, and over $25 for trucks. The panel also recommended a surcharge of between $2 and $5 per ride on for-hire vehicles, such as taxis and Ubers. It also put forth a variety of congestion-reducing suggestions like better enforcement of existing traffic laws, like bans on double-parking and blocking bus lanes.

Even Mayor Bill de Blasio, who frequently labeled prior iterations of congestion pricing a “regressive tax,” changed his tune to an extent, expressing openness to the group’s recommendations, particularly noting his approval that they did not recommend tolls directly on the East River bridges.

Cuomo, however, never explicitly embraced its suggestions or promised to push for them in the budget or as stand-alone legislation. Instead, he acknowledged that the problems congestion pricing seeks to address are real, and pledged to “review it carefully” and “discuss the alternatives with the Legislature” in the ensuing months. A spokesperson for the governor, Peter Ajemian, told the New York Times that what the governor is on the verge of attaining in the state budget is in keeping with the Fix NYC plan because its congestion pricing program is also phased in.

Ahead of the April 1 budget deadline, top transit advocates questioned Cuomo’s commitment and leadership on the issue. “Where it really matters, he’s not in the game,” executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White, said at a rally outside the governor’s Manhattan office last week.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson for Assembly Democrats told Gotham Gazette of the for-hire vehicle surcharge, “We passed it as part of our budget proposal.”

Spokespeople for the Senate Republicans and the governor did not return requests for comment for this story. The Senate did not include even the surcharge in its one-house budget plan.

In recent days, and amid uncertainty about congestion pricing’s fate in budget negotiations, coalitions of transit, business, and technology leaders have come forward to encourage the state to enact the initiative. “Traffic congestion costs our region $20 billion every year, and the Fix NYC recommendations are the only plan on the table to address our transit crisis and get our economy moving,” said Alex Matthiessen, director of the Move NY Campaign, in a press release. Before the Fix NYC panel, Move NY had the model congestion pricing plan that was the topic of public debate and advocacy for several years. Matthiessen embraced the Fix NYC recommendations when they were released.

Julie Samuels, Executive Director of Tech:NYC, said in a press release, “New York City’s transit crisis slows down business, hinders our productivity and efficiency, and makes it harder for our companies to recruit employees. The congestion pricing plan sitting with leaders in Albany will ease congestion and, crucially, help fund our transit system.”

“We must get this done because we need a functional transit system if we want tech and business to succeed here,” Samuels continued.

While Council Member Lander acknowledged there are challenges in convincing the Assembly and Senate to agree to allow congestion pricing in the budget, he argued Cuomo did not make a genuine attempt at doing so. “When an elected leader wants to do something, they have real tools at their disposal to persuade the legislators that it’s the right thing to do,” said Lander. “And he did not do those things.”

Cuomo Accused of ‘Bait and Switch’ on Congestion Pricing Thu, 29 Mar 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Congestion Pricing with Alex Matthiessen of Move New York mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits

January 23, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Alex Matthiessen of Move New York

alex matthiessen move ny

When Mayor Bloomberg's attempt to pass a congestion pricing plan fell short, a new group emerged to figure out what went wrong and plot a new path toward a program to reduce congestion in Manhattan and create new dedicated funds for the MTA. That effort became Move New York, led by Alex Matthiessen, our guest for this podcast, and led to the "Fix NYC" panel assembled by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2017.

With the panel's recommendations out and both Cuomo and Move New York supporting them, Matthiessen discussed the path to this moment and what lies ahead. Hear his insights into the next steps and how those supporting a congestion pricing plan can win passage in Albany this year.

Listen to the full conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy, with guest @AlexMatthiessen of @MoveNewYork. You can listen to the episode through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Max & Murphy Podcast: Congestion Pricing with Alex Matthiessen of Move New York Tue, 23 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
Leading Congestion Pricing Advocate Explains Path to Passage subway station MTA

(photo: The Governor's Office)

Alex Matthiessen, the founder and director of Move New York, joined the Max & Murphy Podcast Tuesday to discuss the path ahead for congestion pricing now that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “Fix NYC” panel has releases its recommendations and the governor is vowing to negotiation with the Legislature to pass measures that will reduce congestion in Manhattan and create dedicated funds for the MTA.

Matthiessen explained the recent history of congestion pricing in New York and how his group came together in the wake of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ill-fated attempt at a version of congestion pricing and took a multi-year approach to crafting and promoting a new, more inclusive plan.

Matthiessen said that while there are some differences, including positive ones, Move New York is strongly behind the plan put forth by Fix NYC and vowing to lead a campaign to see it passed.

“I thought that we had created the gold standard of congestion pricing plans, especially for the City of New York, tailored for the City of New York, and these guys actually improved upon our plan in a number of ways,” Matthiessen said of Move New York and the new recommendations, citing the panel’s notion of tolling a congestion zone, but not the East River bridges. The plan includes new transit investments, a dedicated Manhattan zone that would require an additional fee to enter, added surcharges on for-hire vehicles and trucks in the zone, and other measures to fight congestion and improve the public transit system. It is outlined for a three-step and three-year phase in, eventually estimated to raise about $1.5 billion annually for mass transit.

Matthiessen pointed to the subway crisis that developed this past summer and tens of billions of dollars in estimated lost productivity because of Manhattan congestion as key drivers of the urgency now behind congestion pricing, starting with new support from Cuomo, who he indicated will be the key actor in determining whether a deal can be reached with legislators.

“There is a lot of pressure on the governor and on the Legislature to deliver something, and I don’t think that we can afford to wait,” he said, pointing to the April 1 deadline for a new state budget. “This is the most viable plan out there at the moment, I don’t expect that to change. There is a lot of momentum behind this.”

“I think there is a lot of expectations by the public that Albany has to deal with this issue this year,” Matthiessen said. “They’ve got elections coming up. No one likes to get behind a plan that’s going to cost people more than it cost them before, in terms of their daily commutes, but I don’t think they want to go into a 2018 election, either, having basically abandoned the 9 million people that use the region’s transit system.”

While Cuomo has referenced items that his Fix NYC panel did not put forward that he may pursue as he negotiates with the Legislature, such as reducing the tolls on existing bridges with them, like the Verrazzano and Whitestone, many including Matthiessen want to see funding for reduced-price MetroCards as part of the final deal. There will be no shortage of moving pieces and points of negotiation, but Matthiessen is confident that the timing is right and the political stars aligned, despite the fact that there has been cold water thrown at congestion pricing from the Democrat-led Assembly, the Republican-led Senate, and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“You just can’t continue to underinvest in a trillion dollar transit system like ours and not pay the price for it. We’ve already paid the price for it,” Matthiessen said on the podcast.

There’s a lot more to the conversation -- listen to the full discussion on the Max & Murphy podcast here, or find it wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes.

by Matthew Sweeney, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Leading Congestion Pricing Advocate Explains Path to Passage Tue, 23 Jan 2018 05:00:00 +0000
What's The [DATA] Point? $1.5 billion whats the data point

What's The Data Point? Episode 9 -- $1.5 billion, [You can download What's The [Data] Point? wherever you get your podcasts, including on iTunes]

For this episode of the podcast, we were joined by Alex Matthiessen, President of Blue Marble Project and Campaign Director for Move New York, the "congestion pricing" plan that aims to help repair and improve the city's mass transit, roads and bridges, while reducing traffic and creating more equity in tolling around the city.

Matthiessen expains the details of the Move New York plan and its place in this new, unique political moment -- Governor Cuomo has recently said that he's looking at some version of a congestion pricing plan and there is immense attention on how the city and state can improve mass transit, reduce traffic congestion, and repair, sustain, and expand the subway and other transportation options. Matthiessen addresses the next steps for Cuomo, whether Mayor de Blasio should come around to back Move New York or some version of it, and where things are heading for a new paradigm in New York transit.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think: Ben Max of GG (@TweetBenMax), Maria Doulis (@MariaDoulis) of CBC (@cbcny), and special guest Alex Matthiessen (@MoveNewYork). Listen below or download wherever you get your podcasts!

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

What's The [DATA] Point? $1.5 billion Thu, 17 Aug 2017 01:16:01 +0000
Max & Murphy on Politics - Podcast mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits

Max & Murphy on Politics is a podcast hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits. It began in 2016 focused on housing policy and politics when those issues were front and center to city and state politics and government, but it has expanded since. Now, in 2017, we are focused on the city election cycle, heading toward the September primary and November general elections. Find episodes through the links below, or find Max & Murphy wherever you get your podcasts: iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, etc.

Our election coverage began with an overview and preview episode June 1. Then we started to talk with mayoral candidates, with Democrat Bob Gangi on June 12 and Republican Paul Massey June 19. We're following those with Democrat Sal Albanese June 26 and we'll continue from there, also featuring episodes with other political figures and candidates for other offices. Have feedback? Find us on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @jarrettmurphy.

Queens State Senate Rematch Features Different Kinds of Democrats
(with Senator Tony Avella and challenger John Liu) Queens State Senate Rematch Features Different Kinds of Democrats (with Senator Tony Avella and challenger John Liu) — August 8, 2018
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tish james 400px Letitia James & the Attorney General Primary — July 18, 2018
zephyr teachout 400 Attorney General Candidate Zephyr Teachout — July 9, 2018
rosenthal holtzman pod 400 The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws — June 25, 2018
gelinas 477 A New Era at The MTA? with Nicole Gelinas — June 21, 2018
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul — June 14, 2018
fortune society reps for 400 Criminal Justice Reform in New York — June 5, 2018
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — June 1, 2018
mxm logo 400px State Party Conventions & Nominations — May 25, 2018
pod steph miner 400 163 Stephanie Miner — May 15, 2018
joe borelli podcast map 400 City Council Member Joe Borelli — May 7, 2018
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Stanley fritz citizen action 400px Political Purity Tests in New York — April 25, 2018
susan lerner cc ny 400px Reforming Special Elections & More in Albany — April 17, 2018
suing nycha 400 Suing NYCHA — April 10, 2018
Marc Molinaro Launches Campaign for Governor Molinaro Launches Campaign for Governor — April 2, 2018
Chirlane McCray First Lady Chirlane McCray — March 26, 2018
michelle de la uz 400 City Planning Commissioner Michelle de la Uz — March 19, 2018
ross barkan senate A Journalist Runs for State Senate — March 13, 2018
De Blasio's Progress Fighting Homelessness De Blasio's Progress Fighting Homelessness — March 5, 2018
ramos jackson podcast IDC Challengers Robert Jackson & Jessica Ramos — February 26, 2018
Jumaane Williams Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams — February 23, 2018
feb14 podcast Analyzing De Blasio's State of the City Address — February 14, 2018
Deconstructing De Blasio's Visit to Albany Deconstructing De Blasio's Visit to Albany — January 30, 2018
bdb mayor hearing 400px De Blasio's 2nd Term Focus on Education — January 30, 2018
alex matthiessen move ny 400 Congestion Pricing with Alex Matthiessen of Move New York — January 22, 2018
ritchie torres 400px City Council Member Ritchie Torres on The New Council & His New Role — January 17, 2018
rivera brannan 400x167 New City Council Members Justin Brannan & Carlina Rivera — January 10, 2018
bdb400px Big Political News to Start 2018 — January 3, 2018
melissa mark viverito alatriste podium400 City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — December 15, 2017
eric koch 400 Eric Koch, former City Council communications director — December 15, 2017
Shola Olayote NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye — December 7, 2017
liz crowley podcast 400 City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley — December 5, 2017
bill de blasio 2nd term 400px Previewing de Blasio's 2nd term — November 27, 2017
bdb voting sign in 400 Analyzing the 2017 Election Results — November 9, 2017
mayor bdb 400 10 Things to Think About on Election Day — November 7, 2017
mayoral candidates 400 Resetting the Mayoral Race after the Final Debate — November 3, 2017
3 mayors stream Akeem Browder, Aaron Commey & Mike Tolkin are Running for Mayor — October 23, 2017
brigid at debate nyc votesstream Analyzing the Public Advocate & Comptroller Debates — October 19, 2017
debate stage400 Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate — October 11, 2017
tish james400 Public Advocate Letitia James — October 2, 2017
Michel faulkner Comptroller candidate Michel Faulkner — September 29, 2017
jcpolanco 400 Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco — September 18, 2017
gifford miller city council 400px Gifford Miller, former Speaker of the City Council and mayoral candidate — September 11, 2017
brigid bergin and ben max400px Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio — September 5, 2017
Joseph Viteritti De Blasio Author Joseph Viteritti — August 30, 2017
Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach — August 28, 2017
azi paybarah tv 400px167px Azi Paybarah — August 17, 2017
Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell Representative vs. Substantive Representation, with Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell — August 15, 2017
max murphy katz fullington res The Mayoral Race with Top Political Strategists — July 31, 2017
bo dietl Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl — July 24, 2017
nicole malliotakis Republican Mayoral Candidate Nicole Malliotaki — July 13, 2017
eric phillips Eric Phillips, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio — July 5, 2017
sal albanese Democratic Mayoral Candidate Sal Albanese — June 26, 2017
paul massey 

Republican Mayoral Candidate Paul Massey — June 19, 2017 (note: Paul Massey dropped out of the mayoral race on June 28, though the episode is still worth listening to)

bob gangi Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bob Gangi — June 12, 2017
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A variety of earlier episodes of the Max & Murphy Podcast, through the archive, often focused on New York housing policy and politics — see all episodes from the start February 12, 2016 to May 25, 2017

Max & Murphy on Politics - Podcast Sun, 25 Jun 2017 04:00:00 +0000