2007-11-08 / Top Stories

Fidler Offers Alternative To City's Congestion Pricing Plan

By Neil S. Friedman

Fidler Offers Alternative To City's Congestion Pricing Plan By Neil S. Friedman

Fidler shows off his nine-point congestion pricing alternative plan at press conference last Thursday.
Barry Fischer
Fidler shows off his nine-point congestion pricing alternative plan at press conference last Thursday. Barry Fischer Pointing out that it's irresponsible to "just say no" to congestion pricing without addressing the issues of clean air and traffic congestion in New York City, Brooklyn City Council Member Lew Fidler proposed a bold nine point plan as an alternative to the congestion pricing scheme suggested several months ago by Mayor Bloomberg.

Shortly before last Thursday's Congestion Pricing Commission hearing at the New York College of Technology on Jay Street, Fidler, who represents parts of Canarsie, Mill basin, Bergen Beach, Marine Park and other nearby communities, presented his alternative to the city's disputed proposal.

Fidler and his staff have been formulating a nine-point plan, which he calls "The 9-Carat Stone," since last June as a viable option to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's disputed PlaNYC proposal for congestion pricing. With his plan, Fidler seems to be on a one-man campaign to thwart the mayor's pitch to charge driver's to enter Manhattan below 86th Street, even though several civic and political leaders throughout the city and state have regularly criticized it since it was announced earlier this year.

"Clean air and traffic are not problems that are resident only to midtown Manhattan. In fact, they are regional and so the solutions must be regional and targeted to the root causes," said Fidler.

Among the points proposed by the Brooklyn councilman is a minimal (.0033%) regional payroll tax to be paid by businesses in the city and in four surrounding counties, the building of three new tunnels, a national campaign to promote zero emission hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and funding of $1 billion a year for improvements to mass transportation and infrastructure.

Fidler said congestion pricing stresses the city's economic differences and is morally wrong. "We don't just want to be a city of rich people and poor people," he said. "Parsing access to the city's Central Business district based on who can and cannot afford it is just plain wrong. I don't think they thought it out as fully as they needed to."

Admitting his plan is ambitious, Fidler noted that it "would be no easier to implement legislatively than congestion pricing. However, it addresses matters like clean air and transportation of all kinds on a regional basis, not simply in midtown Manhattan."

To gain support, Fidler, who is the council's assistant majority leader, will be seeking the support of his council colleagues. Speaker Christine Quinn has already endorsed the mayor's plan.

A critic of the congestion pricing plan, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who serves on the commission studying congestion pricing, said Fidler's proposal "is exactly what this debate needs - a workable, bold concept that responds to the city's needs and doesn't contain the defects of the mayor's plan."

The Campaign for New York's Future, a coalition of more than 140 organizations supporting congestion pricing, issued a statement saying that Fidler's plan was "no more realistic or timely" than those proposed by other defenders of the status quo. "This is yet another plan that would actually make driving into Manhattan easier; that would pin our hopes on financing schemes that are illusory; and would force us to wait around for magic hydrogen technology that nobody...thinks is going to have a shot for decades," it said.

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