2008-02-07 / Other News

Maisel Offers Options At Hearing For Congestion Pricing

The following is the text of Assem-blyman Alan Maisel's testimony at the January 24 Congestion Pricing Hearing held at Medgar Evers College:

My name is Alan Maisel and I represent the 59th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Canarsie, Mill Basin, Mill Island, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach, Bergen Beach and Plumb Beach. My district is composed primarily of one and two family homeowners and can be called a middle class bedroom community. For the majority of my constituents there is no direct access to a subway line. The closest train stations lie outside my district.

Over the past 8 months I have visited every community and civic group including our senior centers. Wherever and whenever I have brought up the issue of congestion pricing large majorities of my constituents say No. One constituent who goes for chemotherapy and radiation treatments at Sloan Kettering depends on the kindness of friends and relatives to transport him to the hospital by car. Should he have to pay to get into Man-hattan? Many others tell me that they go into Manhattan by car for doctor's ap-pointments, not because they want to, but because they have to. For those people congestion pricing represents a tax - plain and simple. For people who go to the city every day by car it could add up to at least $2,000 a year.

I would also point out that on this issue I believe the deck has been stacked. The composition of this commission demonstrates at least to me that these hearings are a pro forma exercise. The members of this commission with a few exceptions have already decided that congestion pricing is the way to go. Unfortunately, for those of us who represent the majority who are in opposition, it probably doesn't matter what I say. Nevertheless, I am opposed to congestion pricing for many reasons. Manhattan Island is a part of New York City. It is not and should not be the preserve of only those who can afford to travel there. For many drivers who are in the upper income range this fee will not affect them one way or the other. Their driving habits will not change. For those who can't afford to pay this fee it will be a hardship. For the city this fee will increase revenues on the backs of people who will have no choice but to pay. My constituents and people who live in Brooklyn and Queens will pay the most. Yet those from New Jersey will do quite nicely in this plan.

When Mayor Bloomberg spoke to the members of the legislature last April he said that 21 of 23 subway lines were at a near capacity. How will all the new subway riders that this plan proposes to attract be accommodated? How does it make sense to start congestion pricing without im-provements in the subway and bus system to accommodate thousands of new riders?

The city places heavy emphasis on the use of cameras. Those who have EZ pass will have it easy. Those who don't have EZ pass will have 2 days to pay this fee or face fines. This is outrageous. It is not even certain that any new technology needed for this project will be ready or function satisfactorily.

Meanwhile, what will congestion pricing do to Manhattan's economy? How will the restaurants continue to attract customers from outside Manhattan? Will Broadway continue to attract theatre goers as the costs to come into Manhattan increase? Parking fees will go up. Costs to restaurants will go up because delivery trucks will pay the fee. Congestion pricing is a dagger aimed at the heart of the businesses that drive our economy.

There are many ideas to reduce con-gestion in Manhattan. We shouldn't have to destroy Manhattan's economy to do so. I would like to list some of these suggestions:

• Start an effort to move city agencies to the outer boroughs.

• Add taxi stands to get cruising taxis off the street.

• Give incentives for off-peak delivery.

• Create a bus rapid system.

• Give HOV discounts to tunnel and bridge users

• Require adequate space for the off street delivery in all large, new commercial buildings

I hope that this commission comes to the conclusion that congestion pricing is an unfinished work. More discussion is needed before we embark on a plan that will be with us for the next several decades.

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