Thursday, June 07, 2007

Clogging Arteries

The Committee to Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free will be holding a press conference today at 2:30 in front of NYU Medical Center on 1st Avenue. As the Committee's press release points out, the event will be featuring Councilman David Weprin and State Senator Carl Kruger, as well as Queens Civic Congress transportation chairman James Trent. Joining the three, since the focus of the press conference is on the cost to seniors of the proposed congestion tax, will be a contingent of 40 seniors from Brooklyn and Queens.

The press conference, held as it is on the eve of Assembly hearings on the congestion tax proposal, is designed to demonstrate that in spite of all of the money being poured into the pro-tax effort, the majority of New Yorkers think that the plan is a bad idea. As Councilman Weprin says, "The administration seems not to recognize that a large majority of people must drive into Manhattan and lack a mass transit option."

In typical Wimpy fashion, however, the administration wants folks to pony up the tax before any mass transit improvements are made (hence the Wimpy allusion: "I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today"). This is not a good deal for tax payers, nor is any bargain for anyone living outside of Manhattan. It does appear, however, that many in the Assembly aren't prepared to drink the Kool-Aid on this just yet

Even putative supporters have some major problems with the congestion tax formula. As El Diario said yesterday, "...congestion pricing should {only} move forward with some conditions." And what are these? Well, we need to make sure that neighborhoods like East Harlem do not become a drop-off point for commuters, since this neighborhood has the highest asthma rates in the city.

Yet,here's the rub. Since there is no EIS or concomitant traffic analysis, we just can't be sure that traffic will not either be diverted into, or built up in, East Harlem as well as in other contiguous neighborhoods outside of the zone boundaries. Without theses assurances, and ant traffic analysis should be done by folks who aren't somehow beholden to the mayor or to his administration.

Which all points to the need to slow this process up and devise a methodology for examining all of the potential flaws in the mayor's proposal. This is why, as Channel 2's Marcia Kramer pointed out last night, Governor Spitzer wants to give this idea more time to be properly vetted. As Kramer told her viewers, "Sources told CBS 2 the governor supports the program in theory, but thinks there may be too many unanswered questions to pass the bill in the next few weeks."

Or the next few months for that matter. As Senator Kruger says, "It took London four years to implement its plan and work out the kinks." There are just too many folks (like those at the NY Dail News) ready to buy this pig in a poke, people who have not closely examined the plan's flaws but are all full speed ahead for reasons that transcend pure environmental dedication.