Danny Hakim is reporting in today's Empire Zone blog that Speaker Shelly Silver is still very uncertain about the efficacy of the entire congestion pricing scheme. The money quote from Shelly: "So as I said before, complex issue, it requires a great deal of study, a great deal of wisdom, in order to achieve the lofty goals that are in there." Clearly, he remains unconvinced that the plan will achieve the desired results envisioned.
What is remarkable here is the fact that Silver remains almost alone in his skepticism; and in asking all the right questions of the plan's architects. It is breathtaking to see how such a wide range of political, civic and business leaders are able to completely suspend their disbelief in their speedy leap onto the mayor's faux environmental band wagon.
To the point: Silver questions the whole "Save the Poor Black and Latino Kids from Asthma" mantra when he points out, "We do all have a desire to do something positive about the environment, about preventing children from growing up with asthma. I'm not sure that this congestion pricing hits that, since many of the neighborhoods that have children with asthma are not within the congestion-pricing zone."
Of course, he might also point out that the city has no problem with the East River Plaza Mall and the Gateway Mall-in East Harlem and the South Bronx. Both of these shopping centers will entice New Yorkers into their cars and into neighborhoods that have the highest incidences of asthma (We support East River Plaza and work for the developer, but we're not advocating the "Save the Children" hypocrisy).
As Silver goes on to highlight, there may in fact be a queuing up of cars in some of these at-risk neighborhoods, as commuters look for ways to avoid the congestion tax. Which is precisely why we have said that the whole scheme needs to be independently reviewed for both its cost as well as its efficacy at reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. The only one pushing this at the highest levels is Speaker Silver. More power to him.