Friday, September 07, 2007

More Skepticism On Congestion Tax

In this week's Riverdale Press (with a heads up from Liz), Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz writes about how he feels about the mayor's proposed congestion tax. His reaction? "I applaud the mayor for attempting to take bold steps to improve the environment, but I deplore the efforts by proponents to steamroll a plan that may have a good intent but has many problems which must be overcome. While I am very open to taking major steps to reduce traffic in Manhattan and throughout the city and am not totally closed to a different form of congestion pricing, if I had to vote on this plan today as presented I would vote "no."

Dinowitz describes his initial positive response to the mayor's plan, but goes on to say that the more he looked at the details, and the more the mayor and his minions refused to answer some important questions, the more skeptical he became. He is particularly troubled by the way the mayor tried to bum rush this radical remake of the city's traffic: "I have been very troubled by the efforts of the mayor and supporters of congestion pricing to ram it through with as little discussion as possible. Something which involves such an important change in the way New York operates should have been brought up much earlier than nine or 10 weeks before the end of the legislative session."

He goes on to question the asthma argument and the expensive ad campaign that accompanied it. Dinowitz fails to see just how CBD traffic reduction will ameliorate congestion in those neighborhoods where asthma is a serious health threat. In addition, he envisions his neighborhood being turned into a Park-and-Ride by commuters looking to hop mass transit-and avoid the tax- on their way in from the suburbs.

Finally, Dinowitz ridicules the make-up of the congestion commission and, much like Councilman Fidler, sees the stacked deck as not very conducive to a fair disposition of the efficacy of the mayor's plan: "Unfortunately, the commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, governor, council speaker and the four state legislative leaders, appears stacked in favor of one side of the argument, putting into question its ability to be fair. The 17 members consist mostly of Manhattan residents and, it appears, no residents of the Bronx or Staten Island."

Which is exactly what we have been saying all along. If the mayor and his supporters felt that stacking the commission made any political sense, well, I've got a West Side Stadium that I'd love to sell them. All they have really manged to do here is to alienate the most important constituents: the legislators who will deliberate and vote on the congestion tax.