Assembly members held their second hearing Friday on the mayor's sustainability proposal for the city, taking a closer look at the long-term impact of the proposals on the environment and on energy conservation.
Last week, the mayor presented the details of his congestion pricing plan to Assembly members, and while the controversial plan has garnered a great deal of public attention, there are a total of 127 proposals in the mayor’s plan for a greener New York.
In his most pointed statement yet, powerful Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Friday that the mayor's congestion pricing plan — as it now stands — is permanently stuck in political gridlock.
"The bill the mayor sent, I think he realizes is not going to be adopted, finally, by either house of the legislature,” said State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “There are substantive changes that have to be made. There's no question about that."
Silver did say there may be room for compromise.
He was amongst other Assembly members who joined officials from City Hall at CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown to discuss the mayor's PLANYC 2030
The plan lays out a series of goals for a more sustainable New York in six major catagories: land, water, transportation, energy, air, and climate change.
Critics say it's going to take time for certain aspects of the mayor's sweeping plan for New York's future to be ironed out, especially congestion pricing.
"My colleagues and the speaker have enormous questions about this that are unanswered,” said Assembly member Richard Brodsky. “It would not be responsible to vote on something where these kinds of questions are out there. My recommendation to my colleagues is: slow up. Do the kind of hearings like the one today, but don't get panicked into doing something that would be bad for people."
Bloomberg tried to play down the differences.
"We're still negotiating and we're trying to find ways that build consensus where the plan gets better,” said the mayor. “I've never in my life had a plan that I didn’t think someone else could improve on."
Outside the hearing, environmental activists gathered in support of the mayor's plan.
They say it's about time elected officials start talking about ways of making the city cleaner.
"What the plan provides for is renewables, re-powering of old power plants, and incentives,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre of the New York City Environmental Justice Council. “It really addresses the inequities and the siting of power plants in our communities and it really comes up with the plan that not only reduces greenhouse gases, but also provides the possibility for brining in more energy to New York City."
"This really is about health for our children in New York City; it's about the health of our planet,” said Andy Darrell of Environmental Defense. “If there was ever an issue that needed the attention of the state legislature and the City Council right now, this is it."
Bloomberg also scored endorsements for his plan from top Bronx lawmakers Friday, where many voters are cool to the idea of paying to get into Manhattan south of 86th Street on weekdays.
"I want to begin by [taking my hat off] to [the mayor] and his administration,” said Bronx Assemblyman Jose Rivera.
A big issue on the table is what to do with so-called "brown fields," or old industrial sites that remain empty and undeveloped.
“There’s more than 7,000 acres of old industrial land in New York City,” said the mayor. “That’s more than five Central Parks’ worth of land that is lying idle. That land could be used for housing — for affordable housing — for parks, for open space, for community facilities. It’s a crime that that land is not in active use in New York City. So it’s time to change the law so that community groups, the public sector and the private sector can step in and make use of that plan.”
Federal funding is a big selling point for the mayor’s congestion pricing plan, which is a central component to his proposal. But now questions are being raised over whether the city actually qualifies for the money.
Oregon Democrat Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House subcommittee on Highways and Transit, says he has serious doubts that the city is eligible for the funds the Department of Transportation is proposing.
DeFazio is accusing the Bush administration of overstepping its authority by offering the city up to $500 million to fund the plan.
But Bloomberg says he is not backing down.
"I have asked a few of the environmental groups to call this congressman to try to explain to him what we're doing," said Bloomberg. "Somebody from Oregon should know full well the value of clean air and reduced congestion. And we need help from everybody."
The mayor's proposal would charge drivers a toll to enter Manhattan below 86th Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters joined the mayor and Governor Eliot Spitzer last week to announce that New York is one of nine cities that could be chosen for federal funding to help pay for the plan.
The Department of Transportation says it has many programs in place that authorize funding to different states and that it is well within its authority to consider funds for the plan.