Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan was ground to a halt in Albany Monday afternoon after not getting enough support in the State Assembly ahead of a midnight deadline to qualify for millions in federal funding.
The state Legislature faced a midnight deadline to approve the plan to charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street on weekdays, or else lose $354 million in federal funding. The money would have helped kick start the initiative.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver refused to bring the proposal up for vote in his chamber, saying it did not have enough support in the Democrat-controlled house. On the State Senate side, the controversial measure also never made it to the floor as Democrats largely boycotted the session, to avoid being put on the spot.
The decision was made following the third day of closed-door meetings Monday.
In an interview Monday, Silver said he was inclined to support the plan as a representative of Lower Manhattan, but insisted he was in the extreme minority.
"If I may be very clear, this is not about arm twisting," said Silver. "Sheldon Silver is a leader, not an arm twister. I don't reward and punish people and I know that's not the general perception."
Silver also said the mayor missed golden chances to amend the proposal, which Democrats say may have salvaged the plan at the 11th hour. But the mayor shot down the idea of last-minute amendments Sunday.
"You can't go and write policy with two hours left to go where no one has time do do a real analysis. I’m not going to be a part of that kind of legislation and I don't think the Assembly or the governor really wants to be,” he said.
City Hall sources also dispute claims that the mayor was inflexible, noting the proposal has changed many times since it was first introduced.
While congestion pricing did have the support of the Republican-led State Senate and its leader Joseph Bruno, as well as that of Governor David Paterson, it needed to be approved by both houses.
While Bloomberg has yet to weigh in personally, one of his top deputies, ripped into Silver on "Inside City Hall" Monday night.
Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey told NY1 anchor Dominic Carter that Albany is telling the city to "drop dead,” a reference to a Daily News headline from 30 years ago when then-President Gerald Ford said he'd veto a federal bailout of cash-strapped New York City.
Sheekey went on to say the state Assembly lacks leadership.
"I think that's obviously where there is a leadership vacuum. I saw Speaker Silver — listen you get elected to a leadership position to lead. You don't get elected to take polls. And just as you wouldn't want a politician and executive to simply say I'm going to take a poll of the public and whatever the poll tells me that's what I'm going to do· He's leading in a particular way. I think he described his leadership abilities and characteristics quite aptly, he said, ÎIt's not about me. I polled my members and this is what they decided to do.’ That's not leadership."
Sheekey went on to say he does not see any courage being exhibited by Silver when it comes to efforts to end gridlock in the city.
A spokesperson for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also issued a statement, saying she was disappointed by the news, but determined to move forward with an environmental plan.
"I am disappointed that we missed an opportunity to make a significant investment in our mass transportation system, an investment that would have secured the long-term vitality of our city and improved the health of people living in our most congested neighborhoods. In spite of this setback, the Council remains fully committed to environmental responsibility and to improving and expanding our mass transit system."
Environmentalists echoed the sentiment.
"I think that it’s important for us to recognize those that exercise leadership and show courage on behalf of the communities,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre of New York City Environmental Justice.
But lawmakers who opposed the plan, said they felt their concerns were never fully acknowledged by the mayor.
"I don't think the mayor was ever willing to admit that those of us who disagreed with him were motivated by principle and policy,” said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky.
Still, there are those who say congestion pricing will come up again. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, who has been a proponent of the plan since its inception, said Monday that it's not a matter of "if," but "when" the program will be adopted by a U.S. city.
Lawmakers still have not come to an agreement on the state budget, which is now a week overdue.
Programming Note: Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey will be a guest on "Inside City Hall" tonight to give his point of view on why the plan stalled in Albany. Tune into the show at 7 and 10 p.m.
Bloomberg Suffers Another Defeat At Hands Of Sheldon Silver