With Mayor Bill de Blasio pressing for a millionaires' tax to pay for mass-transit improvement, Governor Andrew Cuomo is now expected to revive a plan for congestion pricing. Zack Fink filed the following report.
Congestion pricing was killed the way many policy proposals die in Albany: behind closed doors.
In 2008, Assembly Democrats revolted against the inititive championed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg because it included East River tolls, which critics said would disproptionately affect residents of Brooklyn and Queens.
"It's really, really difficult for people in Brooklyn and Queens at this point to consider something like this. And I think we just need to start from the ground up all over again," Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan of Queens said at the time.
But with the subways in crisis and searching for a dedicated funding source, congestion pricing could be resurrected. Sources say Governor Andrew Cuomo is considering supporting a plan that would charge fees on for-hire vehicles like Uber and Lyft.
But lawmakers outside of Manhattan are still wary.
"Residents in New York want mass transit options. They don't want a financial burden. And they don't want to keep reaching into their pockets," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of Queens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was unaware of any revived congestion pricing plan. He has said it's a non-starter in Albany, and the mayor is pushing a revived millionaires' tax instead.
"It's the first I'm hearing of it, and I haven't seen that previously, so I don't know what to make of it. But right now, I think this is the solution that can start to have a real impact," de Blasio said.
Those who were around for the debate over congestion pricing in Albany the first time say it wasn't just the details of the plan that led it to fall apart, it was how it got sprung on lawmakers at the last minute.
"What happened the last time is, I think the mayor flew to London and said, 'Look what they have. Let's do this in New York,' and withheld to members of the legislature for 11 months the content of how to bring this about," said Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell of Manhattan.
Cuomo is expected to announce his plans for congestion pricing in his State of the State address early next year. That means the earliest it could pass the state legislature would be the first half of 2018. Next year is also a re-election year for all state lawmakers, and that could affect how they vote.