Foes of Congestion Pricing Rally

Plan to charge drivers entering Manhattan is back, along with the critics

Foes of congestion pricing rallied Sunday against plans to resurrect the idea of charging drivers a fee to enter Manhattan.

Mayor Bloomberg's proposal to charge cars eight dollars and trucks $21 to drive into the busiest stretches of Manhattan during weekdays crashed and burned three years ago.

Now the idea is back with a new name -- traffic pricing -- and with the added goal of raising funds for the cash-hungry Metropolitan Transportation Authority as well as cutting back on fuel emissions.

However the opposition is also back, blasting the idea as a tax on working people in the outerboroughs and as a damper on business in these tough economic times.

"We're here to say no to congestion pricing, no to traffic pricing, no to a tax proposal that divides the five boroughs instead of bringing them together and also disproportionately affects small businesses," said Assemblyman David Weprin of Queens during a press conference on the steps of City Hall.

The opponents said they haven't seen a specific bill on traffic pricing with details.  However they said they know that "something's a brewing" and officials are secretly hammering out some kind of plan -- that these critics vow to stop.

"We want to kill this proposal before it even gets off the ground," Queens State Senator Tony Avella said.  "The people of New York City deserve the right to go from one borough to the next without having to be taxed."

"Nobody drives into Manhattan for the pleasure of it, they drive because they have to," Avella added. "It puts the burden on fixing the budget gap on the people least able to afford it."

Congestion pricing did narrowly get the okay of the City Council three years ago but it was ultimately defeated in Albany.  Foes Sunday said the plan would again have to be passed by the Legislature. Bloomberg, the past champion of congestion pricing, has said that this new idea didn't originate with him.

However Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie did sound open to the idea of some form of congestion pricing.

"We need a solution to the vicious cycle of fare hikes and service cuts that threatens to cripple transportation in the region," Heastie said in a statement.  "While there is no proposal on the table, I think we need to be willing to consider every option - including some form of traffic pricing that is fair and equitable to the outer boroughs and the suburbs."

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