Bloomberg Upbeat, Media Less So, Ahead of PlaNYC Hearings

excelsior.jpgWith a scant few weeks left in the session, the state Assembly has scheduled the first of six hearings on PlaNYC -- including, of course, congestion pricing -- for Friday at 10 a.m. in the auditorium of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, at 42 West 44th Street.

The Daily Politics reports:

The hearing will be conducted by the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Herman “Denny” Farrell, Jr.; the Transportation Committee, chaired by David Gantt; the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, chaired by Richard Brodsky; the Energy Committee, chaired by Paul Tonko; the Environmental Conservation Committee, chaired by Robert Sweeney; and the Cities Committee, chaired by James Brennan.

But is it too little, too late? Though Mayor Bloomberg has refused to criticize state lawmakers for premature criticism of congestion pricing, the Daily News, for one, has not held back:

No bills have been introduced, no hearings held. Gov. Spitzer didn't mention the topic when he met with legislative leaders last week, until Senate GOP leader Joe Bruno chided him for the oversight.

At this rate, the waters of melting glaciers will be lapping at the Empire State Building doors before Mayor Bloomberg's proposal gets out of committee. When it comes to gridlock, the Manhattan streets have nothing on the Capitol corridors.

The editorial board at the Times has expressed similar sentiments (though you'll need a subscription to read them at this point). And the News blog's Elizabeth Benjamin wonders if the hearings are a sign of progress at all.

I asked [Press Secretary] Stu Loeser whether Mayor Bloomberg plans to participate in the Assembly Democrats' first hearing on congestion pricing in Manhattan this Friday, and also if he considers the event a positive development or a stalling tactic.

Bloomberg is "looking forward" to testifying, Loeser replied, adding: "It's very encouraging that the Speaker has made it a priority in the last month of session to find time to discuss the merits of PlaNYC."

So what are Assembly members -- the ones who haven't already endorsed PlaNYC -- concerned about? Pricing opponent Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) told Benjamin that Bloomberg can expect questions regarding "the consequences of installing hundreds more cameras throughout Manhattan to determine who needs to be charged for entering the congestion pricing zone and the idea of charging for access to public roads based on an individual's ability to pay."

Photo: stgermh/Flickr