Bloomberg-Fatigue May Dampen PlaNYC Support in the Bronx
We've heard plenty of congestion pricing complaints (and some kudos, too) from the Bronx, but what about the rest of PlaNYC? City Limits reports on a recent community summit where Bronxites said they are unhappy with how the Bloomberg administration composed its legislative centerpiece, among them some who might ordinarily support pricing but are put off by what they see as PlaNYC's top-down execution.
While many supported congestion pricing in principle, the assembled group – including community board members, clean water advocates, local elected officials and members of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality and of Sustainable South Bronx – questioned its financial projections and implementation.
More fundamentally, the forum revealed skepticism about the overall PlaNYC initiative and frustration with what some called the Bloomberg administration's heavy-handed approach. Speakers voiced concern that PlaNYC was formulated and will be implemented without sufficient input from grassroots urban environmentalists who know what works. Others said the current sustainability goals are too modest and that PlaNYC is more public relations than policy.
"You don't have to skim the surface much to see some real collaboration and change happening in New York and other cities. That's why this is really frustrating, because it feels like the door has been closed and they aren't interested in new ideas," said Miquela Craytor, deputy director of Sustainable South Bronx, an urban environmental justice group that unsuccessfully pushed the architects of PlaNYC to include the creation of "green-collar" jobs – those within or promoting environmentally sustainable industry – as a central tenet of the initiative.
"They are saying, 'we just want to get this plan done and then we'll think about other ideas.' Well, then you just want to tell me what you are doing. You are really not interested in what I say," Craytor added.
In addition to the oft-repeated concerns about motorists using the borough as a park-and-ride hub, there is also doubt, founded on precedent, that transit dollars will reach low-income Bronx neighborhoods.
Craytor and Dart Westphal, a former president of the Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, said the city needs to make subway and bus improvements before the plan is implemented, not afterward.
Westphal said he found it hard to trust that the revenues from congestion pricing would be equitably directed towards transit improvements throughout the city.
"I'm really concerned," he said, recounting promises made by City Hall when the Third Avenue Elevated train was dismantled during the Lindsay administration that it would be replaced with an extension of the semi-mythical Second Avenue line. Buses that troll the route of the old El were supposed to be a temporary fix, Westphal said. "I'm really concerned all this congestion pricing money will go to the Number 7 train extension and the JFK express link in Lower Manhattan and building the west side, and we'll still be stuck waiting for the bus."