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Posts from the "Queens Civic Congress" Category

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“Thums” Down and Zero Unispheres for Queens Pricing Supporters

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Oppose congestion pricing and all this could be yours

If Tony Avella and David Weprin and other Queens City Council members succeed in killing congestion pricing, at least Queens residents who lose out on transit improvements could take comfort in knowing that their representatives will have escaped the wrath of the Queens Civic Congress. Check out this (unedited) warning from the QCC [PDF]:

Queens Civic Congress puts all elected officials and would be ones on notice that the communities are closely following what people say and how they will vote. The Civic community expect the City Council to vote a strong thums down to the congestion tax." stated Jim Trent, Transportation Chair for the Queens Civic Congress, a the borough-wide coalition of civic and condo, cooperative, tenant and other community organizations. "Anyone who supports the unfair tax and/ or votes for it stands to lose any chance of being 'awarded" the coveted five unispheres rating; it could costs them as they look ahead to the next election.

Photo: K. B./Flickr

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Queens Pricing Opponents Push a Fantasy Commuter Tax

Last week the Queens Civic Congress held an "MTA Capital Plan Forum," where members peddled their commuter tax revival plan to transit chief Elliot "Lee" Sander as an alternative to congestion pricing, which Sander says is vital to the future of his agency. bearaksander.jpg

 
To be fair, the QCC has promoted this idea for several years, long before pricing was introduced by the Bloomberg administration. Here's the QCC in 2005:

Re-instate the Commuter tax after and dedicate this money for transportation infrastructure. If the proposal includes sharing the proceeds with our suburbs, it should pass in Albany. Let the 'burbs keep what their residents pay; New York City will do well with wealthy out-of-staters who live across the Husdon, Connecticut and elsewhere. Double the former rate -- netting $450 million to start, and reaching $1 billion soon.

But it's easy to be cynical when the QCC suggests the city, or the MTA, abandon congestion pricing to get behind the commuter tax. Setting aside the fact that it would do nothing to reduce congestion or VMT and has no environmental or public health benefit, Albany has already rejected it, and did so almost on a whim. Current state legislators Richard Brodsky, Denny Farrell, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were among those who voted to repeal the tax in 1999.

These guys are still in charge, and no one at the capitol is talking about a commuter tax. There's no reason to believe it would be voted back in. Not even Brodsky, who has elevated anti-pricing rhetoric to an art form, is suggesting a return to the commuter tax to alleviate congestion, preferring a carbon tax and license plate rationing instead.

Besides having no basis in reality, claiming "it should pass in Albany" is a weak nail on which to hang the future of public transportation in New York City. In that light, the QCC commuter tax push should be seen for what it is: another attempt to distract from a plan that would actually reduce traffic congestion while raising critical funds for transit.

Photo, of QCC President Corey Bearak and MTA Executive Lee Sander, by Bruno DeFranceschi via Queens Civic Congress

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Congestion Pricing Supporters Speak Up in Queens

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Meghan Goth reports:

With city buses slogging their way past double-parked cars on Archer Avenue just outside, Queens community members and elected officials testified on Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal for a three-year congestion pricing pilot program at York College Performing Arts Center last night.

The Traffic Congestion Mitigation hearing, one of seven being held around the city, gave community leaders the chance to voice their opinion before the 17-member commission and a packed house.

As expected, a majority spoke against the mayor's plan. Many, like the Queens Civic Congress, offered suggestions for how to solve New York City's traffic problems without making it more expensive to drive private automobiles into Manhattan's transit-rich Central Business District.

Though they were clearly in the minority, a surprising number of Queens residents spoke up in favor of Bloomberg's plan. Just about everyone who stood up to testify agreed that traffic congestion is a serious and growing problem and the city needs to come up with solutions now.

"I might have to pay to go to Manhattan, but I support congestion pricing unequivocally," said Marc Scott, a Jackson Heights, Queens resident. "The Mayor's plan is a step in the right direction."

The plan, Scott said, would keep Queens streets safer and would help his son, who is asthmatic.

"If we reduced idling on my street, that would help him breathe better," Scott said. "I've lived in New York City for more than 20 years, and the man has a vision to make New York City better."

The audience clapped and cheered in response.

Read more...

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Queens Civic Congress Has Its Own Plan

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No one who comes before the NYC Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission is going to admit to liking congestion. If they're against the mayor's congestion-pricing plan, they are usually going to come up with some kind of alternative.

Take the Queens Civic Congress, which advanced its position at an Oct. 30 hearing. Jim Trent, the chair of the group's transportation committee, reiterated opposition to "any plan or scheme to impose a tax, fee or toll on vehicles to enter Manhattan." He then argued that "sound, cost-efficient and effective measures that reduce congestion without any reliance on the costly congestion tax scheme exist."

So what does the group want and how do they propose to fund it? They're calling for a number of mass-transit improvements (PDF), including changes in F, G, and V routes, extension of LIRR local service in Queens, and a complete rethinking of the borough's bus routes.

And how do they want to pay for it? Through the Queens Civic Congress Real Property Tax Reform Initiative, which, the group claims, would "capture billions of dollars in lost real estate tax revenue based on illegal uses and improper property classifications." They also propose "a surcharge on (New York State Adjusted Gross) income over $200,000" and a non-resident income tax.

Here's a link to a PDF of their revenue proposals.

While it's refreshing to finally see Queens civic groups tackling transportation policy, their proposal has two major flaws. It offers no incentive to get people out of their cars and does nothing to get private automobiles out of the way of city buses. 

If only we could provide the Queens Civic Congress leadership with airplane tickets to Paris, London and Bogota. In any of those three cities, Trent and friends will find bus systems that have emerged as competitive, high-quality transportation options either by pricing some cars off the street or by simply taking away street space from private automobiles and reassigning it to public buses.

Using property tax reform to pay for more buses to sit in steadily worsening traffic, isn't a successful model in any city that we know of.

Photo: Sarah Goodyear

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What Up, G?

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Graffiti at the Metropolitan Ave. subway station on the G line.

Streetsblog will be keeping an eye on Save The G, a new blog advocating for service improvements on the beleaguered G subway line. The blog is being produced by a coalition of civic groups and elected officials from Brooklyn and Queens, including, Queens Civic Congress, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Regional
Plan Association, GWAPP, North Brooklyn Greens, Fort Greene
Association, Bed-Stuy Neighborhood Stabilization Task Force, and
Assemblyman Joe Lentol.

Photo: Triborough on Flickr

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The Car as Underdog, and Other Mind-Benders

From the New York Times' new City Room blog comes a post entitled "Congestion Pricing: Has David Bested Goliath?"

Hint: "The answer might depend on who you think is the giant."

Which coalition has been winning so far in the congestion pricing wars? So far, at least, the pro-congestion pricing forces have been on the defensive, even though they appear to be much better organized and financed and have the support of three bedrock organizations of municipal influence: the Partnership for New York City, the Regional Plan Association and the Citizens Budget Commission.

But it is not clear that supporters of congestion pricing have won enough public support, despite having achieved broad support among organized interests. Meanwhile, opponents of congestion pricing, like the Queens Civic Congress, have had a lower test to meet; their goal is to defeat the traffic fees by raising just enough doubt and skepticism -- with a public that is already doubtful and skeptical.

No matter that the overwhelming majority of commuters to Manhattan do not need to drive, or that the money raised from traffic fees would be used to improve mass transit across the city. The point is that the opponents of congestion pricing, like the Queens Civic Congress, have so far managed to create enough doubt around the idea -- a doubt that has swayed many Assembly members.

Of course it's easy to raise doubt and skepticism about a complex issue when one's arguments are largely unburdened by facts. Take this passage on Council Member David Weprin from today's Metro, in which the paper itself -- as does the City Room passage above -- refutes a rote, yet mostly baseless, objection to congestion pricing.

"I represent a district in eastern Queens that for most people is four or five miles from the nearest subway,” he said. "It is also not accessible to buses. You can’t tell me that they’re going to start building subways and changing bus lines in time if they’re going to adopt this congestion tax now."

Yet that is the stated intention of the Bloomberg administration, which hopes to first increase bus service to areas that lack subway access before implementing congestion pricing. More than half of the projected $500 million federal grant would supposedly go for transportation improvements. For example, one neighborhood in Weprin’s district -- Bayside -- is already slated to get new and expanded bus service under the mayor’s long-term sustainability plan, dubbed PlaNYC.

Weprin, though, remains unconvinced.

"The mayor is asking Albany to act now on the congestion tax and to worry about the public transportation improvements later," he said. "That’s backwards."

So Weprin wants to kill the plan to finance the improvements he says are needed before the plan he wants to kill can be implemented.

David and Goliath? Sure, if this version has a looking glass...