Skip to content

Posts from the "Queens Chamber of Commerce" Category

28 Comments

Tony Avella and David Weprin Launch Preemptive Attack on NYC Toll Reform

Remember these guys? This morning, State Senator Tony Avella and Assembly Member David Weprin stood at traffic-choked Queensboro Plaza to say they don’t care if the Move NY toll reform plan reduces tolls on bridges near their eastern Queens districts — they refuse to support any proposal that adds tolls to East River crossings. In a bid to preempt any forthcoming effort to fix the region’s dysfunctional road pricing system, they’re introducing legislation in Albany to prohibit charging drivers on city-owned bridges. The gesture is pure theatrics, since NYC already can’t put a price on those bridges without approval from the state.

State Senator Tony Avella and Assembly Member David Weprin oppose a plan that would bring lower tolls to the Throgs Neck and Whitestone Bridges in eastern Queens. Photo: Stephen Miller

State Senator Tony Avella and Assembly Member David Weprin are back promising to keep NYC streets choked with traffic. Photo: Stephen Miller

It’s also a return to form for two of the most outspoken opponents of the 2008 congestion pricing proposal. At that time, Avella and Weprin were in the minority of City Council members who voted against congestion pricing. Now they’re in Albany, and they still don’t want to do anything to fix a tolling system that’s free in the most congested parts of the city and more expensive in outlying areas with worse transit options.

“I’m puzzled as to why they would oppose a plan that would lower by nearly half the tolls on five out of six Queens bridges,” said Alex Matthiessen of Move NY. The Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges, which would see lower tolls under the Move NY plan, are within Avella’s district.

The Move NY plan, put together by “Gridlock” Sam Schwartz, works like this: All drivers that enter the Manhattan’s congested core by crossing either the East River or 60th Street would pay a toll, while drivers on bridges linking the other boroughs, where there are fewer transit options, would see their tolls go down. The net result: More funds dedicated to transportation in the region, with the majority of it going to improved transit service.

The argument from Avella and Weprin, who were joined by the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free (yes, it still exists), is basically that the Move NY plan is too good to be true. “It sounds nice,” Avella said. “But the proposal will never work in reality.” He claimed that funds generated by the plan could be shifted to non-transportation uses, and that the state could simply revert tolls on the outer-borough crossings to their previous levels without consequence.

Matthiessen called this “a cynical and paranoid viewpoint,” adding that “it would be political suicide for the governor, which controls the MTA, to allow the MTA to simply restore the old high tolls.”

Opponents of the Move NY plan also said that it would have a disproportionate impact on many small businesses that make multiple trips each day between the outer boroughs and Manhattan. ”We want this plan to have as minimal an impact on businesses as possible,” Matthiessen said. “We don’t want to penalize those people,” he said, adding that the plan would use E-ZPass information and license plate scanners to only charge commercial drivers once per day, instead of each time they make a crossing.

Sounding an old and discredited theme, Weprin called bridge tolls a regressive tax. In reality, car commuters to Manhattan — including those in Weprin’s and Avella’s own districts — are wealthier than most city residents.

Read more…

9 Comments

We Win!!!… a Trip to Albany?

This morning's Crain's Insider names Streetsblog one of the winners of Monday's congestion pricing vote in City Council. While we're honored, no one around here is spiking the ball or dancing in the end zone until New York's famously dysfunctional state legislature is done doing whatever it is they're going to do to the plan. Richard Brodksy is, for now, a loser who "overplayed his hand."

Crain's also names Staten Island Councilman Mike McMahon one of the losers. They suggest that his support of congestion pricing has ruined any chance he has to win the Borough presidency. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Crain's is wrong about that.

Read more...
29 Comments

Responses to $354 Million Federal Congestion Pricing Grant

mccaffrey.jpgHere are two initial responses to this morning's news that the US DOT will grant New York City $354 million to implement Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan:

Walter McCaffrey, right, a former city councilman from Queens who has been coordinating opposition to the mayor's plan on behalf of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, The Automobile Club of New York and parking industry interests, said in a statement:

If the goal truly is to reduce traffic, the city has a moral and legal obligation to seek any and all alternatives before adding a new tax scheme to overburdened New Yorkers. Further, the plan foresees less than an 8 percent improvement in traffic density, with the bulk of the federal funding earmarked for the city to spend on other priorities. The fact remains that the overall congestion tax and vehicle surveillance plan still can - and should - be derailed by the various legislatures if its proponents fail to prove the plan will not cause our citizens, especially those so vigorously opposed in the outer boroughs, an onerous expense and disruption. At all times, the public's best interest should be in the driver's seat, and we will keep our hazard lights on to continue warning all New Yorkers to the problems ahead.

Kathryn S. Wylde is the president of the Partnership for New York City, a leading member of the The Campaign for New York's Future, a coalition of more than 150 civic, business, environmental, labor, community and public health organizations who support congestion pricing. Wylde said in a statement:

In selecting New York City for the Urban Partners Program, the federal Department of Transportation has allowed us to meet the threshold criteria established by recent state legislation for implementation of a comprehensive program to reduce traffic congestion and improve mass transit in the region. The Partnership has documented the high cost of excess traffic, which results in losses of more than $13 billion and 50,000 jobs each year from our regional economy. Federal funding provides the carrot that will help pay for new buses, faster subways and the other measures required to incentivize people to get out of their cars and on to public transportation. This is a tremendous breakthrough in the struggle to achieve a more efficient, mobile city.

23 Comments

Congestion Pricing Questions the Mayor Will Need to Answer

glick.jpgNew York State Assembly Member Deborah Glick represents Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Tribeca and a good piece of Chinatown and Lower Manhattan. Encompassing the Holland Tunnel, Canal Street and a section of the Westside Highway, her district suffers from some of the worst traffic congestion in all of New York City. Transit-rich and offering some of the city's most walkable and bike-friendly streets (Jane Jacobs lived and worked in this Assembly district) Glick's constituents would likely be among the greatest beneficiaries of any traffic reduction plan.

Glick, however, isn't a fan of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. In the 1,300 word letter below she lays out her concerns and explains to a constituent why she and her colleagues opted to create a 17-member traffic mitigation commission rather than approve the Mayor's plan.

While many of Glick's questions and concerns have been answered repeatedly in public forums, through local studies and by examples in other cities, there is a certain thoughtfulness and sincerity to her letter that you tend not to hear in the arguments of congestion pricing opponents like Richard Lipsky and Walter McCaffrey who, one suspects, are doing little more than representing the deeply regressive interests of the parking garage / Automobile Club / Queens Chamber of Commerce cabal.

Glick calls herself a "responsible legislator" who "has long been concerned with traffic congestion" problems in her district. The questions that she raises are questions that will need to be answered again and again and again in the coming months.

Fundamentally, Glick believes "there is no consensus" on whether Mayor Bloomberg's pricing plan "would reduce congestion, or simply raise revenue." She "had too many unanswered questions and found too many flaws in the congestion pricing legislation to be supportive of it in the form that was presented to the Legislature by Mayor Bloomberg." And she seems to have resented the intense lobbying and the feeling that New York City's Republican Mayor was trying "to stampede the Legislature into a vote" on his plan. Glick raises the following as an example of the kind of question that she feels was not answered:

The proposal purported to reduce asthma, especially for children. However, many communities just outside of the congestion pricing zone have significant asthma rates and it is possible that those communities might have to contend with increased vehicular traffic as commuters driving into the city attempt to park in these neighborhoods outside of the zone.

Other questions that Glick felt were not properly answered by the Mayor:

  • Why create a new authority?
  • Will the money raised be used strictly for mass transit improvements?
  • Why aren't there exemptions for people who drive into the designated area for serious medical treatment?
  • How will residents of the congestion zone be charged for moving their cars for alternate side parking or for leaving the city for the day?

Finally, Glick isn't convinced that the Bloomberg Administration has suddenly gotten religion on traffic reduction. The Administration, she writes, "has in fact been irresponsible and disingenuous, because, after years of ignoring more simple congestion mitigation efforts, they are trying to rush through congestion pricing legislation with almost no study or debate." She wonders why the Mayor isn't doing more to control parking permit abuse among government employees, a problem that plagues her Lower Manhattan district.

You can read Glick's letter, in its entirety, after the jump...

Read more...
54 Comments

Richard Brodsky: Working for the Public or the Parking Industry?

brodsky.jpgWestchester Democrat Richard Brodsky has emerged as the State Assembly's leading critic of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. Later today Brodsky will release a report on the steps of City Hall characterizing the Mayor's congestion pricing plan as a regressive tax that puts most of the burden on poor and middle-income drivers (and ignoring the fact that only 4.6% of New York City residents drive to work in Manhattan's Central Business District and most poor and middle-income New Yorkers use transit).

In his radio address this weekend, Mayor Bloomberg urged state lawmakers to "put aside their competing interests and come together" on the issue of congestion pricing. "To leave this half a billion dollars just sitting on the table would be absolutely ridiculous." In response, Brodsky told the New York Times:

We don't have any competing interests. We're interested only in the public interest, and the first thing the public interest requires is someone to actually look at the mayor's plan, fairly and thoroughly.

Yet, over the last five years Assembly Member Brodsky has accepted at least $16,700 in campaign contributions from parking garage interests, according to the New York State Board of Elections. Brodsky's parking industry contributions far exceed those of any other state legislator (though Queens City Council Member David Weprin leads the pack with his $20,500 $40,650 haul). Specifically, Brodsky's contributions have come from the Metropolitan Parking Association and the Mallah family, the owner of several parking companies and sometimes referred to as New York City's "parking royalty."

The Mallah family has interests in several parking corporations including Merit Parking, Mallah Parking Corporation, Advance Parking, and Icon Parking. Shelly Mallah is also associated with New York City's Metropolitan Parking Association and has made campaign contributions to its political action committee.

Vincent Petraro, the executive director of the Metropolitan Parking Association, a trade group representing about 800 lots and garages in New York City, has served as an intermediary for political campaign contributions for Sheldon Mallah, according to the NYC Campaign Finance Board. Petraro is also a board member of Queens Chamber of Commerce and chairman of its Legislative Advocacy Committee.

Parking industry contributions to Richard Brodsky:

$1,000 12/01/05 Sheldon Mallah
$1,000 12/01/05 Sandra Mallah
$500 3/28/05 Metro Parking Association
$400 3/25/04 Sandra Mallah
$500 5/20/04 Sheldon Mallah
$1,000 5/20/04 Sandra Mallah
$2,000 4/29/04 Sandra Mallah
$800 3/25/04 Sheldon Mallah
$500 12/30/03 Sheldon Mallah
$1,000 12/30/03 Sandra Mallah
$1,000 6/26/03 Sheldon Mallah
$2,000 6/23/03 Sandra Mallah
$1,000 3/03/03 Sandra Mallah
$1,000 11/22/02 Sandra Mallah
$1,000 8/26/02 Sandra Mallah
$1,000 8/26/02 Sandra Mallah
$1,000 5/06/02 Sandra Mallah

TOTAL: $16,700

How do Brodsky's parking industry contributions compare? No other state legislator even comes close to the levels of contributions received by Brodsky from the Mallahs and the Metropolitan Parking Association since 2002.

Marty Golden $1,500
Denny Farrell$1,000
Sheldon Silver $1,000
Joe Lentol$750
John Sabini $500
Danny O’Donnell $500
Rory Lancman $500
Michael Cusick $250
Mark Weprin $250

Photo: Tim Roske/Associated Press via the New York Times
2 Comments

Debunking the Attack on Congestion Pricing

As The Politicker’s Azi Paybarah reported yesterday, the anti-traffic relief group, "Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free"
re-released its report, "Congestion Pricing in the Central Business District: Let’s Look Hard Before We Leap." Commissioned by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the study calls into doubt the benefits of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed congestion pricing scheme, with some revised numbers from an earlier version they put out a few weeks ago. 

In response, the Citywide Coalition for Traffic Relief, a diverse collection of more than 80 different civic organizations, released a report called, "Debunking the Attack on Congestion Pricing."

Paybarah points out:

There’s nothing terribly new here, although it occurs to me that if the argument becomes one about whether or not there’s actually too much traffic in Manhattan, that’s a bad thing for opponents of the plan. Whatever the numbers say.

7 Comments

Anti-Pricing Council Member Has Pro-Parking Industry Fans

With one possible exception, no elected official has been more outspoken against congestion pricing for New York City than Queens Council Member David Weprin. A scan of the city's campaign finance database reveals over 20,000 reasons why that could be.

weprin_headshot_lg.jpgIt may not be a significant amount in relative terms, but since taking office in 2002 Weprin has accepted at least $20,500 in campaign contributions from parking garage owners and operators, almost all of them with facilities in Manhattan. During the 2003 reporting cycle alone, Weprin collected over $14,000 from the parking garage lobby, with three garage owners contributing the maximum permitted by law.

The most recent contributions on file date to this year. In other words, as Weprin campaigns against congestion pricing, parking garage owners are writing checks to his campaign committee.

The latest edition of the Queens Courier features two anti-pricing editorials: one from the paper's editors, and the other by Weprin, who, responding to a pro-pricing argument from the Partnership for New York City's Kathryn Wylde, refers to congestion pricing as a "tax" 10 times in 500 words. Yet he offers no alternative solutions on how to pay for the mass transit expansion he and other pricing opponents purport to favor. Coincidentally, during the 2005 campaign finance reporting cycle, Weprin received $100 from Vicki Schneps -- publisher of the Queens Courier, as well as Queensborough, newsletter of the ill-informed propaganda machine that is the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Where does your council member stand? From whom does s/he accept contributions? Follow the money.

9 Comments

Queens Chamber Continues Campaign Against Congestion Pricing

queens.jpg

Foes of congestion pricing marshalled by the Queens Chamber of Commerce held a press conference yesterday at which several politicians from the borough took a stand against the mayor's plan. According to a press release provided by the chamber, City Council Finance Chair David Weprin called the proposal unnecessary: "I don't think City Hall understands that another unfair tax which would hurt working class people is not only uncalled for, but also unnecessary to reduce traffic. Before we tax people more we should first consider trying some simple traffic mitigation alternatives to reduce congestion."

The release also quoted Councilmember Tony Avella: "Until the City provides adequate mass transportation services, congestion pricing is just another tax on working and middle class families and small business. Everyone agrees that we need to address traffic congestion problems throughout the city, but the first step has to be improving mass transit."

Of course, Bloomberg himself, in the Sunday speech the Queens Chamber was protesting, said that mass transit in the outer boroughs would have to be improved before congestion pricing went into effect. In that speech, he clearly stated: "We know that service to many areas is not what it should be. That's why, before implementing congestion pricing we'll implement a range of mass transit improvements to our least-served neighborhoods."

The Queens Chamber has been in the forefront of the anti-congestion-pricing battle for some time now, releasing a study in March 2006 called "A Cure Worse than the Disease? How London's 'Congestion Pricing' System Could Hurt New York City's Economy." A group called the Citywide Coalition for Traffic Relief, including the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, Transportation Alternatives and the Citizens Committee for New York City, has released "Debunking the Attack on Congestion Pricing," an analysis of the Queens Chamber's report that refutes its major points (download it here):

The attempt to disregard congestion pricing as a potentially viable traffic mitigation measure is based on a study commissioned last year by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, performed by Appleseed Consulting. Even a cursory examination of this study finds it to be biased and deeply flawed.

The Queens Chamber of Commerce study erects a draconian "straw man" congestion charging scenario that is neither based on London's system nor on any scenario that has been proposed for New York City.... In supporting its spurious claim that congestion pricing will result in a net negative impact on the City's economy, the study relies, among other things, on assumptions about how this policy will impact vehicle and person trips into the relevant parts of Manhattan.

Read more...

20 Comments

Detractors Find Congestion Pricing Facts in Short Supply

locked.jpg 

Add the Queens Chamber of Commerce to the list of pre-emptive congestion pricing foes.

The chamber's Legislative Advocacy Committee has prepped a report on the "harmful effects" of congestion pricing on businesses, and chamber members are also reportedly spreading the word.

Writing in the chamber newsletter, Queensborough, QCC President Raymond J. Irrera espouses the usual rhetoric regarding "punishing" motorists with a "tax." Irrera fans the flames by citing the "dire negative impact" congestion charging supposedly had on downtown London.

Also in Queensborough, City Council Member Tony Avella refers to vague "serious financial consequences" of New York's non-existent congestion pricing plan, and takes the opportunity to plug his legislative proposal to ban the city from "imposing tolls or other charges on any and all bridges controlled by the New York City Department of Transportation." Avella finds himself in good company on the council, which appears on the verge of enacting its own anti-business initiative.

Thing is, the London experience shows that overall business does not suffer from congestion charging. According to Malcolm Murray-Clark, who runs the London program and who visited New York a few weeks ago, a very small number of auto-dependent businesses were negatively affected there. This could be because, among other reasons, while the number of car trips into London's central business district was reduced by 31 percent, the number of people entering the CBD dropped by just two percent.

Murray-Clark was careful to point out that congestion pricing is no "panacea," and that implementing the plan successfully required a lot of give-and-take between government and the private sector. Seeing as how other New York business leaders have pegged the cost of gridlock at $13 billion a year -- not to mention all those inconvenient side effects -- maybe honest dialogue would be a better course than unsubstantiated hysteria.

Photo: latca/Flickr

7 Comments

Resolved: More Traffic Congestion & Automobile Dependence

Brooklyn City Councilmember Lew Fidler and a small group of his outer borough colleagues have put forward Resolution 774 "calling upon the Mayor of New York City to oppose the institution of any form of congestion pricing." The resolution is based on a March 2006 report commissioned by the Queens Chamber of Commerce that was, to put it mildly, filled with misinformation and gaping holes about the City of London's congestion charging experience.

Note that this is not an introduction of a new piece of legislation. It is just a resolution -- essentially nothing more than a toothless proclamation, a bid for attention. While I'm hesitant to give them that attention, the Queens Chamber report is such a shoddy piece of work compared to Bruce Schaller and the Partnership for New York City's congestion pricing studies, it is hard to resist giving you a peek:

By Council Members Fidler, Weprin, Avella, Gonzalez, Katz, Martinez and Nelson

Whereas, In response to a well-recognized problem of traffic congestion in cities, certain solutions have been proposed to control the public demand for transportation; and

Whereas, Solutions to this problem include providing incentives and disincentives to control traffic congestion; and

Read more...