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Posts from the "David Weprin" Category

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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.

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Labor, Elected Officials and Community Groups Rally For Transit Lockbox

Assembly Member David Weprin speaks in favor of the transit lockbox bill on the steps of City Hall this morning. To his left are Senator Daniel Squadron and City Council Member Letitia James. To his right are Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen. Photo: Noah Kazis.

Dozens of transit workers, transportation advocates and elected officials rallied on the steps of City Hall this morning to urge Governor Cuomo to sign the transit lockbox bill, which passed both houses of the legislature unanimously in June. “New York communities are not standing alone,” said TWU Local 100 President John Samuelsen. “Transit workers are not standing alone. We’re standing together.”

The lockbox bill, which was sponsored by Assembly Member James Brennan and State Senator Marty Golden, would make it harder for both the governor and the legislature to continue raiding dedicated transit funds. The bill needs the governor’s signature to become law, but Cuomo has given no indication that he’s willing to stand up for transit riders and good government. “We’re going to be talking to the governor very shortly about this bill. This week,” said Samuelsen.

The state has stolen $260 million in funds from the MTA in the last two years, prompting an unprecedented wave of service cuts and fare hikes.

It isn’t cause for worry that the governor hasn’t signed the bill yet, said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, but he urged his constituents and colleagues to push Cuomo to support the bill. “People need to speak out,” he said. “Elected officials need to speak out.” Gottfried, who represents much of midtown Manhattan, said that his district is the center of the universe, entirely due to its transit access.

Gottfried was joined by a number of elected officials from both the state and city governments. Read more…

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The Comptroller Race: Who Will Stand Up for Transit?

liu_yassky.jpgJohn Liu and David Yassky might be headed for a run-off in the comptroller race.
We've got two more citywide elections to review on the eve of tomorrow's primary vote -- the contests for comptroller and public advocate.

If you're a little unclear about what these positions do, here's the short version: The comptroller is the city's financial watchdog, and the public advocate is the watchdog for everything else, evaluating the effectiveness of city policies and sometimes serving as a check against mayoral power. Whoever holds these positions will wield important oversight powers for the next four years, and we'll probably see one or both of the winners make a run for mayor at some point.

In the right hands, both offices can advance the cause of livable streets. We'll review the comptroller race first and then take a look at the public advocate contenders later today.

The comptroller can't cast a vote in Albany for a transit funding package, but he or she can certainly help frame the debate. Democratic mayoral contender Bill Thompson could have used his comptroller's pulpit to reinforce the Ravitch Commission bridge toll plan this year. Instead he opted to push for vehicle registration fees as an alternative to road pricing, giving the State Senate additional cover for its watered down transit funding package.

The race to succeed Thompson, which will effectively be decided in the Democratic primary, pits four City Council members against each other: David Yassky of Brooklyn, and John Liu, Melinda Katz, and David Weprin of Queens. Neither Katz nor Weprin cleared the most elementary livable streets hurdle during their council tenures, with each siding against congestion pricing in last year's vote. So let's review the intriguing Yassky-Liu rivalry.

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City Council Members: Down With Parking Enforcement

council_members_rip.jpgCouncilmen Weprin, Felder, and Gentile protest the injustice of enforcing the law. Photo: Daily Politics
Sick of walking around cars parked on the sidewalk? Fed up with the excessive traffic cruising for parking spots in your neighborhood? Tough luck. A gaggle of City Council members has got nothing for you, but they do want to ease up on the car owners who contribute to these problems.

A new bill has surfaced that would tack on a five-minute "grace period" to time restrictions on parking spots. It would codify the contention of a certain class of New Yorkers who believe the law doesn't really apply to drivers.

The anti-enforcement contingent behind the bill includes Vincent Gentile and Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, David Weprin of Queens, and James Vacca of the Bronx. Who are the people these elected representatives are sticking up for? The Daily News, in a story that openly cheers for the new bill to take effect, tells us about one driver who would love some extra time to drop off her pet for a doggie manicure:

Meryl Blackman, 57, a Realtor in Brooklyn Heights, says she needs even more time to unload her dog. She admits leaving her SUV in no-parking zones to deal with the pooch.

"A five-minute grace period is great, but we need more time," she said. "Ten to 15 would be fabulous. It would make the quality of life so much better."

Give 'em five minutes, they'll take an hour. I can already hear the whining about getting a ticket just after the "grace period" expires.

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Council Considers Eliminating Truck Parking Fines (Update #2)

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UPDATE: Intro 637 has been tabled. There will be no council vote today.

As of this writing, the City Council is scheduled to vote today to codify a Department of Finance program that makes it cheaper -- and in some cases free -- for commercial trucks to park illegally.

The DOF Stipulated Fine Program, started in 2004, includes a secret fine schedule for participants which eliminates fines for many parking violations, including double parking and parking at expired meters. (In other words, truckers in the program can park forever at an expired meter.) It also reduces fines for dangerous parking activity like blocking a fire hydrant, parking in a traffic lane, parking on the sidewalk, blocking a crosswalk, and parking in a bike lane.

In return, businesses in the program agree not to contest fines for these and other violations, thereby maximizing revenues for the city while encouraging illegal parking.

Intro 637, introduced by David Yassky, David Weprin and Simcha Felder, would convert the controversial Department of Finance program, which was begun in 2004, from a regulation into a permanent city law.

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Dueling Videos: Weprin and McCaffrey vs. New York’s Future

Azi Paybarah at the Politicker shot this video of Queens City Council Member David Weprin's anti-pricing rally yesterday. Sharing the podium with Weprin is Walter McCaffrey of Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free. Can you count the distortions relayed in this nine minute reel?


After the jump, Azi gets a response from Michael O'Loughlin of the Campaign for New York's Future.

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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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What Western Queens Stands to Lose Without Congestion Pricing


Queens residents crash Friday's anti-pricing rally

We've received several reports that Friday's anti-pricing rally on the Queens side of the 59th Street Bridge, spearheaded by City Council Member Tony Avella, was a bust.

According to our sources, of the council members slated to attend -- Avella, Leroy Comrie, Melinda Katz, David Weprin "and other possible members of the Queens Delegation" -- only Avella and Weprin showed up. Pro-pricing folks who came to either counter-protest or just express support for pricing, including those from Queens, were reportedly yelled at and accused of being "undemocratic" by Avella. Environmental Defense was on hand to measure air quality and found that "contaminants were sky high."

Notably absent from the proceedings was Councilman Eric Gioia, who represents the district where the rally took place. Here are a few possible reasons why, as enumerated in testimony to council members by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

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Queens Pols Rally to Keep Using Gioia’s District as Their Doormat

Gioia_Headshot3.jpgTony Avella, Leroy Comrie, Melinda Katz, David Weprin "and other possible members of the Queens Delegation" are holding an anti-congestion pricing rally tomorrow morning at 8:00 on the Queens side of the 59th Street Bridge, according to an e-mail from the Queens Civic Congress.

Notably, Eric Gioia (right), who represents the traffic-burdened district where the rally will be taking place, is not listed as a participant. Perhaps he realizes that standing in front of a backdrop of rush hour traffic, yelling, "We need to keep this as is!" isn't going to play all that well with his constituents.

But who knows. Maybe he'll show up. Despite the clear benefit to his district (only 3.2% of his constituents regularly commute by car into the pricing zone), Gioia has yet to come out in support of congestion pricing. You can be sure that the car commuting Council members to his east are happy about that. For them, Gioia's district is little more than a highway on-ramp that helps them avoid the toll at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.

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Charting a Course for Pricing Through City Council

CD12_Seabrook_G9.jpgCrain's Insider has the most detailed look yet at the odds that the City Council will pass a congestion pricing bill [PDF]. The good news is that pricing stands a decent chance of getting through committee, thanks in part to some maneuvering by Speaker Christine Quinn. As things progress, expect to hear more about uncommitted council members like Larry Seabrook (right), who may cast the deciding vote in committee. Via The Politicker, here's the scoop from Crain's:

Congestion pricing's first test in the City Council will be a vote this month by the State and Federal Legislation Committee, chaired by Maria Baez, D-Bronx. Speaker Christine Quinn, a pricing supporter, gave the measure a boost by assigning it to Baez's panel instead of the Finance Committee, chaired by pricing opponent David Weprin, who had requested it. Quinn added two members to Baez’s committee last fall, improving the plan’s chances for passage. But committee member Lew Fidler, D-Brooklyn, says the nine-member panel is split. He pegs the uncommitted Larry Seabrook, D-Bronx, as a potential swing vote.

Seabrook is one of 20 council members to sign the letter requesting "fairer" fees be assessed on New Jersey drivers as part of any congestion pricing plan. He is also one of eight council members to officially endorse PlaNYC last June.

Crain's also notes that Fidler predicts a close vote in the council as a whole, while John Liu believes pricing will pass after some tinkering to make it easier for Albany to swallow.