In his quest to preserve free driving privileges over the Queensboro Bridge, State Senator Tony Avella seems to be having a hard time rounding up the old gang.
Yesterday, Avella tried to pick a fight with Council Member Mark Weprin, a fellow legislator from northeast Queens who opposed the 2008 congestion pricing plan but backs the Move NY toll swap proposal.
In an interview on NY1 Tuesday night, Weprin said it’s unfair to hike tolls and fares for everyone except the people who get to drive into Manhattan for free each day. “Every time the tolls go up, everyone’s costs go up. Every time the subway fares go up, people’s costs go up,” he said. “The only people who don’t pay extra are the people who use those free bridges right now to go to work. And most of those people are rich people who can probably afford to drive into the city. The average guy taking the subway, their costs keep going up.”
He’s right: Fewer than 20 percent of the 3.7 million people who travel to Manhattan south of 60th Street every day arrive by car, taxi or truck. Outer-borough residents who commute to Manhattan by car have household incomes 34 percent higher than the average New Yorker, according to Census numbers crunched by Move NY. The bottom line: The toll, which is capped for commercial vehicles, would fall on more affluent New Yorkers.
Tony Avella finds this offensive.
“I demand an apology from Council Member Mark Weprin for his outrageous comment,” Avella said in a press release. “This statement completely ignores the small businesses and commuters of all income levels who utilize these bridges on a daily basis and for whom added tolls would be a hardship… The legislature must take into consideration the middle and low-income New Yorkers who rely on these free bridges day in and day out.”
Avella and Weprin engaged in a Twitter back-and-forth in which Weprin distilled Avella’s position like so:
— Mark S. Weprin (@MarkWeprin) February 25, 2015
“Apology?” Avella tweeted back.
What makes Avella’s position even less defensible is that he’s rejecting a plan that would cut tolls in half on the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges — both of which are within his district.