The rush to implement congestion pricing has been a textbook case of an issue getting so far ahead of how real people live that the politicians now patting themselves on the back are at serious risk of wrenching their shoulders.
It’s been a spectacle. The need to shovel ever more money into the bottomless pit that is the MTA, joined with public officials’ infatuation with the glossy appeal of congestion pricing on their resumes, launched a barreling locomotive intent on passing this discriminatory policy.
My members - the hardworking, diverse frontline professional law enforcement managers of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, along with others who work tours and shifts throughout the day and night - will be negatively impacted by congestion pricing.
When Mayor Bloomberg attempted to get Albany to pass congestion pricing years ago, he was at least sincere in insisting on an environmental benefit. Now, going green has taken a distant back seat to levying a new regressive tax.
While clearing Manhattan streets may not yet be a lost cause, getting that done isn’t going to happen through this no-detail policy Albany just passed as a part of the state budget.
The heat and energy in the Democratic Party may be with the young activists driving the political media maelstrom the chattering class obsesses over, but there are vast parts of New York City separate from that self-referential space that, speaking plainly, are getting screwed here.
Consider those neighborhoods that used to be “two-fare zones” - parts of the city where you needed to take a bus to a train (paying for both!) before there were citywide transfers.
Even now, two-fare zones still exist as a geographic and psychological marker in our city landscape.
Two-fare zones were a regressive tax since, generally, those with more money usually didn't live where they needed to take a bus to a train. But that piece of commuter history pales in comparison to the regressive nature of congestion pricing.
Those that live near train or subway stations likely use them, as they should. Mass transit is effective, environmentally sound, and efficient. But not for everyone.
Not for those in two-fare zones. Not for those who will be driving into the congestion pricing zone to start or end their shift. Not for cops. Not for firefighters. Not for EMTs. Not for nurses.
Talking about this with a Brooklyn-born union colleague the other day, he suggested that folks living in two-fare zones overwhelmingly take the bus to trains. They aren’t the cause of our city’s traffic congestion.
The B3 is always crowded, he said. The B44 is standing room-only during rush hour. The B41 and B49 are always packed. I’m sure the same can also be said of buses throughout The Bronx and Queens. But to actually implement a fee that will disproportionately impact those without ready access to a train station is unfair policy, and bad politics.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association is reviewing options for a legal challenge to this discriminatory tax. The process around how it was passed was faulty, its economic impact and designation a lie.
We are also reviewing the possibility of a referendum question to present this directly to city voters, as it’s an issue of local control.
New York City is more than Manhattan. It’s a shame that any public official needs to be reminded of that. The Sergeants Benevolent Association will make sure that nobody forgets that simple civic truth.