Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s congestion-pricing plan has been passed. The battle, however, seems to have just begun.
In late March, the bill was signed as part of the state budget, but lawmakers are still working to knock it down through the details and exemptions. The surcharge, for now, is set to be $11 to $12 for cars driving between 60th Street and The Battery, going into effect as of December 30, 2020. Opponents, however, will take any opportunity to weaken the plan. Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) is driving his cause. “My constituents who drive into Manhattan are not wealthy people,” he said. “I know the governor seems to say at any number of events it’s only wealthy people who drive into Manhattan, but that’s not really true.” Weprin says he would like for all NYC residents to be exempt from the surcharge. At the very least, he will push for exceptions for low-income drivers and the elderly. “I’d like to see as many people as possible exempted,” he said.
Cuomo and de Blasio both backed the congestion pricing plan. “Congestion pricing is the only logical and realistic option to fund the MTA’s capital needs,” said Gov. Cuomo in February. But, the plan has more than its fair share of adversaries. As per a poll from Quinnipiac University in April, it remains unpopular among most New Yorkers, who oppose it 54 percent to 41 percent.
Even as it passed in the spring, it had several exemptions already built into it. Residents of the “congestion zone” earning under $60,000 annually are exempt. Emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying people with disabilities are also already exempt from the surcharge. Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz (D-Bronx) helped ease the burden of the congestion surcharge for his constituents. He made a deal with the state to drop the $7 toll on the Henry Hudson Bridge for all Bronx residents. They will just pay the congestion fee if they reach 60th Street.
As reported by the NY Post, other politicians are still working to score various exemptions. Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch is asking for an exemption for police officers driving civilian cars into the city. Rep. Max Rose and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo are trying to have the surcharge waved for Staten Islanders who already pay tolls crossing over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) wants exemptions for those driving electric vehicles or motorcycles. Gov. Phil Murphy of NJ too is working for exemptions for drivers crossing the Lincoln and Holland tunnels and the GW Bridge.
Cuomo’s office commented by saying requests should be referred to the MTA. The MTA, in turn, said that a special panel “will review any/all potential exemptions and make their recommendations.” The authority will appoint a six-member panel to fix the exact price of the surcharge, keeping in mind the goal of raising more than $15 billion for the MTA’s 2020-2024 capital plan.