HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Congestion pricing got some push-back on Thursday from lawmakers on one side of the aisle.
Republicans on Long Island gathered to proclaim the upcoming tolls a cruel $1 billion tax on those who have no choice but to commute to Manhattan.
This as Gov. Andrew Cuomo maintains it’s the needed fix for mass transit, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
It can be called congestion pricing or Central Business District tolling, but GOP lawmakers call it an assault on the suburbs, a commuter tax on those who are already socked with the highest taxes in the nation.
“If you’re a middle-income person you have to drive into the city, whether it’s for your work, whether it’s to go to a hospital, whatever the reason is, the fact is this is going to have direct impact, an unconscionable impact,” Rep. Peter King said.
Dozens gathered to blast Albany for a plan they say will send even more Long Islanders fleeing the state, possibly gouging even first responders commuting to work.
The amount of the toll to enter Manhattan below 60th Street starting in 2021 is still to be determined. The goal is to relieve gridlock and fund crumbling mass transit — the bulk for city subways, with 10 percent earmarked for the Long Island Rail Road.
Lawmakers aren’t even banking on that.
“I’m sure Long Island Rail Road will get that 10 percent, just like our schools get all that money from the lottery,” Nassau County Legislature Majority Leader Rich Nicolello said, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
The answer, they said, to congestion is not a new toll but a fix for the LIRR.
“The parking, the cost of the tickets, the train reliability,” Assemblywoman Missy Miller said.
However, Gov. Cuomo, who was on Long Island on Thursday, touted his Metropolitan Transportation Authority overhaul and LIRR improvements already underway.
“We have to make mass transit work and we have to get that Long Island Rail Road to a place where people want to take it, in a station that they want to be in and sitting in a car that they feel comfortable in,” Cuomo said.
Congestion pricing, some say, is a means toward that end.
“We didn’t fall down on the job. Our predecessors fell down on the job by not maintaining the mass transit system in this state and in the city. At some point it has to be done. We’re doing it,” Democratic state Sen. John Brooks said.
The public is just as split on the issue.
“You have to do it. Everybody is suffering because without it, it’s impossible to get around,” one person said.
“I think it stinks. Everything they tax us on, charge us on, everything. And now another thing,” another person said.
A six-member review board that will work out details of the plan will include one Long Islander, Gusoff reported.