BY CHRIS RYAN | I am against congestion pricing. We are still going to have streets full of vehicles — just a wealthier class of drivers, as well as for-hire vehicles that longtime residents cannot afford, and critical trucks and services that are going to pass the new costs on to residents.
Exactly what vague needs are this crack team of politicians going to address? Are they going to advocate for the families who rely on vehicles? One in four families in New York City rely on a car. Our local politicians rubber-stamp anything asked for by the colloquially named “bike bros” lobby, which is funded by Lyft / Uber and all those who stand to profit from the elimination of private-vehicle ownership.
This is a money grab, just as the restaurant shanties were a land grab. Councilmembers Carlina Rivera, Christopher Marte, Keith Powers and Erik Bottcher were elected to represent US — not Uber, not Lyft, not commercial landlords or tech-funded professional activists. We residents are more fearful of getting mowed down by an e-bike than by drivers from the long-suffering yellow cab industry, who were the earliest victims of the tech “disrupters.”
The streets of a healthy New York City economy are ALWAYS going to be bustling. Before cars, it was horse-drawn carriages. After this age of gas cars, it will be electrics for the upper middle class, Tesla trucks and the (hopefully) ever-present residents still living here who can afford ANY tax. The only thing that will be eliminated are the WORKING and MIDDLE CLASS.
I would be tolled $3,700 a year, at least.
There is no utopia of empty streets filled with fluttering butterflies and Lombard Street-like twisting gardens in the future. This is an urban center. The sometimes accurately self-proclaimed Capital of The World. Full of residents who CHOOSE an urban life. Elderly people who rely on Access-a-Ride, public housing residents who shop outside of overpriced Manhattan, nurses, doormen, contractors, artists, people who use private vehicles are NOT congestion. They are New Yorkers. Lifers. They are the lifeblood of the New York economy. And they certainly are not ATM machines to extract cash from to hand over to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to mismanage and burn.
My neighbors no longer feel safe on mass transit. They are hiding their jewelry again. Carrying decoy wallets again. Carrying self-defense sprays for the first time ever. These elders, women, children, even 6-foot, 220-pound men like myself, need to be alert, since they can’t afford for-profit, chauffeured vehicles to pick them up and take them door to door — unlike the well-funded youth who are pushing for these draconian taxes against the people who have lived in New York City for decades, many for their entire lives.
These are people already suffering financially and with a deep-seated distrust and distaste for robo-cop congestion-pricing cameras siphoning more money from their pockets simply for coming home. Downtown residents of the already forgotten RESIDENTIAL ZONE beneath 59th Street (remember, there aren’t just businesses in the so-called Central Business District) deserve real answers about who and what this ad hoc coalition of mis-representatives are going to supposedly support — not the vague nothing-burger of statements provided by them so far.
Promise us something. We know you will fail to deliver, but at least tell us what you are pretending to fight for. How about a true, actionable Environmental Impact Statement study, as we are currently having to sue for? Complete elimination of the congestion pricing plan, if the REAL assessment comes to that conclusion? One hundred percent exemptions for those who live in the congestion zone and don’t appreciate or cannot afford a toll booth at their front door? A non-demonization of those residents who resist the latest failed utopian vision forced upon us by naive, careerist representatives? What exactly CAN you promise?
I’ve joined the New Yorkers Against Congestion Pricing Tax citywide class-action lawsuit as a plaintiff. I’ve personally testified against congestion pricing at M.T.A. public hearings, sharing how it will impact my family, and I have written letters to my elected officials, even as they plow ahead with their vision like a modern-day Robert Moses. This time, though, they’re not just forcing empty and seasonal-at-best bike lanes on us that serve only the few.
I work as a contractor. I need to use my motor vehicle to carry tools and equipment to jobs that would be outside of the congestion zone. At a minimum, I would be tolled $3,700 a year — and that’s not including weekends if I want to take my family outside the zone to do things.
Residents are suing, yet the M.T.A. continues to install tolls and cameras — even on roads NOT in the current congestion zone, signaling more future rings of taxable residents to exploit. Who can blame them since they smell easy money? We must nip this in the bud. In London “Blade Runners” destroy these cameras as fast as they can go up. Will the historically anti-authoritarian Lower East Side stand down in the face of government overreach? My hope is we never have to find out.
Ryan is a parent who lives in the East Village and is the husband of City Council candidate Allie Ryan. He’s a plaintiff on the recently filed New York City class-action lawsuit against congestion pricing.