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Opinion: Congestion plan would crush real New Yorkers

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.

21 Comments

  1. lisa lisa February 6, 2024

    Another unfair and hypocritical aspect — people who live below 60th Street can drive around as much as they want inside the Zone and with no charge.

    So affluent Tribeca resident can drive kids to school at Friends Seminary or even up to 59th Street on the West Side so the kids can walk a couple of blocks to Collegiate.

  2. Ali Ali February 4, 2024

    Choresh and LES3025:
    So here are a few examples of real New Yorkers who drive and who’d be impacted by CP.

    1. Per NYT article on “Bianca Bockman drove three people to the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan, the site of the main processing center, where they were to reapply for shelter.”

    2. There is a small family-run food place in lower Manhattan, mostly take-out but some tables. They also do some catering, mostly workplace/office functions – which means they need to drive. So on those days, they’d need to drive in from Queens to the shop (CP charge 1) and then deliver the food (if out of zone, CP charge)
    BTW they are immigrants.

    3. “M” is a night security guard in Manhattan. He lives on Staten Island. He drives to/from work. BTW he is Black and not rich.

    Thoughts?

  3. Ron Wisniski Ron Wisniski February 2, 2024

    Why is it, many ask, that while the vast majority of New Yorkers oppose congestion pricing, the vast majority of elected officials support it? The same reason they oppose enforcement to solve the e-bike free-for-all. Money. And where does that money come from? It comes from Transportation Alternatives. These hedge-fund-paid fanatics won’t rest until all cars are banned. It’s well past time to force our elected officials to declare who they work for — us or TransAlt?

    • Shell Shell February 4, 2024

      Why do elected officials support it? They always have supported it. That’s why they support it. They didn’t hide it. The current governor openly said she supported the toll in her campaign. She won her position because of NYC. Why doesn’t anyone ever pay attention until it’s late? Stop voting for people based on a handful of tag lines.

  4. Lia Lia February 2, 2024

    Lifelong Manhattanite and I don’t know how to drive.
    Walk, bus, subway.

    Am completely against CP!
    So many reasons and no time to discuss them all.

    But here are a few, not in any order….

    Most vehicles in the CP zone are commercial – not the stereotype rich lawyer driving in from Great Neck.
    Commercial vehicles include E-Commerce, Uber, regular delivery, construction, building services, tourist buses etc.

    Uber and E-Commerce are huge contributors (BTW many exploited gig workers use personal vehicles for delivery).

    Many non-rich people drive in as they live far away, not near transit or have late shifts (like the night security staff where I work or the super who covers several small buildings in my neighborhood.)

    Congestion is not the same thing as number of vehicles.

    The City has INCREASED CONGESTION by reducing street space (eg bike lanes, street closures, restaurant shacks etc) and allowing unfettered commercial and luxury high-rise development!

    CP will not reduce fares and won’t ever help bus service (bus routes and frequency keep getting cut)!!!!!

    There is an inherent conflict – the MTA wants more vehicles so it gets the revenue while the bike lobby wants no vehicles to expand the bike infrastructure.

    What should happen:
    Tax the billionaire buildings and pied a terres for MTA funding.
    Tax Amazon and Uber.
    Massive fare-beating must be addressed.
    City should stop funding bicycles – instead send City DOT monies to State MTA.

  5. East Village Resident East Village Resident February 2, 2024

    Congestion pricing? Yes, say tech investors (and the politicians they fund) looking to cash in on the boom of the ride-share & micro-mobility industry. For-hire vehicles, e-bikes & buzzing scooters on the sidewalks (along with their notorious flaming batteries) are all expected to double within 12 months of the new congestion tax. So, no, this isn’t going to magically make cars disappear or improve air quality.

    What it will do is increase costs. The congestion tax isn’t only going to affect drivers, it’s about to increase costs across the board on everything from ride shares to groceries, restaurants, home goods, appliances, pharmacies — anything that gets delivered.

    Don’t be fooled. The public never supports increased taxes. Congestion pricing is nothing short of a money grab sold to your local electeds in the form of financial support to their campaigns by tech & transportation gurus. And, of course, by an increasingly desperate Mayor struggling to balance budgets as incumbency crumbles.

  6. Lucy Lucy February 2, 2024

    Thank you Chris for a beautifully written essay that nails many of the problems with the poorly planned congestion pricing program. We should not sink more money into the MTA money pit. What we need is deep financial oversight of this gang that can’t shoot straight. Every day we are notified of more subway delays at rush hour. We saw the money wasted to create a couple of fancy stops on the 2nd Ave line, with more money directed to expand the line. The callous disregard for the different needs of people from the “just hop on a bike” paid lobby bullies backed by the corporate for-profit auto establishment is getting very old now.

  7. LES3025 LES3025 February 1, 2024

    The author is a selfish clown. Congestion pricing will “crush real New Yorkers”? But he admits that 75% of New Yorkers don’t rely on cars. Are they not “real New Yorkers”?

    He chooses to have a car in Lower Manhattan. That choice imposes costs on all of us. Noise and air pollution. The space his car takes up on the streets, stealing our public space for his private benefit. The injuries drivers like him cause when they hit pedestrians. The traffic and congestion that affect our ability to get around the city. But the author doesn’t think he should have to pay for any of these costs. He thinks everyone else who lives here should be forced to keep subsidizing his choices.

    He twists himself in knots to justify his selfishness and convince himself that he is a “real New Yorker” and not part of the “well-funded” class. It takes a wild amount of cognitive dissonance to claim that “real New Yorkers” can’t afford “for-profit, chauffeured vehicles,” which cost maybe $30 per trip, but can afford the $27,000 average price for a used car and the nearly $4,000 in annual insurance costs.

    And how about the New Yorkers who can’t afford either of these and rely on our underfunded subways and buses? I guess they’re out of luck because Chris Ryan, who’s much wealthier than them, doesn’t think he should have to pay any more money.

    On top of all that, this guy’s wife runs for office every cycle crying about the environmental horrors of taking down a few trees in East River Park. But here he is arguing for the free and unrestricted ability to use his car at no cost in the most transit-dense place in the entire country, if not the world.

    What a joke.

    • Corey Bearak Corey Bearak February 2, 2024

      Have no clue who this person is complaining about someone’s wife’s interest in public service. Bottom line: Congestion Pricing is a regressive tax that impacts more than drivers of passenger cars who’ll be forced to pay it: It will also negatively impact RESIDENTS who do not drive, who own no cars; the even higher toll-tax charges that would be imposed on trucks will increase the costs of goods and services for residents, including perhaps the apparently clueless LES3025.

    • Pete Louys Pete Louys February 2, 2024

      What a fascist you are LES3025. And a witless lackey for Uber and Lyft.

      • LES3025 LES3025 February 2, 2024

        @Corey – wow a Boomer from Queens who opposes congestion pricing. I’m shocked! Anyway, congestion pricing isn’t a regressive tax. There is a statutory exemption for low-income people. And in any event households without cars earn 52% less than households with cars (https://blog.tstc.org/2017/04/21/car-free-new-york-city/). So a tax on driving is by definition a tax on a higher-income group.

        @Tommy – I didn’t make any personal attacks. I called him a selfish clown and explained why the position he took in this article is both selfish and clownish. This is going to go exactly the same place as your frivolous ESCR lawsuit – nowhere.

        You people act like there is no harm from these frivolous lawsuits. But there is. The MTA is already delaying critical signal modernization projects that will improve service because of these lawsuits (https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2024/02/01/big-fn-b-d-and-m-deal-congestion-pricing-lawsuits-threaten-more-mta-signal-progress). All because you want to throw a tantrum.

    • Lia Lia February 2, 2024

      Hi LES3025,
      Am repeating in part my above post….

      I am a lifelong Manhattanite (not a suburban transplant) and I don’t know how to drive.

      Walk, bus, subway.

      Am completely against CP!!!

      BTW something I did not include in my earlier post….really wealthy people in the CP zone will be able to drive without cost in the CP zone.

      And CP won’t deter super-wealthy people, celebrities, etc who’ve super-gentrified all parts of Manhattan….

    • Perry Rothenberg Perry Rothenberg February 3, 2024

      He is right, We will all be paying higher prices for Service and food within the zone. Also your life would be better if you get a car and use it to get around

    • Miriam Miriam February 4, 2024

      How is the writer supposed to carry everything he needs for his job, if not in his car? If you can even provide one way that he and people like him, such as musicians who must carry amplifiers, can somehow carry what they need some other way, other than their car, I’d like to hear about it. I’d also like to hear how doormen and essential workers, who work late-night shifts and live in transit deserts, are supposed to get home or back to their home in the congestion zone. I suspect you have no answer. You’d rather just rant at people who bring up legitimate concerns about this totally misguided unfair plan.

  8. Tommy Loeb Tommy Loeb February 1, 2024

    Please support the Community lawsuit against Congestion Pricing and help us get a true Environmental Impact Statement. You can also get more information by clicking on this link

    https://gofund.me/043f7a91

    • Choresh Wald Choresh Wald February 2, 2024

      That’s some impressive amounts of donations in this GoFund me. Talk about deep pockets.
      It’s a real shame that Grand St Democrats is so invested in this lawsuit: Grand St residents will finally get a relief from the excessive amounts of vehicles traveling through the neighborhood. Drivers who exit the FDR Drive will pay a fee, drivers who exhaust the air coming in on the Williamsburg Bridge will pay a fee. There will be less congestion and there will be money to put an elevator at the Essex St subway station. 27,000 people who use the M14 bus daily will be able to move faster. It’s a win-win situation for 80% of area residents who don’t own vehicles.

      • Tommy Loeb Tommy Loeb February 3, 2024

        Let’s see how many facts you got wrong.
        1. Grand St Dems are not involved or a party to the lawsuit.
        2. According to the MTA Environmental Assessment, air quality will get worse along the FDR from 10th St to Brooklyn Bridge due to increased traffic, lined with NYCHA and low- and middle-income housing, negatively impacting health in an officially designated Environmental Justice Community.
        3.There was no study of the impact on local traffic using the Williamsburg Bridge since it will continue to be free to Brooklyn as opposed to full toll in Battery & Midtown tunnels.
        4.There is no accessible subway station on Lower East Side and the station at Delancey is awaiting development of a vacant development site on the NE corner not money. That was a commitment when Essex Crossing was allowed to postpone in current Essex Market building.
        5.The M14 gets stuck in traffic and cars already in the zone will continue to clog Grand St accessing bridge. Again no traffic study done.

        You’re entitled to your opinion but not your own facts. Read this for more facts you got wrong!

        https://thevillagesun.com/opinion-congestion-pricing-would-fuel-pollution-on-les

        • Miriam Miriam February 4, 2024

          This is also going to adversely affect those of us who live north of 10th street along the FDR drive. There have been zero environmental studies done regarding this area. It is a horrible plan.

      • pritzker pritzker February 3, 2024

        Choresh,
        I don’t drive.
        I use mass transit.
        I am going to contribute to the GoFundMe.

        Seems to me that bicycle lobby TransAlt and affiliates has truly “deep pockets” as it is backed by the 1%.

      • bus subway bus subway February 5, 2024

        Regarding the M14….

        The Dept. of Transportation vehicle restrictions on 14th Street already reduced the number of vehicles there.

        The M14 moves – but is of course restricted by the speed limit and red lights.

        The only way to increase bus speed would be to:
        1) lift the speed limit and 2) adjust red lights.

        It should also be noted that some bus stops were removed thus contributing to new “faux” timelines data.

        Last but not least:
        Bus frequency is the real issue in NYC!
        The MTA has been cutting bus frequency (and bus routes) for years.
        If you have to wait 15-20 minutes in the cold for the bus and if the bus is also crowded, then a ride that is 5 minutes “faster” is inconsequential.

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