Congestion pricing was included as part of this year’s budget, which means that within a couple of years, drivers will be paying a fee to enter Manhattan with their vehicle. It was a wildly controversial proposal.
Advocates for mass transit loved the idea, as the money raised (let’s hope) will be used to fund improvements to the subways and bus system. But some elected officials who represented neighborhoods that aren’t served by the subways - or other terribly reliable forms of mass transit, for that matter - hated the idea.
Those included the neighborhoods of northeast Queens and many communities in Nassau County on Long Island, where people might live but still work in Manhattan. Without trains or adequate buses, many of those people still drive into the city, so they will be hit hard by the new pricing plan.
Leading the opposition was Assemblyman David Weprin. He was an outspoken critic of congestion pricing from the get-go, culminating in a memorably tense press conference on the Manhattan side of the 59th Street bridge that drew a vocal group of counter protestors.
But Weprin should have seen the writing on the wall once congestion pricing got the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo; this was going to be in the new budget and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Some would argue that at that point, an elected official needs to stop being a cheerleader for their constituents’ concerns and go into full-on political mode and start trolling the smoky backrooms of Albany looking for whatever they can get in down-and-dirty horse trading (and we mean that it the most respectful way possible!).
That’s what Assembly members Ed Braunstein and Nily Rozic, whose districts border Weprin’s in the easternmost reaches of Queens, did.
As soon as the budget was passed and it was clear that congestion pricing was going to be the Law of the Land in New York City, the two Assembly members sent out a press release with some good news for their constituents who might have been stung by the passage of the proposal.
Somewhere amid all of the negotiating, Braunstein and Rozic were able to wrangle some concessions from the governor in exchange for their support.
As part of the deal that was passed, commuters who board the Long Island Rail Road at any stop from Little Neck to Flushing Main Street – seven stops in all – will get a 20 percent discount on monthly tickets.
That means the cost of a monthly pass will fallp from $226 to $181, not an insignificant drop in this era of constantly rising fares.
We didn’t even know that this concession was part of the negotiations, which goes to show how hard the pair was working behind the scenes to see what, if anything, they could get included in the plan that would help them sell the unpopular proposal to the residents in their districts.
Expect many other elected officials to follow suit and attempt to get their own concessions worked into the plan now that the governor has thoroughly hitched his wagon to the plan and is committed to seeing it go forward. There’s bound to be a lot of giving and taking.
In other words, after everyone take their piece of the pie, we’re not sure how much money is going to be left over for the subways!