NY Legislature rejects Manhattan traffic fee plan

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The state Assembly has rejected New YorkCity Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to charge a fee to driveinto parts of Manhattan to curb traffic and pollution, killing theplan, Speaker Sheldon Silver said Monday.

The survey of Democratic Assembly members in a privateconference comes after days of closed-door negotiations and meansthe city will forfeit $354 million in federal money forkick-starting the initiative. The Legislature faced a Mondaydeadline to act on Bloomberg's proposal, which was already endorsedby Democratic Gov. David Paterson, the Republican-led Senate andthe City Council.

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser did not immediately comment.

The concept, known as congestion pricing, was proposed to cuttraffic and pollution by forcing more commuters onto mass transit.It would have charged most drivers $8 to drive below 60th Streetbetween 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Truckers wouldhave paid $21.

It ran into strenuous objections from legislators from mostlythe outer boroughs and New York City suburbs, who said it wouldunfairly target commuters and their constituents.

"The conference has decided that they are not prepared to docongestion pricing," Silver said. "Many members just don'tbelieve in the concept. Many think this proposal is flawed."

"It will not be on the floor of the Assembly," he said. Therewas overwhelming opposition to the plan in private Democraticconference, but there was no public vote and individual lawmaker'svotes weren't recorded.

"You can speak to members of the conference," said Silver, whorepresents part of Manhattan. "If I were making the decisionalone, I might have made a different decision."

There was no immediate comment from Republican Senate MajorityLeader Joseph Bruno or Democratic Gov. David Paterson, whosupported the proposal.

Silver said part of the problem with the proposal, whichBloomberg had said could begin next year, is that it doesn'timmediately provide funding to the Metropolitan TransportationAuthority. He said the agency that runs the city's mass transit isalready underfunded and needs to be bolstered before it takes onmore commuters.

"That has to be the first job as we go forward," Silver said.

"The mayor is entitled to his vision," said WestchesterAssemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat and leading critic of theplan. "And the Legislature is entitled to say it isn't in thepublic interest."

Brodsky also said the Bloomberg administration failed to addressall its concerns over a year, a claim the administration denies.Brodsky was on the congestion commission that held 21 publichearings, in addition to a City Council and Assembly hearing. The administration in Albany provided a list of 16 major changesto which Bloomberg agreed.

But Brodsky said fundamental, even philosophical questions werenever worked out. Among them, he said, was even the idea ofcharging people to use city streets.

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