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Gov. Hochul reverses course, indefinitely pauses congestion pricing plan

Just over three weeks until it was supposed to go into effect, Gov. Kathy Hochul abruptly and indefinitely paused New York City's congestion pricing plan.

Jonathan Gordon

Jun 5, 2024, 7:19 PM

Updated 16 days ago

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Just over three weeks until it was supposed to go into effect, Gov. Kathy Hochul abruptly and indefinitely paused New York City's congestion pricing plan.
The first-in-the-nation plan was set to go into effect June 30 and charge drivers as much as $15 a day for entering the city's downtown below 60th Street.
Advocates, including the governor, have repeatedly said the plan would cut down on the number of cars driving in the city's busiest district and improve the environment by reducing carbon emissions.
But on Wednesday, the governor said the timing was not right to start the program because the city still hasn't fully recovered from the pandemic. She said she feared the tolls would not force people to take public transportation but keep them away from the city - working from home or taking their tourism dollars elsewhere.
"Hardworking New Yorkers are getting hammered on costs and they and the economic vitality of our city must be protected," Hochul said in a pre-taped statement Wednesday morning.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was scheduled to begin a series of webinars outlining the plan and offering Q&A but they were canceled within an hour of the governor speaking.
A spokesperson for the MTA has not yet responded to News 12’s request for comment.
The governor also acknowledged several ongoing lawsuits would have likely delayed the rollout regardless.
"Circumstances have changed and we must respond to the facts on the ground, not from the rhetoric of five years ago," Hochul said.
Rockland County is one of the groups that took the state to court over the plan.
"Governor, I'm asking you directly, suspend this permanently, get rid of it, it's a bad idea," Rockland County Executive Ed Day said.
Day and others who live west of the Hudson River have long opposed this plan because they do not have a one-seat ride to Manhattan, meaning more people are likely to drive to work. Rockland specifically contends there's a $40 million valuation gap between what the county pays into the MTA versus the services it gets back.
Several reports also said U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries privately asked the governor to delay congestion pricing over fears it would negatively hurt Democrats' chances in several key House races in the city's suburbs this November.
A spokesperson for Jeffries denied these reports in a statement:
"For years, Leader Hakeem Jeffries has maintained neutrality with respect to the congestion pricing policy debate. Nothing has changed in that regard. To the extent immediate implementation of congestion pricing is being reconsidered, Leader Jeffries supports a temporary pause of limited duration to better understand the financial impact on working class New Yorkers who have confronted a challenging inflationary environment as a result of the pandemic. We will continue to find ways to lower costs for everyday Americans and strengthen mass transportation in New York State," spokesperson Andy Eichar said.
"This issue is unfair, it's wrong, it's gotten people's attention so, I could understand why the governor is concerned it might hurt Democrats politically," Day said.
The governor's decision was condemned by public transit supporters, environmentalists and members of the progressive wing of the Democratic party. Opponents of congestion pricing have called it a cash grab and an insult to people already struggling with the costs of living.
Those who visit the city gave News 12 mixed reactions.
"I'm not complaining,” Gwendoline Haynes, of Yonkers said. "I have no other choice. I have to take the train."
"It's really bad because, I mean, people have to use the city and that's their only way to get around," Winston Jack who commutes from Brooklyn to Yonkers said.
An April Siena College poll found two-thirds of New Yorkers opposed congestion pricing.
Hochul said her office will work with all stakeholders over the coming months to come up with a solution to the congestion pricing problem.
"The goals of congestion pricing in terms of reducing traffic and pollution are important," she said. "My commitment to a greener more sustainable future is unwavering."


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