Yesterday’s post on the fall of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion fee left many feeling raw about the way Albany mistreats New York. Today, the finger-pointing reined supreme.
But no matter how the state Assembly members tried to spin, the blame ultimately rests on their shoulders. It’s their fault that Bloomberg’s plan didn’t pass. It’s their fault New York is stuck with no solution to its congestion problem and no solution to the looming financial problems that could plague the MTA for years.
The New York Times noted that Mayor Bloomberg was not happy at all with the state legislature but may have to shoulder some of the blame. While SUBWAYblogger noted that Bloomberg knew his plan was the right one, Diane Cardwell of The Times explained how Bloomberg didn’t adequately convince the state legislature of this fact:
At a news conference in Brooklyn yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg denounced lawmakers for failing to even take up his plan, suggesting that they lacked “guts” and that their inaction would result in children being exposed to polluted air. “Albany just does not seem to get it,” he said …
[But] Rather than engaging either Gov. Eliot Spitzer or legislative leaders from the beginning, they said, Mr. Bloomberg and his aides sprang a complex proposal on the Legislature at the end of its session, seemed unprepared to answer questions or revise details, missed opportunities to sway legislators, and then used the deadline to apply for federal financing as a bludgeon to shove the plan through.
“The constant drumbeat of the deadline may have done more harm than good — people got their backs up,” said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, who favored the plan. “People don’t like to have a gun to their head.”
While The Daily News came down more firmly on the side of Mayor Bloomberg, they too noted that political machinations doomed the congestion pricing plan. Republican Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who couldn’t muster all of his troops behind the plan, blamed Gov. Eliot Spitzer for a failure of leadership, and The News noted that the Assembly has grown tired of caving to a powerful executive (in this case, Bloomberg).
While the state missed the July 16th deadline that would have ensured over $500 million in federal funds for the implementation of the congestion fee, not everyone is ready to declare the plan dead forever. Sewell Chan at the CityRoom blog notes that the Straphangers have urged the state to continue work on a congestion fee plan. Other are using this opportunity to push other ideas — such as bike sharing — that would hopefully get cars off the road.
The Streetsblog advocates, major proponents of the congestion fee, responded yesterday as well. In fact, they went so far as to print a letter from the man who killed the congestion fee. Richard Brodsky, an Assembly representative from Westchester whose constituents would have the most to lose from the plan, work tirelessly to fight the pricing plan. Earlier this month, Streetsblog noted that Brodsky took in more from the parking industry than any other representative. Brodsky claims he was working for the democratic process and that the parking industry money he takes in had nothing to do with his stance on the congestion fee. And I have a bridge to sell you.
No matter where everything stands today, though, we have to remember that the congestion fee isn’t dead forever. It’s just dead for now and no longer can enjoy the possibility of a $500 million federal grant. A reader of mine — an ex-pat Jerry living in Prague — says he visits London frequently and notes that the congestion fee works in reducing traffic. One day, New York will take some responsibility for its transportation and environmental future and become like London. We lost this round, but we can’t give up this fight. The congestion fee in New York will happen, and it will happen soon.