A grassroots petition launched by a small, but influential group of Upper East Siders is gaining traction among residents opposed to the state’s so-called ‘Congestion Pricing’ plan, which will slice the island of Manhattan in half with a $23 toll — all to give the perpetually fiscally-challenged Metropolitan Transit Authority a new revenue stream the agency can borrow money against.
“Congestion Pricing is an unfair and regressive tax which places additional burden on seniors, families, mobility-challenged, and just hardworking folks looking to get by,” says Andrew Fine, Vice President of the East 86th Street association and founding member of The Coalition in Opposition to Congestion Pricing.
The group, which also counts Upper East Side community board members Michele Birnbaum, Ed Hartzog and Valerie Mason among its founders, is working to organize neighbors across the Upper East Side and the Tri-State area to fight back the new tax on cars and trucks that need to go south of 60th Street.
“A common misperception is that if you don’t own a car, it won’t impact you. It will. CP is inflationary. It will drive up costs on everything from labor, services, deliveries, Ubers, even your groceries. NYC is expensive enough,” explained Fine, “We don’t need more expenses.”
“All New Yorkers deserve and want modern, accessible, clean and safe public transportation,” said Valerie Mason, Vice Chair of Community Board 8 and President of the East 72nd Street Association, speaking in a personal capacity.
“This plan will not come close to help achieving that goal but it will succeed in hurting middle income and poor working New Yorkers in their pocketbooks and where they live, the hardest,” Mason added.
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In just a week’s time, the COCP petition is already approaching two-thousand signatures, which include everyone from fellow Upper East Siders, New Jerseyans, and even those that live within the so called ‘Central Business District’ below East 60th Street on the Upper East Side.
“I live in the zone and this can possibly cost me, a single mother, thousands of dollars per year in a period of high inflation and already debilitating cost, just to go to and from my home,” wrote Maryssa Miller as she added her name to COCP’s petition.
“I can’t believe no one has spoken up for the people who live in the zone, especially those with young families who need accessible options. This will definitely force me out of Manhattan if it goes through,” Miller added.
In addition to the staggering cost on drivers, the COCP has a long list of reasons why they’re against the “ill-conceived” plan, including increased congestion on the UES caused by Uber and Lyft vehicles cruising the neighborhood while waiting for fares in Midtown as well as the detrimental effect the toll will have on seniors and disabled New Yorkers who can’t use public transportation and need to see doctors in Midtown.
“It’s a stupid plan that penalizes the poor and middle class. If you want to alleviate traffic problems, enforce illegal double parked trucks that are the primary cause of congestion,” wrote Peter Sapienza while adding his name to the petition.
“Congestion pricing will not solve the problems it claims to, specifically congestion and pollution,” COCP co-founder and Community Board 8 member Ed Hertzog told Upper East Site, “rather, this is an unwritten regressive tax on middle class families living in transit deserts with no choice but to pay this $23 penalty.”
Not satisfied with an additional $1 billion a year in new tolls ‘Congestion Pricing’ will generate, the historically fiscally-mismanaged MTA plans to parlay the windfall into enough cash to pay for its infrastructure plan by borrowing $15 billion against the new revenue stream.
“Congestion Pricing is a scheme to bail out a fiscally irresponsible MTA whose reputation for poor management is notorious,” Michelle Birnbaum, a member of Community Board 8’s Congestion Pricing Task Force, told Upper East Site.
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“This tax will burden the already burdened low-income community, the disabled and all those who commute from underserved mass transit communities,” Birnbaum added, speaking in a personal capacity.
Instead of burdening drivers with the MTA’s money woes, the COCP says the cash-strapped agency could raise the cash it needs simply by focusing on eliminating fare and toll evasion, waste and fraud.
“The MTA loses a half billion dollars a year just to fare evasion, it paid out over $842 Billion in overtime in just the first nine month of last year,” Birnbaum added, “projects are routinely not completed in a timely manner or within budget.”
The Coalition in Opposition to Congestion Pricing is planing a rally on Sunday, March 12th, however a location has not yet been set. In the meantime, you can add your name to the COCP petition against ‘Congestion Pricing’ by clicking here or visiting StopCongestionPricing.com.
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