De Blasio: Not So Fast On Congestion Pricing

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his fifth State of the City address at the Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on Tuesday, February 13, 2018. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

If Mayor Bill de Blasio recently threw out an olive branch regarding Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan, he pruned it back yesterday.

In the mayor’s State of the City Address delivered at the Kings Theater, 1027 Flatbush Avenue, he reiterated his belief in the Millionaires Tax Plan as the solution for repairing and modernizing the ailing Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office.

“I think we should redouble our efforts for millionaires tax. And the millionaire’s tax would allow us to fix our subway and to fund the fair fare proposal of half price metro cards for low-income New Yorkers,” said de Blasio.

The proposed plan would make wealthy New Yorkers pay for subway and bus upgrades including reduced fares for low-income riders.

At the same time, de Blasio voiced some skepticism on Cuomo’s Congestion Pricing Plan. Under this proposal motorists could pay more than $11 once for making trips below 60th Street in Manhattan while new surcharges ranging from $2 to $5 per trip for taxis, limousines and for-hire vehicles (i.e. Uber) will be added on for those who use these services in the pricing zone.

The congestion pricing plan is estimated to raise $1.5 billion annually  — the amount the MTA agrees must be raised to fix the subway system, but de Blasio noted all the money must be earmarked to fix the city’s transit woes and not go into regional MTA fixes.

“I will sit down with leaders in Albany any time, anywhere, to find a solution to the subway crisis.  I have only one condition, the money raised in New York City stays in New York City,” stated the Mayor. “As New Yorkers, how do I but it gently, we’re nobody’s fools. So we need to guarantee the lock box. We need to know the money that is raised will fund improvements to subways and buses in the five boroughs, period.”

Addressing the millionaires tax was just one item in de Blasio’s 12-point plan he released as part of his speech, in which he also stated his aim to build and preserve 300,000 homes by 2026 by tackling issues like increasing the city’s minimum wage and getting New Yorker’s better paying jobs.

However, the affordable housing initiative was a moot point for many Brooklyn New York City Public Housing (NYCHA) residents and advocates who held a ‘State of NYCHA: Freezing’ protest outside the Kings Theater before the Mayor’s Address to demand immediate action to the heating crisis in public housing developments.

The group demanded more action and accountability in fixing the heat and hot water problems that NYCHA buildings have been facing this year, in which 80 percent or about 320,000  out of NYCHA’s 390,000 residents have had a lack of heat and hot water this winter. The residents and advocates demanded $2 billion this year and $1 billion per year after to fully fund repairs and improvements, as well as the establishment of a Resident Oversight Council to ensure bureaucratic accountability.

As the last part de Blasio’s 12-part plan, the Mayor did mention injecting funds into improving living abilities at NYCHA developments on mold and roof repair and briefly mentioned the heating crisis. De Blasio plans on rolling out a comprehensive effort in the form of $1 billion through the NextGen NYCHA Plan, which sells off parcels of NYCHA property for mixed market-rate/affordable housing with the added revenue going back to NYCHA.

A large part of de Blasio’s speech reiterated the administration’s successful roll out of pre-K and three-K for all, as well as an initiative to increase voter turnout, and a continuing lambasting of President Donald Trump and the Republican-led tax reform bill.

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