Gov. Kathy Hochul and the head of the MTA on Tuesday touted a congestion pricing plan for Manhattan but some Long Islanders say it's a bad idea. NewsdayTV's Cecilia Dowd reports.  Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; File Footage

Transit advocates on Tuesday celebrated approval of a congestion pricing plan that will charge higher tolls for motorists driving below 60th Street in Manhattan as a way to ease traffic and improve air quality, while some Long Island business owners said it will be a burden.

The new tolls, which would give the Metropolitan Transportation Authority a financial boost of an estimated $1 billion a year, could begin as early as May, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office said in a statement.

"We are going to be the first state in the nation, the very first city in America to have a congestion pricing plan," Hochul said during a news conference with transit leaders at the NYU Kimmel Center in Manhattan. "We are setting the standard right here, in real time for how we can achieve cleaner air, safer streets, and better transit."

The Federal Highway Administration gave final approval to the congestion pricing plan on Monday.


  • Motorists driving below 60th Street in Manhattan will pay a toll that could range from as much as $23 to $34.50 during peak hours, depending whether or not they use E-Z Pass.
  • The program is expected to bring in $1 billion a year to the MTA to finance $15 billion in bonds.
  • Supporters say the plan could reduce traffic in that section of Manhattan between 10% to 20%.

Under the plan, cars with E-ZPass will pay up to $23 for driving below 60th Street during peak hours. Motorists without E-ZPass could pay up to $34.50.

The final decision on toll prices will come after the Traffic Mobility Review Board holds public hearings and makes recommendations over the next couple of months. The six-member panel includes a Long Island representative, John Durso of the Long Island Federation of Labor.

Hochul and project proponents said the plan could slash traffic 15% to 20%, improve air quality and reduce traffic crashes.

But opponents said the new tolls will be a burden for businesses as well as people who need to travel into Manhattan for appointments and other needs.

Freeport Mayor Robert T. Kennedy, who owns Winston Mechanical Corp. in Queens, estimates congestion pricing will his company an additional $50,000 a year — a cost he’ll pass along to his customers.

“What do we do when we send four or five vehicles into the city every day?“ said Kennedy, who called for exemptions for service trade workers, including plumbers, electricians, and HVAC companies. 

If they have to pay the full toll, “I think you're going to start seeing some of these businesses fading out,” he said.

Responding to Kennedy’s comments, MTA chairman Janno Lieber said there are more than 100 requests for exemptions being considered, but noted that trade workers traveling into and out of Manhattan for work will benefit from clearer streets.

“The governor talked about the fact that average New Yorkers who drive are losing 100 hours a year in traffic,” Lieber said. “People who drive more, like delivery workers and trade workers, it's even more. That time has value.”

Hochul also pointed out that, among the proposals being considered, is one that would not charge any tolls during overnight hours — potentially incentivizing deliveries to be made during that time. 

But Hochul noted that the more exemptions given, the higher the toll rates have to be on other drivers to generate the $1 billion annual revenue target. The Long Island Rail Road stands to keep 10% of the toll dollars.

"We’re trying to get it right, but also the more categories of people you exclude, the more you have to charge for the remaining effected communities,” Hochul said. 

Residents of the area covered by the tolls, who make less than $60,000 a year, will get a New York State tax credit for any tolls they pay.

U.S. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park) called the plan “a direct assault on our suburban way of life” and “a direct tax on people traveling and commuting into the city.”

But Lieber said, by finally enacting congestion pricing after decades of debate, New York is leading the way for other big cities looking for ways to combat chronic problems, including climate change, traffic accidents, and the need for increased infrastructure funding.

“This is our moment to do something about the conditions that threaten the viability of New York," Lieber said. "The world is looking at us as a model."

Lieber noted that according to the state law passed in 2019 allowing for congestion pricing, the plan must result in a reduction in the number of cars in the toll zone of at least 10%.

"We'd like to shoot for better than that to really start to clear up traffic, clear up the air, reduce traffic violence," Lieber said at the earlier meeting. "But also, the second mission is to generate enough revenue to allow us to bond up to $15 billion for the MTA Capital Program."

With Cecilia Dowd

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