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Wheels up on congestion pricing
In a pair of conference calls Friday morning, members of the Fix NYC panel tasked with coming up with a congestion-pricing plan, and then a group of advocates on transit and the environment, among others, tried to explain and analyze a proposal that would institute a fee system to fund mass transit and reduce traffic.
Everyone from former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer to New York City business advocate Kathryn Wylde to Riders Alliance director John Raskin participated. The sole participant with ties to Long Island was real estate developer Scott Rechler. Fix NYC member and Long Island Association chief executive Kevin Law was not on the call.
Had he been, he might’ve been asked: What’s in it for Long Island?
The panel’s proposal would charge for driving anywhere below 60th Street in Manhattan. The fee? An odd-seeming $11.52 — so arrived at because it’s double what commuters with E-ZPass pay for one-way trips on the Midtown Tunnel and Throgs Neck Bridge. Since drivers are charged in both directions on those crossings, a one-time zone fee would cover it all.
Those who try to snake over to the 59th Street Bridge, or the Brooklyn Bridge, could avoid paying for the trip if they head right to the FDR Drive and don’t enter the zone, even if they might have to sit in traffic.
The money would go to a dedicated Metropolitan Transportation Authority revenue stream — but dedicated to NYC Transit subways and buses, not the LIRR.
In the original proposal from the transit group Move NY, Long Islanders got a piece of the pie, as the plan suggested lower tolls for the Throgs Neck, Whitestone, Verrazano and RFK bridges. In a statement Friday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo suggested that reducing those tolls should be part of any approved plan.
But the Fix NYC proposal, which doesn’t change bridge tolls at all, doesn’t even throw a bone to Nassau and Suffolk residents.
Members of the Fix NYC panel said Friday that LIRR improvements like East Side Access and the third track will help, adding that the zoned pricing wouldn’t start until at least 2020. And, they noted, Long Islanders could expect two additional potential perks:
First, with more money going to the subways, there could be a larger pot for the LIRR to get dollars from.
Second, if the plan works as it should, there would be fewer cars on the road.
A trouble-free trip on the LIRR, or a traffic-free trip on the roads?
Randi F. Marshall
Fight or fix
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s poll numbers were up big-time in the Siena College Research Institute poll released this week — standing at 62 percent, a four-year high. Just two months ago, he was at 52 percent.
So what happened in that interval to explain the surge in popularity? Could it be his almost daily news conferences denouncing Congress for sucker-punching New York by capping the federal deduction for state and local taxes?
That’s what the pundits think. Especially because the poll found that 58 percent of those surveyed support Cuomo’s talk about suing the federal government to stop the change.
Cuomo is seeking a third term in November and there is no significant challenger in his way. It seems his biggest risk is whether voters who like him fighting for their deductions will be disappointed when he can’t deliver results. It’s one thing to fight and another to actually fix.
If voters expect the latter by next fall, those numbers could come back down to Earth.
In the weeds
Empty seats on Suffolk County Community College board
Going into its monthly meeting on Thursday, the Suffolk County Community College board was concerned the numbers weren’t there for a quorum. Two of the 10 seats are open, awaiting appointment by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office. On Wednesday night, one board member was sick, and another was out of town.
Six people did show up Thursday morning — but only because trustee Brian Lilly continues to attend even though his term has expired, a common practice on many boards.
Suffolk County Democratic Party chairman Rich Schaffer told The Point that he has sent the names of nominees to the governor’s office, including that of Kevin O’Connor, chief executive of Bridge Bancorp, the Bridgehampton-based parent of BNB Bank. O’Connor is an SCCC alumnus who has bragged about it in a recent TV commercial for the college.
The community college actually had three board vacancies, but this fall, Cuomo appointed Shirley E. Coverdale, who co-chairs the Suffolk Democrats’ black and Hispanic committee.
Schaffer said he nudged the governor’s office again this week on filling the other two vacancies on the board. “One goal is to diversify the board, and another is to get past students who’ve had successful careers,” Schaffer said of the nominations list.