Eighteen lawmakers, encompassing a mix of Democrats and Republicans, have banded together in a legal effort spearheaded by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) to halt the implementation of a $15 congestion pricing toll in Midtown Manhattan.
The legal challenge seeks to prevent the congestion toll, which affects drivers entering Midtown south of 60th Street, from going into effect.
Critics, including Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella and UFT President Mike Mulgrew, argue that the congestion toll will not only redistribute traffic and pollution but also place undue financial strain on diverse communities throughout New York City.
Fossella emphasized the collective effort needed to combat the toll, stating, “As we have said time and time again, congestion pricing is a detriment to those that will be affected by this toll, environmentally and financially, and for people of all walks of life from across the five boroughs and beyond.”
The lawsuit contends that the plan will merely shift pollution from Manhattan to other boroughs like Staten Island, exacerbating environmental and economic challenges for those communities.
UFT President Mulgrew said, “We are determined to challenge the current regressive and discriminatory plan for congestion pricing; as now constituted, it will only succeed in moving traffic and pollution from one part of the city to another, even as it increases the economic burden on working- and middle-class communities.”
Plaintiffs from Hudson Valley argue that their constituents are unfairly disadvantaged by the congestion pricing toll, citing inadequate transit services as the primary reason.
Democratic State Senator James Skoufis, at a press conference held at a Metro-North train station, highlighted the disparity in transit services, expressing frustration over the high costs imposed on Orange County residents who lack adequate mass transit options.
“Between the George Washington Bridge and this new toll, $30 for the ‘privilege’ of driving into Manhattan when my constituents do not have a mass transit alternative is outright theft,” Skoufis remarked.
Skoufis mentioned that during the initial stages of the MTA’s deliberations on a congestion pricing strategy, assurances were given to legislators that the needs of travelers from Orange and Rockland, who suffer from a scarcity of train services, would be taken into account.
He said, “As we all know by now, the congestion pricing recommendations were recently unveiled and they absolutely, certainly did not consider the unique inadequateness of the train service here in Orange County.”
Transit authorities anticipate that the congestion toll will generate $1 billion annually. This revenue is earmarked for securing $15 billion in bonds aimed at financing improvements to the subway, commuter railroads, and bus systems under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).
Governor Kathy Hochul endorses the plan, stating it will elevate New York City to a global forefront in transportation policy through reduced emissions and lessened traffic congestion.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther also criticized the MTA for treating commuters from Orange, Sullivan, and Rockland counties as mere revenue sources without providing sufficient transit solutions.
“The congestion pricing recommendation to charge $15 for the privilege to enter midtown is a slap in the face,” Gunther said, voicing her support for the legal challenge against what she views as an “outrageous plan.”
The MTA has defended the congestion pricing program, citing a comprehensive environmental review process that spanned four years and involved extensive public consultation.
An MTA spokesman last month highlighted the efforts to consider the program’s impacts on traffic, air quality, and environmental justice, arguing that the initiative is crucial for funding necessary upgrades to the city’s public transit systems and alleviating street congestion.