New York Governor Defends Blocking Plan That Would Make Manhattan Drivers Pay For Subway Repairs


FILE – Newly installed toll traffic cameras hang above West End Ave. near 61st Street in the Manhattan borough of New York, November 16, 2023. New York Governor Kathy Hochul is trying to raise taxes on businesses in the city to fill a major budget gap left after she halted a plan to toll motorists to ease the to enter downtown Manhattan. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday defended her decision to block a plan to reduce traffic in New York City and raise billions for the ailing subway system through a new tolls for drivers in Manhattan – but provided few details on how they would replace the financial and environmental benefits of the program.

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In her first public appearance since announcing she would suspend congestion pricing indefinitely, Hochul claimed the move was prompted by the economy and conversations with New Yorkers, especially people at a Manhattan restaurant she frequents.

“I can’t do anything right right now that would also drain the vitality from this city while we’re still fighting for our comeback,” she told reporters at a news conference announced four minutes before it was scheduled to begin Friday evening. in Albania.

Hochul this week proposed raising taxes on businesses to offset toll revenue. The proposal immediately sparked criticism that higher taxes would hurt the city’s continued recovery from COVID-19 and would conflict with its rationale for ending the program. Lawmakers ultimately rejected the tax increase plan.

The governor, who released a pre-recorded video statement Wednesday pausing the program, had previously been a staunch advocate for the toll and had described it as “transformative” as of about two weeks ago.

The program would start on June 30. It was signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019 after years of work by public transit and environmental advocates, who argued it would result in better public transit and cleaner air in the city. Drivers entering the core of Manhattan would have to pay a toll of about $15, depending on the vehicle type.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which would oversee the plan, has already installed cameras, sensors and license plate readers for the program and has reached a more than $500 million contract with a private vendor to build the toll infrastructure, according to New York City exploit. Independent Budget Office.

Overall, congestion pricing revenues are expected to reach $1 billion a year and fund $15 billion in capital projects for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, many of which are urgently needed upgrades to the city’s beleaguered subways.

It was not clear from Hochul’s comments how she planned to replace that money. But she told reporters: “We’ve thought about this a lot.”

“No one should question my commitment or the commitment of leadership to ensure these projects are properly funded,” the governor said.

State lawmakers will end their term Friday and do not appear ready to pass legislation to replace revenue from congestion charges.

“Derailing this important program at the last possible moment and asking the Legislature to come up with an alternative funding mechanism within 48 hours is irresponsible and contrary to the principles of good governance,” said Senate Vice President Michael Gianaris, a Democrat .

Hochul said at her news conference that she had the legal authority to stop the law without the approval of the MTA board. She said, “There is no need for them to take action” because she paused the plan and did not end it. She did not clarify if or when she might reinstate the program.

Some board members have said they were not informed before the governor’s announcement and were confused about how certain projects would now be funded while tolls were on pause.

“This wasn’t waking up one day and saying ‘let’s do this,’” Hochul said. “That’s not how I work.”

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