Teachers' Union, Staten Island borough president file lawsuit to halt congestion pricing

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Friday, January 5, 2024
UFT, SI borough president file lawsuit over congestion pricing
N.J. Burkett has more on the debate over congestion pricing.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The United Federation of Teachers and the office of the Staten Island Borough President filed a federal lawsuit Thursday to halt congestion pricing in Manhattan.

New York City's congestion pricing plan is set to go into effect this spring.

However, the lawsuit claims the the "regressive and discriminatory" program can't be put in place until a thorough environmental impact statement is completed -- including the potential impact on air quality in Staten Island and the Bronx.

The congestion pricing plan "would not eliminate air and noise pollution and traffic, but would simply shift pollution and traffic to Staten Island, the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and Northern New Jersey," according to the lawsuit.

"Congestion pricing would be a three-strike loser for Staten Island residents," Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella said. "According to the MTA's own study, it would be both a financial and environmental burden; not to mention it will result in more traffic for our borough. It is just plain wrong to once again ask Staten Islanders to assume such a burden when they will see little to no benefit. It happened with the Fresh Kills landfill. It is happening with the migrant crisis."

The lawsuit alleges that professions like teachers, firefighters, police officers, EMS workers, sanitation workers and other essential workers would bear the burden of the costs.

"Thousands of teachers and other UFT members, along with many other workers, live in places with little or no access to mass transit," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. "They are facing dramatically rising commuting costs, and all for a traffic reduction plan whose potential effects on air quality and other issues were never seriously examined."

Congestion pricing would impose a $15 fee on vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street. Additionally, trucks could pay $24-$36, depending on size, motorcycles would pay $7.50, taxis would pay $1.25 and rideshare vehicles would pay $2.50.

By one estimate, congestion pricing will cost the average Staten Island motorist $74 a day to commute into and out of Manhattan. That, for residents of a place with so little mass transit options that 83% of them own cars.

Troy McGhie, a Staten Island schoolteacher who drives his wife to Manhattan for cancer treatments, is one of those residents.

"All of those doctors are downtown. And this congestion pricing, they haven't taken those people into consideration," he said.

MTA Chief, Policy & External Relations, John J. McCarthy released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

"The environmental review process for congestion pricing involved four years of consultation with government agencies, public outreach meetings, and engagement with tens of thousands of public comments, with hundreds of pages of painstaking detail released that considered impacts on traffic, air quality, and environmental justice across the metropolitan area. And if we really want to combat ever-worsening clogged streets we must adequately fund a public transit system that will bring safer and less congested streets, cleaner air, and better transit for the vast majority of students and teachers who take mass transit to school."

Opponents of congestion pricing are almost out of time. Public hearings are set for February, and the first tolls are expected to be collected in the spring.

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