As a State Legislator who is faced with deciding whether or not to approve the Congestion Pricing Plans proposed by the Mayor of the City of New York, I must ask: who is really going to benefit from these plans, and who is going to suffer from their impact?
Although some media organizations, advocacy groups, and distinguished experts have come out in favor of these plans, as a representative of a core part of the South Bronx, which has been identified as the area with the highest asthma rates in the nation - I have some questions to ask.
If approved, how can we prevent more people with vehicles driving through and/or park in the The Bronx - especially the South Bronx?
How can we be assured that these plans won't increase traffic congestion in The Bronx and add more pollution to our already polluted community and further increase the serious and ongoing asthma and respiratory problems that cause our children and families to suffer?
Although I respect the goals of the many distinguished representatives and environmental groups supporting the plan, it puzzles me to see how these groups can approve any project without an environmental impact study before the plan is imposed. It would not be acceptable to build a mini-waste plant in any community and then after the fact, conduct an environmental impact study.
The simple reason for overlooking this health concern is money. What we have is the Mayor's rush to grab a large part of the $1,1 billion dollars in federal setup funds. The United States Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters warned, however, that the City's potential share could be endangered if the Mayor's plan did not have State approval by this August.
If there is any possibility that this plan could be environmentally detrimental to our community – how can it be implemented before first ruling out threats by first conducting an environmental impact study?
Another main concern is fairness. Why is it that Manhattan residents, who already have the best transportation means in the world available to them, will only have to pay $4.00 to drive in our City while those of us in other boroughs who often struggle to travel around our City will have to pay $8.00. I believe the residents of Manhattan who benefit the most, since they have the greatest benefits, should pay more - perhaps $12.00.
Will people who do not have Manhattan residential stickers on their cars be allowed to park in Manhattan, and how will they be able to afford to pay these fees on top of the entering fees?
How can we support a Congestion Pricing Plan that the Mayor alone can decide if the plan may continue or not? The legislators - not the Mayor - should have the power under a sunset provision of three years to decide if this Congestion Pricing Plan is worth it or not.
Finally, I must ask, who will be in charge of implementing this project and collecting the fees? Who will make these determinations?
As a State Senator who resides and works in the South Bronx, I urge New Yorkers to continue to care for our environment, but to not overlook some very serious questions and concerns that must be addressed before anything is set in stone.