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Congestion pricing plan needs fixing: Liu, Gioia

City Councilmen John Liu (D-Flushing) - one of the few bastions of support in Queens for the plan - joined Councilmen Thomas White (D-Jamaica), Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) in signing the letter, which calls the mayor's plan to charge drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street unbalanced."Under the current proposal, bridge and tunnel toll payments would be credited against the $8 congestion charge. This means that commuters who currently pay tolls to use the Port Authority and Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority river crossings will pay no additional congestion fee. The bulk of these drivers live outside of New York City," the letter, authored by City Councilman David Yassky (D-Brooklyn), read. "At the same time, drivers who enter Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge, the Manhattan Bridge or the Williamsburg Bridge will pay the full $8 congestion charge. Most of these drivers do live within New York City. This is blatantly unfair."A spokesman for Bloomberg said the administration is open to working with the Council on changes. The letter, signed by nearly half of the City Council, comes at a precarious time for Bloomberg's plan. The U.S. Department of Transportation has earmarked $354 million for the project, but the city and state government must give it a passing vote by March 31 or the funding will be distributed elsewhere. It was also unclear how the scandal swirling around Gov. Eliot Spitzer could affect the plan, with news breaking Monday that he has been a client of a prostitution ring leaving Albany at a virtual standstill Tuesday. Liu, one of the few Queens Council members to express consistent support for the plan, said it not only requires negotiation with Bloomberg but with the state Legislature as well."I think it will come down to the wire," Liu told Community Board 7 in Flushing Monday night. "I don't think the Council will vote on anything the state also doesn't agree to vote for in advance, because that could mean the Council was sticking its neck out to be chopped off by the state and it doesn't tend to do that." Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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