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New ferry service promised to commuters - Recchia joins others in supporting mayor’s congestion pricing plan

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Coney Island will get a ferry service as a result of the City Council vote to approve a congestion pricing plan that will charge Brooklyn motorists to drive to parts of Manhattan, according to a local Councilmember. “The people of southwest Brooklyn are going to benefit by this congestion pricing, because we are going to have ferry service from Coney Island to Manhattan and from 58th Street to Manhattan,” said City Coun-cilmember Domenic Recchia, who voted in favor of the plan. “We will be doing a study to see where we can put express bus routes for Gravesend and Bensonhurst. Our stations will be renovated first and then we’re going to figure a way for an express [subway] service from Manhattan to Coney Island,” he added. Recchia was one of several borough councilmembers who had been publicly undecided about the controversial congestion pricing plan before the vote. “It’s a plan that addresses the traffic congestion and the aging mass transit system. I firmly believe our city is facing a crisis and I support this initiative. It’s the only practical means of controlling congestion and building a 21st century transit network,” said Recchia. Under the congestion pricing plan, cars from the outer boroughs would pay $8 and trucks would pay $21 to drive below 60th Street in Manhattan between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. Motor vehicles traveling from upstate New York, New Jersey and Long Island will not have to pay a fee if they already pay $8 for a bridge and/or tunnel fee. However, if they pay less than $8 the difference will have to be made up in the congestion fee. This holds true for the Battery Park Tunnel, where the current toll price is $4.50, and if the tunnel is used by Brooklyn commuters, they will pay only $3.50 more to drive into Manhattan. Low-income families who pay the congestion fee will also get a deduction through their Earned Income Tax credit. The plan also includes the opportunity for borough neighborhoods to opt into a residential permit parking plan. The city “home rule” vote now goes to Albany, where the Senate and Assembly must pass a similar bill by April 7 in order for the federal government to give the state $354 million for mass transit improvement. Bloomberg and advocates of the plan have argued that the federal money, along with an estimated $491 million generated annually from the congestion pricing, would give the city billions of dollars for mass transit improvements and capital projects. If the state ultimately passes a similar measure, a congestion pricing system would start charging drivers by March 31, 2009, using a network of cameras and E-Z pass to monitor every vehicle entering the zone by bridge, tunnel or surface street. The measure passed the City Council, 30-20, although the Brooklyn councilmembers voted 9-7 against the measure. A majority of Queens and Staten Island councilmembers also voted against the plan, but the Manhattan and Bronx delegations voted unanimously in favor of congestion pricing. Brooklyn City Councilmembers voting against the measure were Diana Reyna, Michael Nelson, Darlene Mealy, Vincent Gentile, Lew Fidler, Mathieu Eugene, Erik Dilan, Bill de Blasio and Charles Baron. Voting in favor of the congestion pricing plan were Recchia, Kendall Stewart Simcha Felder, Sara Gonzalez, Letitia James, Albert Vann and David Yassky. Fidler, who remains one of the city’s most ardent opponents of the plan, said the vote was very close, evidenced by the fact there has never been 20 members voting “no” to a matter brought to the floor with the support of the Speaker. “It expresses very clearly that without pressure of the mayor on the issues not germane to congestion pricing, this would have been defeated,” said Fidler. Stewart, who represents mainly East Flatbush, and previously said he was against the plan, voted for it. “We have to do something for the great increase and growth we’ll have in next 10-15 years and something has to be in place,” said Stewart. Stewart said he was also encouraged to hear that the Port Authority will kick in $1 billion for mass transit improvements to offset the fact that drivers from New Jersey and who utilize the Hudson River tunnels will not pay anything. Stewart, who is term-limited and wants to unseat State Sen. Kevin Parker, also said the billionaire mayor’s people told him they will take his political future into consideration and said, “who will be with us will always be with us.” Conversely, de Blasio, who was also undecided, but represents Park Slope and other Downtown neighborhoods supportive of congestion pricing, voted against the plan. “This plan, sadly, does not ensure that we will see mass transit improvements and expansions where they are most needed – in the outer boroughs. The ‘lock box’ attached to the congestion pricing plan only guarantees that the funding is used for transit improvements in general — not for improvements in Brooklyn or the other boroughs,” said de Blasio. “At the end of day, Brooklyn residents could end up footing the bill for a set of Manhattan mega projects without a single Brooklyn capital project to show for it,” he added.

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