86th Street: The Congestion Pricing Battle Line

The 86th Street border of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed congestion pricing zone is emerging as the northern front of an increasingly intense political battle. Last week, Upper East Side City Council Member Jessica Lappin worried that congestion pricing would bring a "crush of cars circling around 86th Street looking for parking spots." Over on the West Side Council Member Gale Brewer and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal expressed similar concerns.

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On Memorial Day, I had a chance to speak with Micah Kellner, the Democratic Party’s candidate for the New York State Assembly seat left vacant by Pete Grannis who was such a strong environmental advocate Gov. Spitzer elevated him to the head of the Department of Environmental Conservation. I asked him to clarify the report in the New York Sun that he opposed Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, despite supporting the plan "in concept." He said:

The purpose of congestion pricing is to reduce traffic and congestion, not just shift congestion to a different neighborhood. I believe having the border at 86th Street will be a disaster for the people living between 86th and 96th Streets. It will create gridlock there and turn the area into a parking lot. I think the border should be at 59th Street. I also want the mayor to commit to incentives for night deliveries and to support the cross-harbor freight tunnel, which he continually flip flops on.

When I challenged him on his vision of Carmmegedon in Yorkville and Carnegie Hill he responded with a few ancedotes of comments he’s heard on the campaign trail: People looking for parking on 88th Street would not be able to look below 86th Street. People working near 86th street would exit the FDR at 96th street, park and walk the rest of the way.

I told Kellner that my greatest concern was that the bickering over where to draw the line would delay or sink the whole plan. He was not worried. "I think we will see congestion pricing of some type get implemented. There will be a vote and it will pass."

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