Bronx Traffic Relief Forum Tonight, 7:30pm, Riverdale Temple

Dinosaur.jpgBronx Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz is hosting a forum tonight on Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan. Speaking in favor of congestion pricing will be Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. Speaking in opposition to congestion pricing will be Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. Both are members of the 17-person Congestion Mitigation Commission.

The press release says that residents of the Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Van Cortlandt Village, Norwood, Woodlawn and Wakefield communities will be given an opportunity to ask questions and make statements on this important issue. Perhaps if you work, shop or travel through the Bronx on a regular basis, they’ll also let you say a few words. You can find the details here.

It would be good for traffic relief advocates to show up. You can bet that opponents of congestion pricing will be out in force. Dinowitz has made clear that he himself is one of them. And Riverdale is identified in PlaNYC as one of 22 neighborhoods with a higher-than-average concentration of Manhattan-bound car commuters.

In recent writings, Dinowitz has been responsible for propagating many common misconceptions about Mayor Bloomberg’s plan — that efforts to reduce automobile dependence and traffic congestion are somehow "elitist in nature," that air quality benefits will magically stop at the 86th Street border, that mass transit won’t improve under the Mayor’s proposal, and that the federal grant deadline to fund congestion pricing was "a lie." So, all in all, it’s great to see Dinowitz hosting a debate on the issue between two players who represent their sides well.

Watching the goings-on in Albany since summer I’ve increasingly gotten the sense that many New York State legislators must be profoundly cynical about the possibility that government can actually make New Yorkers lives better (apparently I’m not alone in that feeling).

"Troopergate," has been an absolute joke. Manufactured from whole cloth by Republican dirty-trickster Roger Stone and his mercenary Michael Caputo, the "scandal" has been little more than an excuse for Joe Bruno and his Senate Republicans to keep government out of the way by keeping it dysfunctional. Now, it seems, Albany is in an uproar over drivers licenses for illegal immigrants. At a time when polar ice caps are melting faster than even the most pessimistic models predicted, how in the world did that issue make it to the top of the state agenda?

In the context of all that, it is easy to read the Riverdale Assembly member’s populist "outrage," name-calling, and accusations of personal affront as the sad, instinctive response of yet another New York State legislator who has basically given up on the idea that his job can be meaningful. Outrage is for the powerless. New York City’s Democratic State Assembly members have the power to kill Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan. They have the power to add new ideas to it. And they have the power to facilitate substantive public discussion on the issues. Tonight Dinowitz appears to be trying to do just that. Let’s hope New Yorkers who understand the critical importance of traffic relief show up and make their voices heard.