State Senator Jose Peralta, Who Opposed Congestion Pricing, Backs Move NY

State Senator Jose Peralta, who opposed congestion pricing and East River bridge tolls as an Assembly member, is the first state legislator to publicly endorse the Move NY toll reform plan. The proposal would create a consistent toll cordon for Manhattan south of 60th Street while lowering tolls on outlying bridges to raise funds for transit and roads (mostly transit).

Photo: NY Senate
Photo: NY Senate

“Sometimes you have to be first to get the ball rolling,” said Peralta, who represents Jackson Heights, Corona, East Elmhurst, and Ditmars-Steinway in Queens. “I wanted to get that ball rolling.”

Peralta said he was motivated to endorse the plan because without a change of course, his constituents would face unending toll and fare hikes and get little in return. “The alternative we’re going to be faced with is that tolls are going to jack up over 20 dollars, and then what?” he said. “There’s no alternative.”

“This is a great long-term solution to a nightmare problem,” Peralta said of Move NY. “You have to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Peralta views the Move NY plan differently than the 2008 congestion pricing proposal and the 2009 plan to toll the East and Harlem River bridges, both of which he opposed.

“What’s changed here is this is a more equitable plan,” he said. “I know there will be tolls on bridges that are currently free, but the balancing off and the reduction of tolls on some of the other bridges will make up for that fact.” Peralta was also attracted by Move NY’s potential to fill the gap in the MTA’s capital program and fund ferry service and express buses.

“The toll reduction is a break when it’s all said and done,” Peralta said. “Instead of talking about toll hikes and fare hikes, if we can inject into the conversation a toll break, a fare break, it’s a win for our constituents.”

Peralta said he met with the Move NY campaign three times, including last week with the Queens delegations to the state legislature and City Council. Peralta said his fellow legislators have had a “mixed reaction,” with some opposed to the plan from the start, while others have questions. “It’s just a matter of educating the legislators, and saying, ‘What’s the alternative?'” Peralta said.

Ultimately, Governor Cuomo must support the plan for it to be successful. So far, he and Mayor Bill de Blasio have been noncommittal about toll reform. “They may want to tweak it… and that’s fine,” Peralta said. “They’ll warm up to it.”

The Jackson Heights Green Alliance, an environmental group based in Peralta’s district, was pleased by his Move NY endorsement. “We welcome Senator Peralta’s support for the Move NY plan,” said JHGA co-founder Will Sweeney. “As residents of Jackson Heights, we endorse efforts to increase funding for mass transit in ways that are equitable, sustainable, and economically viable. Move NY will have a massively positive impact on our community and we urge all our representatives to support it.”

Peralta’s endorsement comes after Bronx Council Member Jimmy Vacca joined Eastern Queens colleague Mark Weprin in backing the plan earlier this week. Move NY expects more legislators to come out in support of its plan in the days ahead.