Thursday’s Headlines: Congestion Pricing Deniers Edition

That's a power breakfast. Photo: Buck Ennis/Crain's New York Business
That's a power breakfast. Photo: Buck Ennis/Crain's New York Business

Mayor Adams picked a weird time to suddenly pretend that he doesn’t support congestion pricing.

That was the big story out of yesterday’s Crain’s “power breakfast” — Hizzoner’s odd answer when asked what kind of exemptions he’d like to see to congestion pricing. Here’s what he said:

I think we have to be very careful. Another project [laughs] congestion pricing. New York City had very little input. New York State just wants to control New York City. But I think Ritchie Torres is right — how much is this going to impact a high asthma district and make sure that we’re not being unfair to the outer boroughs. We have to be extremely thoughtful; there should be exemptions. Miss Jones must come to Manhattan. Low-income New Yorkers, those who need cancer treatment, should we just ignore that fact and say you are going to pay the same price of those who are driving because of luxury? So we must have a thoughtful conversation. … I hope to do that and get it right.

The weird time was simply because the city is marking its annual climate week, while the United Nations General Assembly is in town causing hellish traffic while people are still staying away from transit — climate change, traffic and transit woes being three things that congestion pricing would mitigate.

Naturally, Adams knew that all of us humble scribes would run to the MTA’s monthly board meeting and ask CEO Janno Lieber what he thought of the mayor’s comments. Man, Lieber didn’t think much — first pointing out that the current mayor is a supporter of congestion pricing and then segueing to reminding the mayor that too many exemptions will mean too many cars. And too many cars will make the next Mayor’s Management Report look even worse than it does (hint, hint).

“The city has been right with us all the way through,” Lieber said. “We are fully expecting they will be partners because they are as concerned as we are that buses ain’t moving. The Mayor’s Management Report shows 911 calls are being delayed. … because of gridlock. Ambulances aren’t getting where they have to go. This is in the Mayor’s Management Report. I am pretty confident that they will continue to be partners. … I don’t think anyone wants us to go back to the Summer of Hell 2017, which was a result of underinvestment.” (He also pointed out that congestion pricing passed the state legislature — a clear reminder from Lieber that the city had plenty of input given that the legislature is dominated by members from New York City.)

Lots of outlets covered the story:

  • The Daily News went with a different angle from Clayton Guse’s follow up question to Lieber about New Jersey’s congestion pricing opponents. “Do these people not believe what’s going on in New York?” Lieber said. “We have a problem in our country with climate deniers and election deniers, and it seems like we now have traffic deniers. In New York, we’re not in denial. [Traffic] is bad for the air, it’s bad for people being hit by cars and trucks. Gridlock is real. Hopefully, we will get through this mishagas with the traffic deniers.” [Mishagas is a Yiddish word meaning, ostensibly, “craziness.”]
  • The Post really overplayed Adams’s remarks to fit the paper’s Cuozzean anti-congestion pricing agenda, only to include a long statement from a City Hall spokesperson that rowed back the mayor’s comments.
  • NY1 played it straight.

There’ll be twin rallies today in support of congestion pricing. One at 9:30 a.m. at Brooklyn Borough Hall and another at 11 a.m. at the PATH Exchange Place station.

In other news stemming from the MTA’s board meeting:

And in other news:

  • An illegal ATV rider hurt a woman on a Citi Bike. (NYDN, NY Post)
  • Like Streetsblog, the Daily News and the Post covered the arrest of the driver whom cops say killed a 5-year-old boy earlier this month in Queens.
  • Hell Gate did a deep dive into our filthy record on recycling.
  • The City looked at how difficult it is for injured delivery workers to get insurance compensation after they’ve been injured.