City Hall has one of the finest views of the Brooklyn Bridge: a unique angle of a Gilded Age wonder, with its Gothic arches and cable lattice pointing upward for nearly 140 years, now captured daily by Tik Tok phototourists.
And though my City Hall colleagues (and our pals in the statehouse) can’t seem to see it, this magnificent bridge is also a triumph of urban transportation, allowing middle-class residents outside dense Manhattan to get themselves to their jobs, doctors, relatives, shops, restaurants and theaters.
Instead, Gov. Kathy Hochul & Co. see this as an untapped cash cow at best, a conveyor of evil cars at worst. It is this perspective of the Brooklyn Bridge and other crossings that link the outer boroughs to the central business district that now manifests in congestion pricing, the most punishing tax on workaday New Yorkers in generations.
The plans are now laid bare in the MTA’s Environmental Impact Statement: every car trip, taxi, for-hire vehicle you may need is set to come with an added price. For Manhattanites, every truck carrying every good you eat, drink, wear, play or work with will arrive with a new fee, passed on to consumers already faced with one of the nation’s highest costs of living. Inflation be damned!
This is the “Hochul Hike,” after all, a tax our governor is doubling down on, as it doubles, if not quadruples, the normal road costs for hundreds of thousands of New York and New Jersey households. At a time when poll after poll shows Americans most concerned about soaring prices for vital goods, our Albany brain trust somehow thinks adding to that burden is a swell idea.
Let me again draw our elected leaders’ eyes toward the Brooklyn Bridge. Below the throngs of Instagrammers, joggers and souvenir hawkers runs the real river of bridge regulars, its automobile commuters: 116,000 vehicles per day, according to official counts.
Our governor, MTA leadership and legislators need to take an honest look at those vehicles flooding our central core with office workers, busboys, barbacks and builders. What’s the ratio of Maseratis to Mazdas? Range Rovers to Rav4s? Beemers to old beaters?
Or peek at the minivans, the true chariot of New York’s diverse ethnic communities. Each morning, phalanxes of Odysseys, Voyagers and Caravans cruise New York’s asphalt arteries, packed with working-class passengers of every race, religion and creed, on their way to their Manhattan job site or to enjoy a metropolis to which they already tender tremendous taxes.
Congestion-pricing pushers don’t want you to think about them. They’d have you believe car commuters are some class of landed suburban gentry, Casamigos cocktail party extras from “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
Reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The central core is made up of some of the highest-income census tracts in the country, averaging over $100,000 per household. In Queens, it’s more like $72,000. Under congestion-pricing, wealthy Manahttanites get the goods, while the middle class of Queens gets the bill. How’s that for “progressive”?
After all, no one is suggesting any solution for congestion on the Van Wyck Expressway, or any other clogged outer-borough throughfare. In fact, the EIS makes clear that roads outside of the core are only going to get worse, which is exactly what happened in London.
And the proposal is rife with this type of injustice. Consider: The Cross Bronx Expressway, which runs through neighborhoods with the highest prevalence of asthma in the nation, will face even more pollution from car and truck traffic. It is literally part of the plan to make health outcomes worse in The Bronx for the benefit of the bougie.
I beg my elected colleagues to look again at the Brooklyn Bridge. They should see it as a reminder of a moment when the full might of the Empire State was put to work solving our transportation problems for the benefit of our working classes, not punishing them through taxes, tolls, fees and fines.
Joe Borelli is the minority leader of the New York City Council.