This is like something out of a Soviet anecdote. And it says something that New York City under the Left resembles the USSR.
New York, under Bill de Blasio and an even more insane City Council, finally pulled off “congestion pricing”, a European idea, that would charge cars a toll for being in Manhattan at particular hours of the day. Because the cost of living in Manhattan isn’t high enough yet and occasionally non-millionaires still dare to set foot on the island. But it’s for the environment.
And there’s one problem. The environment.
In pursuit of federal approval for the nation’s first congestion pricing scheme, the one officials suggested would launch in January 2021, the question was this: Should New York State and New York City conduct a quick “environmental assessment” or a full scale “environmental impact statement,” a process that could take years?
Federal officials didn’t provide a definitive answer in that meeting, nor have they since.
That haziness puts MTA officials, and the massive system-wide rehabilitation plan whose funding is reliant on congestion pricing, in a serious bind.
Should officials have to pursue that more intensive environmental impact statement, central business district tolling is unlikely to start in January 2021. Should they pursue an abbreviated review, it’s also possible congestion pricing won’t begin in January, because those abbreviated studies take time too, and their very abbreviation can prompt lawsuits alleging inadequate review, creating more delays.
We’re living in a Soviet anecdote. Isn’t it awesome?
We can’t impose our environmental measure because we don’t know which environmental review to pursue and either way the environmental review will make us miss our target date, and cause us to face environmental lawsuits, and by then the planet will be destroyed.
The source familiar with the process said, “I’m more and more thinking there’s no way it’s going to be that in January of 2021, they start charging money.”
The horror. The humanity.
For agencies like the MTA that have conducted environmental impact statements with the Federal Highway Administration, it took an average of 2,691 days to complete the process, Gerrard said, citing a report by the National Association of Environmental Professionals on reviews concluded in 2018. Those processes largely involved highway construction.
The shortest time any agency completed such a review with any agency in the federal government was 637 days.
The only thing stopping the environmentalists are… the environmentalists.
If the MTA does need to do a full scale environmental review, it’s not clear how it could do so without including the cost of tolls to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street, since the tolls will determine driver behavior and environmental impacts like air pollution.
The governor, who effectively controls the MTA, punted that question to an MTA committee that has yet to be appointed, but that he will also effectively control. By law, that panel is not allowed to reveal what the tolls will be until November 15 of this year — after Election Day.
The MTA could work with a superficially high toll estimate to ensure they capture all potential impacts, but that theoretical toll would probably garner bad headlines officials would rather avoid.
Should the agencies opt for the less intensive environmental assessment, they could face a lawsuit.
Arthur Schwartz is seen as a legal specter haunting the MTA. The Manhattan attorney’s litigation delayed the implementation of the busway on 14th Street, citing concerns about environmental reviews.
In an interview, Schwartz said the congestion pricing plan was likely to spark some sort of litigation — possibly from parking garage owners in the central business district whose business will be impacted by the new tolling scheme.
“The other angles could be that there was something discriminatory about it, if it impacted more on people of color,” he said. “I’ve heard people kicking that idea around.”
That’s right. It’s racist.
Meanwhile, Governor Cuomo is blaming… President Trump.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday claimed that President Donald Trump is holding “hostage” plans to pay for key subway upgrades through congestion pricing as retaliation for New York’s refusal to grant federal immigration authorities access to driver’s license records.
“Will they hold congestion pricing hostage? Yes,” Cuomo told reporters at an unrelated press conference. “That’s how they do business.”
No, this is how you do business.