Borough President Vito Fossella, United Federation of Teachers File Federal Lawsuit to Stop Implementation of Congestion Pricing
Borough President Vito Fossella and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew announced the filing of a federal lawsuit to block the implementation of congestion pricing, which is scheduled to go into effect this spring.
Also joining the lawsuit are seven individual plaintiffs, including teachers who work at schools in Manhattan and commute to work because there are no convenient means of public transportation available to them.
“From a Staten Island perspective this plan is a three-strike loser,” said Borough President Fossella at a press conference outside of Borough Hall. “It will increase traffic, it will make air quality worse and take tens of millions of dollars out of their pockets each year. Why on earth would we support this?”
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday in the United States Court for the Eastern District in Brooklyn. The following are named as defendants: The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, state Department of Transportation, and the city Department of Transportation.
According to the lawsuit, the current congestion pricing plan "would not eliminate air and noise pollution and traffic, but would simply shift pollution and traffic to Staten Island, the Bronx, Upper Manhattan, and Northern New Jersey."
The Federal Highway Administration’s environmental assessment of the congestion pricing plan -- not a full Environmental Impact Statement -- “ignored and failed to mitigate” many potential negative effects of the plan in “the hurried process that led to its premature approval,” the lawsuit states. The lawsuit asks the court to halt the implementation of congestion pricing until the Federal Highway Administration prepares a “full and proper” Environmental Impact Statement.
Mulgrew likened the lack of a full Environmental Impact Statement to a child’s homework.
“It was what we would say in my world is the kid only read the cliff notes,” said UFT President Mulgrew. “They cut corners constantly and everywhere. It was just an assessment, so we are now asking the courts to intervene. It is finally time to learn what this scheme is actually about.”
The current congestion pricing plan would charge drivers $15 for every day they enter the Manhattan Central Business District between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. The congestion pricing toll would be in addition to normal parking charges and to other current tolls on bridges and tunnels, though partial credit would be given to some payments on certain crossings. The congestion pricing fee would be reduced -- though not eliminated -- on nights and weekends.
“As we have said for decades, Staten Island has been denied adequate mass transit options,” said Borough President Fossella. “That is why so many Staten Island residents must use their cars to get to work. To make matters worse, we’re the only city residents who must pay a toll to get into and out of Staten Island. We have thousands of teachers, firefighters, Sanitation workers and others who are essential to the fabric of New York City. Make no mistake, these workers will be intentionally punished under the proposed scheme. At a time when many are fleeing the city due to the high cost of living, why would we want to give people another reason to leave?"
Following the announcement, most of Staten Island's elected officials joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs: Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, State Senators Jessica Scarcella-Spanton and Andrew Lanza, State Assemblymen Michael Tannousis and Michael Reilly, and Councilmembers Joseph Borelli, David Carr, and Kamillah Hanks. Also joining the suit is State Assemblyman David Weprin, a Queens Democrat who has been vocal against congestion pricing.