Brodsky on Congestion Charge and a "Vicious" Analogy

When Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled his plan for congestion pricing yesterday, he estimated that “city drivers will pay only a little more than half of these congestion pricing fees. Drivers from outside the city will pay the balance.”

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester jumped to offer opposition to the proposal, reminding reporters that he has a bill to stop any municipality from charging a fee to use public streets.

It looked, to me at least, a lot like the fight over the repeal of the commuter tax, which pitted car-centric suburban interests — and, for political reasons, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — against the city, which stood to lose a fortune in revenue. Notwithstanding the fact that some officials from the outer boroughs are opposing Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, their objections sounded familiar, at least.

But Brodsky firmly rejects the notion of any similarity.

“Not at all,” he told me yesterday, “because a bulk of the people who use midtown are from New York City.”

He said the analogy to the fight over the commuter tax “borders on vicious.”

I asked him how.

“The notion that there’s some regional disagreement here,” he said. “I’ve taken a very principled position on this. I introduced the bill back in 1997, okay? This is about whether we make access to public streets based on affordability. Frankly, the wealthier they are, the less likely they are to be affected by this.”

He added, “When parks get crowded, you don’t start charging access to parks. And this is an area where my friends in the environmental community just haven’t thought it through.

“The decision to start making access to public rights of way conditioned on your income is not the way in which anything should be done.”

So, it’s not a dispute based on location, Brodsky essentially contends, but about class.

“This is a bill that will keep all the BMWs and Mercedes in midtown,” he said. “You just won’t see any more Chevrolets. The people who will be deterred by an $8 fee are the middle class and poor people.”

Brodsky floated the idea of charging cars based on “their weight or their cost” instead.

I wonder what “Red” Ken Livingstone, the outspokenly socialist class warrior who successfully introduced the congestion charge to London, would think of the idea that the scheme is economically regressive.