Bodegas Go Ga-Ga Over Congestion Pricing

Remember Jose Fernandez? The president of the Bodega Association of the United   States who found himself stumping both for and against congestion pricing in the same day? Last week, he said he was genuinely on the fence about the issue. On Tuesday of this week, he met with the eight other board members of his group, which represents 7,200 bodegas in New York City, and they voted 9-0 to support the Mayor’s plan—at least for the three years that a pilot program would last.

“We definitely believe that by having a congestion pricing pilot, we are not only going to help our wholesalers go up to their destinations faster, but it is also going to help the people,” Mr. Fernandez said. “We were more concerned about helping our people, our consumers. In five or 10 years, if we don’t do something like that, we will not be able to work in downtown Manhattan.”

While he was earlier concerned that shops would have to pass the $21-a-day charge for delivery trucks entering Manhattan on to customers, he said this week that consumers in the congestion pricing zone (Manhattan south of 86th Street) are less price sensitive than those in other neighborhoods.

The defection could not have come as good news to Richard Lipsky, who, in addition to serving as spokesman for Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free, has run an advocacy group called the Neighborhood Retail Alliance, which has worked pro bono on behalf of the bodegas. Mr. Lipsky, however, did not begrudge the bodega association’s decision, although he did take the chance to criticize the Mayor’s record on small business issues.

“God bless these stores. They need all the help they can get,” he said. “If it took the Mayor’s congestion pricing plan to get the Bloomberg administration to do something for small business, then so be it.”