Congestion Pricing Foes Turn on the Espresso Maker

  

Richard Lipsky, the newly hired organizer for congestion pricing foes, was feeling considerable pressure to deliver bodies at a press conference. He got about 25 of them out there, representing, by their count, tens of thousands of others: bar and restaurant employees who have to drive in because of their weird hours; bodega and grocery store owners who get multiple truck deliveries each day; and beer wholesalers who are driving some of those trucks.

Steve Barrison, executive president of the Small Business Congress, which, he said, represents 200,000 mom-and-pop stores, delivered the best line: “It’s basically a tax on the poor. For the rich people, it’s another latte.”

Morton Sloan, the owner of Morton Williams Associated, which has about eight supermarkets in Manhattan, said that the fee would increase retail prices in his stores between 5 and 7 percent, given that employees would be asked to pay the fee for their distributors ($21 a truck) and for their employees ($8 a car) who may have no other option but to drive in.

John Catsimatidis, the owner of Gristede’s Supermarkets, was not there. But The Observer asked him a few days ago about the impact of congestion pricing on grocery store prices and he gave a different answer: “Our average truck might be $5,000 or $10,000,” he said. “It’s just going to get lost in the shuffle.”

It should be noted that while Mr. Castimatidis, officially undecided as he is on congestion pricing, is running for Mayor very much along the Bloomberg model. A latte, in his view, might well be worth $8.