Will Congestion Pricing Make 86th Street the New 96th?

abelson jonathanmiller2h 0 Will Congestion Pricing Make 86th Street the New 96th?In a real-estate market where the right ZIP code, not to mention the right area code, carries its own premium, what will the proposed congestion-pricing system do for housing prices?

After all, the $8 daily fee that Mayor Bloomberg is proposing car drivers pay to enter core Manhattan will give people all the more reason to seek out homes near existing transit hubs. Commuters who choose to drive every day will incur about $2,000 a year in commuting charges that they don’t currently pay.

The benefits of living in the “congestion zone” south of 86th Street should also be considerable: Vehicle miles will fall by 6.3 percent, according to City Hall’s estimates. That might not sound like much, but anecdotally, London’s congestion-charging scheme has made the center of the city considerably more pleasant and quiet.

Mr. Bloomberg’s aides have explained that they chose 86th Street as the zone-boundary line rather than the more natural choice of 60th Street because commuters are less likely to drop off their cars on 87th Street and walk or ride the subway 30 blocks to their office. But the unintended effect, according to Jonathan Miller, chief executive of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, may be to create a new demarcation between desirable and less-desirable neighborhoods.

“There is a potential for greater disparity for pricing,” Mr. Miller, a top analyst of Manhattan residential real estate, said. “When you are marketing your apartment and you are five blocks south of 86th Street, will you get more money than if you are five blocks north?”

The boundary, Mr. Miller said, will probably not be as pronounced as the psychological barrier that 96th Street used to pose for potential buyers who were looking for a so-called quality neighborhood, but it could have “some subtle impact.”

“It’s not about using cars,” he said. “It’s about street noise, the din of traffic. If the decibel level is reduced, that enhances the quality of the apartment.”

An appraiser in Brooklyn, Peter Zachary, believes that prices in the outer boroughs will not be depressed because of the congestion fee because people will adapt.

“People who can afford it will be happy with this, and people without money will find another way to [commute],” said Mr. Zachary. “There are ways that people can shift around their budgets to accommodate this from a valuation point of view.”

And yet, it cannot be a coincidence that the Real Estate Board of New York, the city’s largest trade organization, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from its members to air two weeks’ worth of television ads supporting the plan, which is under consideration by state lawmakers.

(Oddsmakers doubted that it would pass both legislative chambers by the June 21 scheduled recess, but suggested that the Legislature could come back for a special session over the summer.)

REBNY’s motivation, however, was broad-minded, according to spokesman Frank Marino. “For the real-estate industry, it is important to have a city which functions well.”