This week, Michael Bloomberg’s plan to ease midtown traffic by charging a congestion fee died. Except maybe it didn’t.
To hear the mayor tell it, the do-nothing legislature in Albany has once again ruined a perfectly good plan—the other being his scheme two years ago to attract the Olympics to New York by building a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan.
In a statement released on July 17—the day after the expiration of what the mayor presented as a deadline to pass the measure and still be eligible for $500 million in federal aid—Mr. Bloomberg said that “the failure of the State Assembly to act in time on a deadline imposed by the federal government is a terrible setback for clean air and to our critical commitment to fight climate change.”
The statement also said, “I can’t ascribe motives to the lack of action in Albany, but I can definitively say the environment and the future quality of life in New York took a beating,” a result which he ascribed to the promise of “interminable study groups” and “business as usual in Albany.”
Not surprisingly, Republican State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who supported the mayor’s plan, also lashed out at the Assembly and its hyper-deliberative speaker, Sheldon Silver, for failing to take action. Governor Eliot Spitzer had also expressed support for the plan.
The only ones not acting as if the traffic plan is a smoldering wreck, interestingly, were its Democratic opponents in the Assembly.
In response to the angry comments coming out of City Hall, Mr. Silver’s spokeswoman Sisa Moyo said, referring to the governor, the majority leader and the mayor, “We continue to talk.”
Another Democrat who declined to support the measure—and who also came in for criticism from Mr. Bloomberg, who was in Albany this week to lobby in person for the plan—was Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, who said on deadline day that he and his conference, like their counterparts in the Assembly, still had questions about the enforcement of the congestion charge, the transportation improvement projects that accompany the plan and the actual boundaries of the zone. He didn’t return The Observer’s call for comment.
The plan’s opponents in the Assembly insist that talks ought to continue, along with extensive—and, presumably, prolonged—studies of the scheme’s details. And they say that it is Mr. Bloomberg who broke off negotiations prematurely.
“The mayor did very well until about a week ago, which is when he stopped answering questions about it and turned it into Jets Stadium II, and it didn’t work,” said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester.
Mr. Brodsky, somehow, did not seem upset with that outcome.