Does Assembly ‘Failure’ Mean the End of Congestion Pricing?

Michael Bloomberg got to Albany yesterday, it seemed, just in time to watch his congestion pricing plan expire.

He had said repeatedly – incessantly, even — that yesterday was the deadline for lawmakers to approve the plan so that New York could qualify for as much as $500 million in federal funding. And he trotted out support from Governor Eliot Spitzer and state Senator Majority Leader Joe Bruno, in addition to the Queens Democratic leader, various Assembly members from the Bronx and a coalition of environmentalists and public transportation advocates.

But by yesterday, he wasn’t able to get the bill onto the floor of either the state Senate or the Assembly. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver promised, unpromisingly, that he and his colleagues would continue to study the plan.

In a statement released just now, Bloomberg reacted by saying 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.”

But Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, an outspoken critic of the mayor’s plan, suggested that it’s too soon to declare it dead.

“A deal to reach a deal was reached, but a deal wasn’t reached,” he said.

According to Brodsky, the mayor, Assembly Speaker and Governor will make an announcement later today that they’ve agreed to form a commission to study the plan — and that the process will, in fact, allow the mayor to seek federal funding for whatever program emerges from it.

Brodsky said, “The commission is largely what the assembly had been seeking,” and noted that the plan won’t be implemented “unless the legislature voted on separate legislation.”

“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 Brodsky.

He was referring to Bloomberg’s Olympic building plan that eventually died when it was blocked by Silver and the Assembly.

Michael Bloomberg’s office told me that no such announcement is scheduled.

Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, emailed me to say, “Talks went late into the night last night and continue this morning. They’ve been very productive, leaving us hope that this may still happen.”