A Congestion Pricing Supporter Has Some Regrets

Simcha Felder, one of Michael Bloomberg’s closest allies in the City Council and a supporter of congestion pricing, said yesterday, "I clearly think I made a mistake on that vote." Felder made the remark during an interview on The Perez Notes, an online radio show based out of La Guardia Community College.

Here’s my partial transcription:

SIMCHA FELDER: Let me just say, the plan that I was in favor of would not have charged people who got on the F.D.R. and did not get off on the zones. Which meant it would have discouraged people from coming into the zone when it was busy. At the end of the day the plan that we voted on was actually going to tax people whether they got off or on, no matter what, which think was a mistake on my part. So, if, Roberto, you’re asking me to tell your listeners what did they lose, I would say that my vote initially had good intentions but at the end of the day I think I made a mistake. I clearly think I made a mistake on that vote.

HOST ROBERTO PEREZ: What is the solution then, Councilman?

FELDER: I don’t know. But initially what I was saying is if you put into place improvements in mass transit and other improvements, and then you have trains running so frequently and buses running frequently enough to be able to tell Roberto, ‘Don’t take your car in ’cause you can get on a train and you may even have a seat,’ then that may be fair telling people don’t take your car in. But now, in essence, what we were doing is voting on a plan where we’re saying, ‘If you take your car in, it’s gonna cost you another eight bucks. But, we really don’t have any way that makes you comfortable in taking the train.’ And I think that wasn’t fair.

This morning a spokesman for Felder said the councilman was referring only to a specific part of the plan that charged drivers on Manhattan highways who did not actually enter the congestion zone. The spokesman added that if he had to do it over again, Felder would still vote for the plan.


Later in the interview, Felder, who is Chairman of the City Council Committee on Government Operations, said he thinks the public advocate’s office should be eliminated. That’s particularly notable since the mayor has commissioned a panel to review city government and it’s rumored it may make just such a recommendation.

Here’s my transcription of that segment (around the 29:58 mark):

Public advocate, I think that position should be eliminated. I don’t know the purpose of the job. I don’t see the purpose unless there’s somebody wants to be public advocate and then become the mayor or something else.

PEREZ: So, you think the speaker of the City Council is the person who counterbalances the power [of the mayor]?

FELDER: Yeah, and the public advocate in essence winds up doing what the consumer affairs commissioner does, or something else. I don’t understand it I don’t see the necessity. I think they should eliminate the position.


FELDER (30:56): Certainly in the last few years I don’t think there’s been any purpose to the position. If the position is a constructive one, you know what. I don’t’ even want to say that. It’s not a constructive position. I agree that the City Council speaker and the council members and there are enough council members like me who are interested in higher office who spend their time attacking the mayor on other things, there’s enough of that. You don’t need to have another paid position with other paid employees doing…I don’t know what they do. I really don’t know what they do. If you ask the average person in the street they don’t know what the public advocate does. I would say they may not know what the comptroller does either .

PEREZ: So what has, in your opinion councilman Public Advocate Betsy Gotbuam done then?

FELDER: I know she’s suing the city over the treatment that they gave her daughter who wasn’t well. I don’t know what else she has done. I don’t know. It’s not a question of Betsy Gotbaum. I don’t think that job is worth anything. I think it should be eliminated.

A Congestion Pricing Supporter Has Some Regrets