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City Council OKs traffic congestion plan

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City Council OKs traffic congestion plan

BY ADAM LISBERG

DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU

April 1st 2008

 

[float=right]top_traffic.jpg[/float]Mayor Bloomberg's historic plan to charge drivers $8 to enter Manhattan below 60th St. won the endorsement of the City Council Monday night - putting Albany under the gun to make it law.

 

After hours of impassioned debate over whether the measure would ease traffic, help the environment, raise mass transit dollars or just penalize those who have no option but to drive to work, the City Council voted 30-20 in favor of the nation's first congestion pricing plan.

 

Councilwoman Helen Foster (D-Bronx), a foe, was absent. It was one of the closest votes in recent memory for a council that usually passes measures by wide margins, but supporters hailed it as a sign of broad support.

 

"It is now completely clear that congestion pricing has the strong backing of the people of New York City," Bloomberg said after the vote, saying the state Assembly and Senate should heed the message.

 

"I am increasingly confident that state leaders will do what's right for our city," Bloomberg said. "Everybody in the city believes today or will come to believe that this is the right thing for New York City."

 

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who worked with Bloomberg to wrangle votes for the plan, said the vote showed broad support, with 20 of the 30 yes votes coming from council members who represent areas outside Manhattan.

 

"We are sick and tired of our streets being clogged with traffic," Quinn said, holding the final measures signed by the mayor and stamped by the city clerk to be taken to Albany. "We are sick and tired of the children who live in our city literally having to fight to be able to breathe. We see congestion pricing as a solution to this problem."

 

The plan's fate in Albany is unknown. Gov. Paterson supports the plan, and Senate GOP Leader Joseph Bruno is believed to have the votes to pass it, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been noncommittal.

 

If lawmakers there make any changes to the plan approved by the council, it may have to return to City Hall for another vote.

 

Opponents said the plan would hurt poor- and middle-income New Yorkers, and that they didn't trust the MTA to spend the money from the plan properly.

 

"This is the greatest city in the world, and one of the greatest freedoms is the freedom to move about it freely," said Councilman Lewis Fidler (D-Brooklyn), a leader of the opponents. "What's next? We're going to charge a user fee to go into Central Park because it's crowded?"

 

The vote came after months of intense lobbying by Quinn and Bloomberg, who has wined and dined council members at Gracie Mansion. Critics say he has tried to win votes by dangling construction projects and endorsements in front of council members.

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I support Congestion Pricing, but I kinda agree about the opponents to this plan. I don't think MTA will use the money wisely.

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I guess im at an impass. I do support it, but I think it should be in effect only from 4am to 8pm. I don't have a problem riding MTA at any time, but every now and then it's much easier to drive to Manhattan after hours. Sometimes I just don't feel like waiting for a train or bus. Especially when it's cold outside.

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