The congestion pricing crawl

The congestion pricing crawl

Like the state budget, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s congestion pricing system remains mired in delays.

The public transit authority continues to wait for the Federal Highway Administration to issue a final ruling on its environmental assessment — a decision public transit officials had expected to receive before the end of last year. Since then, the MTA has pushed back its projected start date in monthly board filings, now targeting the second quarter of 2024.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who visited the Albany area last week to announce a new bridge grant, had no news to share on the timeline.

“We’re talking about something that is really new in terms of scope and scale relative to processing environmental reviews on something that we maybe do hundreds of in a year, like a bridge project,” Buttigieg said. “Certainly the Federal Highway Administration is working hard on that process… certainly one that’s getting a lot of good attention and resources to make sure that process is followed.”

But even if the MTA got the greenlight today, there’s still a lot more to do.

The agency is considering several different scenarios, with tolls ranging between $9 to $23 for passenger vehicles and between $12 and $82 for trucks. Each has different combinations of potential discounts, crossing credits and exemptions.

The fight for exemptions will be fierce. The state law only provides carve-outs for emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying people with disabilities. Residents in the congestion zone who earn less than $60,000 will be eligible for a tax credit.

But more will soon make their own case for leniency. Judges have already started pushing for one, and similar fights are bound to play out over city vehicles, taxis and for-hire vehicles. The transit agency can only be so lenient — the plan must generate $1 billion annually for capital projects under state law.

A panel largely composed of business leaders is tasked with finalizing those details, but it has yet to convene publicly.

Several years since its passage, the hard part of implementing congestion pricing hasn’t even begun.

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COUNCIL ENDORSEMENTS — The Resilience PAC, a small coalition formed to elect New York City candidates dedicated to fighting climate change, will announce 11 endorsements for City Council. All 51 seats are open for grabs after the districts were redrawn following the 2020 nationwide Census, though only a few races are competitive.

The PAC, which has a little more than $8,000 on hand, has endorsed Wai Yee Chan, the executive director of Homecrest Community Services, who is running against two people for a new Brooklyn district that includes Sunset Park and Gravesend. The group also backed Democrat Marjorie Velazquez, whose Bronx district is one of the few potential flip seats. — Danielle Muoio Dunn

BIG DROP IN HOUSING PRODUCTION IN 2022 — Mayor Eric Adams’ first year in office saw a dramatic drop in city-financed affordable housing production, according to city data compiled by the New York Housing Conference, an affordable housing advocacy group. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development financed the creation or preservation of 13,990 affordable homes in 2022, a 47 percent drop from from 2021, when former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration financed 26,729 homes. The decline comes as the housing department struggles with a significant staffing shortage and broader economic headwinds, like high interest rates and supply chain challenges, that have slowed development.

“The City is committed to creating as much housing as possible with as much affordability as possible,” HPD spokesperson William Fowler said in a statement on the figures. “Last year, we created nearly 10,000 new homes–the second highest on record for HPD’s new construction work–and nearly two thirds of those homes are deeply affordable and nearly all are affordable to anyone earning under the median income of the NYC area.” Of the new homes subsidized, 64 percent were affordable to people making up to 50 percent of the area median income, or $60,050 for a family of three. HPD is also making progress bringing on new employees, according to Fowler, hiring 442 new staffers in 2022 and 138 so far this year. — Janaki Chadha

TENANT LAWYERS ASK FOR MORE FUNDING — THE CITY’s Stephon Johnson: “The need for no-fee attorneys for people facing eviction in New York City is so great that nonprofit legal providers are asking the city to quadruple the budget for their services. But the City Council speaker says it’s the state that needs to step up. The attorney groups who represent low-income tenants in Housing Court this week called on City Hall to increase funding from the current $110 million they receive to $461 million for Fiscal Year 2024, which begins July 1. The request comes as Mayor Eric Adams has pushed most agencies to cut 4% from their budgets as part of citywide cutbacks.

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MANHATTAN RENTS HIT NEW RECORD — New York Post’s Mary K. Jacob: “The rent is too damn high — and, last month, it got even higher. The median rental price in Manhattan has topped $4,150 for the first time in Big Apple history, according to a jaw-dropping — and bank-busting — March market report compiled by real-estate brokerage Douglas Elliman and appraiser Miller Samuel.”

HOW ENERGY EFFICIENT IS NYCHA? — THE CITY’s Greg B. Smith: “…After THE CITY pointed this out, NYCHA acknowledged that the scores it had been presenting to the public for months were completely erroneous. The authority removed the data from the site, but has yet to replace it with the accurate — and far less impressive — scores uncovered by THE CITY.”

— A local Manhattan community board said Madison Square Garden’s permit should be denied, dealing a symbolic blow to the arena seeking a permit renewal from the City Council.

— House lawmakers are making another attempt to r epeal the SALT cap imposed by the Trump administration nearly six years ago.

— Major construction unions are opposing Hochul’s plan to mandate new housing development.

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