Miller remains wary of Move NY promises 1

Councilman Daneek Miller on Monday called on transportation officials to pass on the proposed Move NY transportation plan without firmer guarantees of funding for parts of Queens that are underserved by public transportation.

Officials from eastern and Southeast Queens on Monday stepped up their criticism of a proposal to raise money for mass transit by adding tolls to East River bridges that now are free.

Leading a gathering at the Long Island Rail Road’s St. Albans station, Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) said the so-called Move NY plan just adds to the commuting and travel costs borne by Southeast Queens and other “transportation deserts” without guaranteeing the dedication of money and infrastructure that are needed.

“This toll tax — congestion pricing, Move NY, whatever you want to call it — will add a burden on the people who can least afford it,” Miller said.

The plan would add tolls to cross the Ed Koch Queensboro, Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges, with the aim of reducing traffic in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan.

The initial proposal also calls for an offsetting reduction in existing tolls at the Throgs Neck, Whitestone and other bridges.

Proponents say it would raise $4.5 billion in dedicated funding for the very local projects Miller wants.

But joined by state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and representatives of civic groups and elected officials, Miller said the tolls would severely impact places like Southeast Queens, where people must drive because of a lack of mass transit options.

He also said people of the region have little reason to take promises of funding for infrastructure from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on faith.

“People in Southeast Queens can travel up to an hour-and-a-half to get to work in [Manhattan]; two hours if you’re driving,” he said. “The toll tax is designed to help people in Manhattan. The Second Avenue subway is for people in Manhattan, The No. 7 line extension is for people who already have other transit options — 4,000 or 5,000 a day — not the best use of public transportation money.

Miller said ferry service is being planned for western Queens where people already have more options than Southeast or northeast Queens.

“They’re funding trollies,” Miller said in a broadside at the planned Brooklyn Queens Connector project, “for communities that don’t yet exist.”

Miller, in a related matter, called for support of his bill to rein in so-called “dollar vans” on which he said much of the commuting public in Southeast must rely; and for the LIRR to allow city residents to board LIRR trains at stops within the city for the cost of a MetroCard swipe, provided the passenger restricts his or her travel within the city.

Alex Matthiessen, the campaign director for Move NY, attended Miller’s press conference.

Afterward, and in a subsequent email, he said the plan will specifically target areas like Southeast Queens. He also said some of Miller’s assertions are flat-out wrong.

“I hear a call for infrastructure projects, but no ideas for funding them,” Matthiessen said. “You can’t have it both ways. Where does he propose that money comes from?”

Matthiessen said the language of the proposal mandates a minimum of $500 million for each borough, with the decisions on spending it left to area officials.

He said provisions of the plan would extend to seven days the City Ticket, which offers discounts on weekends to residents who choose the LIRR and who do not live near subway stations.

Miller also is not the first critic of the plan to assert that there are no guarantees the reduced tolls would not be increased.

He also said there are no assurances that a funding “lockbox” promised under Move NY could not be raided by Albany for other use through future legislation.

Matthiessen in his email wrote that should the MTA raise the lower bridge tolls at a higher rate than those across the East River, it automatically loses the East River toll money, more than it would gain through increases elsewhere.

He also said the plan is crafted with bonding requirements and other measures that he said would safeguard the money.

But he also acknowledged that the MTA is a creature of the state Legislature with its leadership chosen by the governor and approved by the state Senate. Albany has routinely tapped “dedicated transit funds” in the past for other spending priorities. He did not directly acknowledge that what Albany grants, it can take away.

“We’ve done everything we can to assure those funds would not be raided,” he said.

(1) comment

pvaldezriverajr

The reason why he and other elected official in Queens have been opposing the MOVE NY Fair Tolling Plan for receiving funds for maintaining bridge, road and transit infrastructure and services in their own districts, which some of them are "transit deserts" is because the "Ghost of Robert Moses" told their own conscience to "protect his legacy" by prioritize their own independence for them and their own constituents through driving automobiles. Keep in mind that billions upon billions of dollars must be spent on improving their own infrastructure in Queens. Otherwise the drivers of Queens will be losing their own money by gridlock and potholes. In addition, the straphangers will be losing time by overcrowding and lack of service.

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