So the feds are “fast tracking” the plan to charge you a new fee every time you drive into Manhattan, by allowing for a less-onerous environmental assessment of the project instead of a deeper environmental impact statement. We can only hope this remains fast-tracking at the lethargic speed of government bureaucracy, because the absolute last thing we need right now is to raise the cost of doing business in the heart of New York City.
The city’s unemployment rate was 13.2 percent in February, the most recent full-month figure available, compared to 6.2 percent nationwide. Before the pandemic, New York was at 3.8 percent and the nation at 3.5. Clearly the city is struggling to recover, compared to much of the rest of the country.
The office vacancy rate in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan is 16.4 percent, higher than it was after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 or the financial crisis of 2008, according to The New York Times. As of early March, only about 10 percent of Manhattan office employees had returned to their desks, says a survey by the Partnership for New York City. And now we want to make it harder and more expensive for companies to lure their workers back to the office? Of course not, but that’s just what congestion pricing, which translates to you and us as “tolls,” would do.
We recognize the plan to impose tolls on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street is nearly inevitable. It’s meant to help fund the perennially poor MTA. It’ll discourage driving. It fits the zeitgeist prevalent in City Hall, Albany and, since January, Washington. We just hope it takes a while, because New York really can’t take any more hits right now.
Many shuttered businesses won’t be back. Tax hikes are coming. Crime is spiking. The virus is stubborn. The psychological toll has been immense. Please, public officials. Go slow on congestion pricing and let us get back on our feet before jacking up the cost of living again.