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Dozens gather in Sunnyside to rally against Governor Hochul’s congestion pricing halt

Congestion pricing advocates gather at Lowery Plaza. Photo by Queens Post

June 11, 2024 By Queens Post News team

Dozens of transit advocates attended a rally at Lowery Plaza in Sunnyside to call on Governor Kathy Hochul to reverse her decision to pause congestion pricing indefinitely.

Hochul announced the decision on Friday, citing New York City’s rising cost of living and anecdotally referencing conversations she had with New York City business owners who worried that customers would no longer travel from other states. The remarks were met with much skepticism and anger.

A coalition of transportation groups, including Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, gathered at Lowery Plaza on Tuesday morning to support congestion pricing.

Participants walking under the 7 train along Queens Blvd. during Tuesday’s rally. Photo by Queens Post

The plan, which was due to be implemented on June 30, has been in the works for decades and was introduced in state law in 2019 as part of the Vehicle & Traffic Act, which called on the MTA to implement tolls to enter Manhattan below 60th Street.

Advocates for congestion pricing state that it would have improved air quality and street safety while simultaneously raising $1 billion annually to upgrade other transport infrastructure in the city.

Tuesday’s rally heard chants of “congestion pricing now” and “safer streets, cleaner air, Kathy Hochul doesn’t care” before attendees proceeded to the Sunnyside Community Services building at 43-31 39th St. in a bid to confront New York Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado who was having lunch inside the building.

Participants walked to Sunnyside Community Services during Tuesday’s rally. Photo by Queens Post

Laura Shepard, Queens Organizer with Transportation Alternatives, described Hochul’s decision to indefinitely pause congestion pricing as “a disaster.”

“She paused congestion pricing with a video and no alternative plan in place. There really is no alternative that will unlock all of the benefits that congestion pricing would for New York City – safe streets, clean air, reliable transit, and accessibility,” Shepard said Tuesday. “We want what we were promised.”

Laura Shepard of Transportation Alternatives addresses reporters at Lowery Plaza. Photo by Queens Post

Shepard said Transportation Alternatives would continue to hold rallies until Hochul reverses her decision to pause congestion pricing.

Lizi Rahman, a member of Families for Safe Streets, said congestion pricing would have made New York’s streets safer for all road users.

Lizi Rahman addresses reporters at Lowery Plaza. Photo by Queens Post

Rahman, whose son Asif was killed while cycling on Queens Boulevard in 2008, held up a picture of her son during Tuesday’s rally and criticized Hochul for pausing a measure that could potentially save lives.

“We’re all very angry and unhappy because it (congestion pricing) was a done deal,” Rahman said. “This is really sad because she’s trying to please some people, but she’s ignoring the fact that it could be a life-saver and make New York City safer.”

CB2 Chair Anatole Ashraf addresses the rally outside Sunnyside Community Services. Photo by Queens Post

Anatole Ashraf, the chair of Queens Community Board 2, promised that CB2’s transportation and environmental committee would send a letter to the Governor’s office protesting the move.

“These are quality of life issues and health issues that are at risk because of Kathy Hochul’s stupid, stupid decision,” Ashraf said outside Sunnyside Community Services on Tuesday.

Michael Fuquay, owner of the Queensboro bar and restaurant in Jackson Heights, criticized Hochul over her comments that New York City diner owners were concerned about the impacts of congestion pricing.

“You’ve heard a lot about diner owners who are worried about customers coming to eat. I own a restaurant in New York City and more than 99% of my customers walk to my restaurant. We have a walkable city and real New Yorkers support institutions in their neighborhoods,” Fuquay said.

“We’ve heard a lot about how our working class people get to work. Do you want to know how my employees get to work? They walk, they bike, they take the bus. I’ve got 40 employees and only two of them own a car. Do you know who can afford cars in New York City? People who are wealthy.”

Meanwhile, Aaron Schloff, a transit advocate and Jackson Heights resident, said the expansion of the subway toward Flushing had facilitated the expansion of New York City and accused Hochul of “chickening out” of the congestion pricing plan to appease suburban voters.

“The Subway makes New York possible, and a functioning subway keeps New York strong,” Schloff said.

“Kathy Hochul chickening out at the last minute is a profile in cowardice. What I want most is for her and her people to rediscover the nerve that they have lost by delaying this.”

email the author: news@queenspost.com

11 Comments

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Dana Ohlmeyer

Apparently, no one got the info: the congestion pricing scam tolled the Koch/Queensborough Bridge. (60th Street, not 57th, decided just to capture our residents. Queens residents were demoted below Uber and Lyft cars, who roam in congestion bliss in unlimited numbers. As it is, Queens businesses are under pressure in business,/light industrial zones, due to desire for exploitation for high rise, expensive housing. The precious areas zoned for light industry, for bakeries, industrial and building materials, even cranes(!) in Queens, are in the bulls eye. Thousands of jobs. The billionaire class exclude Queens. The Governor was right to look at the bigger picture.

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MRLIC

Finally Hochul helped the people. Don’t vote for Democratic Socialists at all, vote Republican all the way!!!

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JD

I was pleasantly surprised by Governor Hochul’s decision to pause congestion pricing indefinitely. Honestly, I thought it was a done deal months ago. Having said that, it would’ve been incredibly hypocritical to charge motorists $15 to drive their own vehicle into Manhattan below 60th St while allowing people free rein to evade the $2.90 fare on our trains and busses. While the people featured in this article have every right to their opinion, they do not speak for the average New Yorker on this subject.

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shawn

i do believe congestion pricing is a good thing, but not $15 and above. Let it be $2 for all drivers entering, or just put tolls on all the bridges that enter and leave NYC.

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Deeznutz

I think what these people don’t realize is the impact it will have on our area when all these people from LI and eastern areas of the city start driving to and parking in our area to then take the train/bus, further increasing congestion/traffic and the negative health ramifications of increased traffic and stress. Granted many of those individuals have LIRR access, but many don’t.
I also feel the failure to see this as the MTA cash grab that it is, is narrowminded and foolish.
I’ve been in Sunnyside my whole life, and have a car, bike, and use mass transit; all have differing roles in my personal mobility. I rarely drive into Manhattan since I absolutely hate it and have no need or desire to. For that, mass transit and/or cycling is the way to go. I do drive over Queensbridge to feed onto the FDR to leave the city, and if/when congestion pricing happens, that will certainly change my route.
But again, to charge drivers to fix a broken, mismanaged, and corrupt MTA is preposterous. The infrastructure is not taken care of because of that mismanagement and corruption. We as citizens should be working to have more accountability of the MTA as an entity, not fighting each other.
Of course, divide and conquer has always been effective in the breakdown of a society, and is unfortunately more prevalent than not.

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Miggie Warms

Regarding Michael Fuquay’s quoted statement:
Yet another reason to avoid eating at (or getting deliveries from) the Queensboro. What does the experience of an outer borough restaurant have to do with the commuting experience of workers at a Manhattan restaurant? Does he really think most Manhattan restaurant workers live within walking distance of their workplaces? Such an idiotic comment for him to have made.

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BR

“Dozens” of people showed up.
Overwhelming majority of New Yorkers oppose this cash grab by the MTA.
In a free society, majority rules.

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SunnysidePostSucks

wow, so many losers. pathetic. get out of Sunnyside! nobody wants you here destroying our area with you progressive liberalism.

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