Mayor Bill de Blasio Thursday called a transportation advocacy group's latest plan to charge motorists for driving in Manhattan's central business district "a step in the right direction," but he declined to stake out a position on the idea.
The mayor, a past foe of imposing tolls on now-free East River bridges, said he first needs to see how the issue of funding for the cash-starved Metropolitan Transportation Authority is addressed in Albany.
A coalition of transportation experts, including Koch-era traffic commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, touted a plan this week to rebalance tolls on inter-borough river crossings and impose congestion pricing on Manhattan.
"I think the world of him. I think he's a -- was -- a great public servant, and, you know, is an important commentator on these issues," de Blasio told reporters at an unrelated news conference.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said this week that "the concept has merit," but "the politics of it were very, very difficult the last time" an effort to win legislative approval for congestion pricing was tried -- and failed -- during the Bloomberg administration in 2008.
"There was a lot of discussion and it went nowhere," Cuomo told reporters. "I don't think anything has happened since then that would have changed the political dynamic."
Backers of the latest congestion pricing plan, a coalition called Move NY, say they hope the state will consider the plan as the legislature considers how to close a $15 billion gap in the MTA's five-year capital plan.
De Blasio has been critical of how the state funds the MTA, questioning whether Albany's commitment to the agency is "as substantial a commitment to the MTA as we think is necessary." The mayor plans to go to Albany next week to make his case on a range of issues. He hinted on Thursday that MTA funding would be one of them.