By Chriss Williams
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, the Upper West Side’s Community Board 7 listened to the curbside trials and tribulations of over 55 New Yorkers, responding to the board’s proposed resolution for the Department of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive study on the city’s curbside use habits before and after congestion pricing takes effect next year.
The road-tolling program, will charge drivers entering Manhattan’s central business district below 60th St. to the Battery to combat traffic and raise funds for the subway. The board voted in favor of the resolution 22 –12 with 3 abstaining.
The board hopes by concentrating the DOT study on city curbs that it will shed light on new alternatives to alleviate congestion issues currently plaguing Upper West Side residents, such as establishing new loading and unloading zones for commercial vehicles, issuing residential parking permits, or planting trees to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
Surrounded by TV camera crews and news reporters inside Congregation Rodeph Sholom, the evening played out like a soap opera with talk of codes of conduct, hysteria, hijacked identities, memories of stickball, homemade protest signs, climate change, child deaths, bickering, free parking and dreams of becoming an Upper West Side resident.
Of the 62 residents initially signed up to speak, 32 were supportive of the resolution to study curb usage and 29 opposed. The rest were on the fence, or perhaps the curb.
Upper West Side resident and car owner Andy Rosenthal implored those gathered to vote in favor of the resolution. “This is a study, that’s all it is. It’s not reaching a conclusion, it’s a study. Let’s vote for science and vote for the resolution, ”said Rosenthal while holding up a sign of microscope.
Joe Rodriguez, lives in the vicinity of five schools and sees dangerous parking conditions on a daily basis. He urged the board to vote against the resolution. “We can do stuff now to fix our streets without relying on a study,” he said.
“This is a lot simpler if you just look at the resolution.” said resident Tag Gross. “Let’s establish a baseline in our neighborhood right now and six months into congestion pricing lets study the effect if any then let’s address the residential parking and other uses and bike lines and everything else.” The audience applauded.
A sentiment expressed throughout the evening by residents and a few board members was the feeling that congestion pricing unfairly targets and punishes drivers and a study might help them. But even though the tolling program is set to begin in 2021, many details are still unclear including the actual fee and enforcement. The fee is expected to be determined between Nov. 15 and Dec. 31.
“I can’t afford a storefront,” says Melanie Wesslack, a resident of West 72nd St., in favor of the proposed DOT study. Wesslack uses her car to operate her photography business, “they are making me pay $6,000 a year to park my car that I need for my job. I think this is an absolute crazy idea. I think there has to be some middle ground where I’m paying for some sort of placard, having a traffic zone like they do in London, Rome in Bologna. There are other ideas.”
A member of CB 7 quipped, that if there was this much comeuppance over this resolution, everyone would be pleased to know that the next item on the agenda was also on doing a study on the M11 bus. That resolution was also passed.