Mr. Speaker, Downtown needs you to get congestion pricing passed

When the day comes, perhaps a good many years from now, that Sheldon Silver is no longer the speaker of the Assembly, much will be written about his legacy. Two of the strongest parts of his record so far have been his dedicated and effective advocacy for mass transit improvements and for Lower Manhattan’s recovery since 9/11. Both shining examples would be tarnished if he does not get congestion pricing passed through the Assembly by Monday’s deadline.

We were pleased to hear him tell us Wednesday that he “probably” will support the measure. But he clearly does not see this as a fundamental issue to pressure his members for votes. He would never free the Democratic conference to vote their conscience on rent protections, the Second Ave. subway, the Fulton Transit Center, the Hudson River Park or many other measures – we would be quick to criticize him if he did. He recognizes the importance of these projects to New York State as well as to Lower Manhattan, the district he represents.

Congestion pricing will have benefits all over the world with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but few places would see bigger benefits than Downtown, which chokes on traffic and pollution. But the plan to charge drivers to come into Manhattan not only will reduce traffic, pollution and probably asthma rates, it also will provide nearly $500 million a year in money for mass transportation.

The speaker knows full well that without congestion pricing revenues, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s recently released capital plan amounts to something close to a fairy tale. There would still be an M.T.A. capital budget deficit with congestion pricing, but a yes vote in the Assembly will mean many desperately needed projects will be built. It will mean the M.T.A. will have a guaranteed revenue stream, providing $4.5 billion in improvements over the next five years and tens of billions in the not-too-distant future.

The congestion pricing plan got better this week with changes in the City Council – most notably with a way to make New Jersey tunnel drivers pay. It’s a change Silver also favored.

Many people Downtown see the speaker as a powerful voice for them. They have good reason to. No one has been better fighting for transit money than Silver. He has been a good friend to the Lower Manhattan community. We need you to get this passed this weekend, Mr. Speaker.