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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.”

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