In a move that will definitely not be seen as yet another petty snub of a political and personal rival, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced today that he's assembled a "Fix NYC" panel that will solve our city's traffic problems and funnel more money to the MTA. It has some real boldface names, like Mr. Gridlock Sam Schwartz, former governor David Paterson and former MTA chair and CEO Tom Prendergast. All the panel is missing, in fact, is a single person with any governing authority over New York City. But uh, it's got the Suffolk County Executive and the mayor of Yonkers!
The prestigious panel was announced today in a press release, in which Cuomo said that with the birth of the panel, "we take a major step forward in coming up with a real solution to tackle the issue of congestion while helping to fund mass transit moving forward."
16 people were listed as panel members, all of whom are "transportation experts, representatives from the MTA region, local leaders and stakeholders," according to Cuomo. None of the 16 people listed as members actually govern New York City, the geographical area that the governor says the panel will fix.
The absence of anyone from City Hall or the Department of Transportation or anyone in the city's executive branch, and the fact that congestion pricing advocate Sam Schwartz is on the panel, suggests that this is yet another indication Governor Cuomo wants to fund the MTA with some kind of traffic pricing instead of the mayor's idea for a millionaire's tax.
A spokesperson for the mayor's office was dismissive of the panel.
"We’ve yet to see a real plan from the governor on congestion pricing, and City riders don't need yet another commission to tell them that the State has failed their transit system," spokesperson Austin Finan told Gothamist. "Riders deserve real solutions and a dedicated transit funding stream like the millionaires tax the mayor has already proposed."
The governor's office did not respond to a request for a comment as to why no one from City Hall was included.
Riders Alliance Executive Chairman John Raskin was supportive of the panel, provided it was going to recommend congestion pricing.
"Congestion pricing is a fair and sustainable revenue source that could generate billions of dollars to fix transit while also alleviating traffic and boosting the region's economy. If Governor Cuomo leads with a strong congestion pricing plan that generates billions of dollars for public transit, he will have the support of millions of frustrated subway and bus riders who are desperate for relief," he said in a statement.
Left unsaid at the moment is what kind of traffic pricing system would be endorsed by the governor, since state legislators said they hadn't heard anything about East River bridge tolls when Cuomo first endorsed congestion pricing. Any NYC congestion pricing plan would require legislation passing in Albany.
Schwartz, who helped design the Move NY plan that relies on East River bridge tolls to raise funds for the MTA, seemed to understand that.
"This is gonna be the Cuomo plan, not Sam’s plan, and I recognize that. I’ll have the opportunity to describe the Move New York plan in full detail to the panel and there are lots of elements that I certainly hope that the panel does accept," he told the Daily News.