At a press conference touting a bevy of new electric car charging stations in Gowanus on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio seemed cranky, confused, and misstated some facts. In other words: the mayor needed a nap.
“You my friend, I’ve told you before, I understand the agenda of your newspaper which makes you different from the others around you,” de Blasio told a New York Post reporter, who had resurrected a charge that the mayor takes naps on the job. “You are playing out an agenda. I am not participating. It’s a ridiculous question.”
The napping allegation is a spasm from the city’s reactionary tabloid to inject some vitality into a lackluster mayoral race with a lackluster Republican candidate, such is Democracy in New York. It’s 2017—naps are good! If Mayor Bloomberg took naps his face would be on the cover of New York Magazine (“The City That Never Sleeps—For More Than 20 Minutes”) with a custom eye mask made to look like sunglasses.
But this exchange followed a set of curious answers the mayor gave when another reporter pointed out that his own appointee to the MTA’s board, Veronica Vanterpool, recently urged him to support the Move NY plan for congestion pricing, an idea that was raised last month by Governor Andrew Cuomo as a way to address the city’s transportation crisis.
“She certainly has a right to her opinion, even when I disagree, but I know a regressive tax when I see one,” de Blasio replied.
“There are a lot of working class people, even low income people, who own vehicles, and there are reasons they have to go to Manhattan, and they are paying the exact same tax as someone who makes a million dollars.”
Congestion pricing is a bad idea because some people need to drive into Manhattan for medical procedures. pic.twitter.com/PDHg5YfhkV
— Motorisms (@DrivinHere) September 20, 2017
If the mayor had ducked under his desk and cranked up some brown noise and gotten 15 minutes of shut eye, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so dismissive of Vanterpool’s argument: most working class and low income New Yorkers do not own cars, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which is not known for its opinions. Across the five boroughs, the median household income for car owners is nearly double that of those who don’t own them.
Instead of driving, these New Yorkers take public transportation, the same public transportation that is sapping them of time and money and pieces of their soul, every single day of the week, because their public servants have failed them (and failed to get enough rest to evaluate complicated but accessible policy proposals).
Car ownership is highest in Staten Island, where only 17.8 percent of residents don’t own cars. Yet it is Staten Island State Senator Andrew Lanza who proposed a congestion pricing bill last June based on the Move NY plan, which would reduce tolls on seven different crossings and raise tolls on others while imposing surcharges on for-hire vehicles. A similar bill has been proposed in the Assembly.
Mayor de Blasio, clearly drowsy from hours of sleepless multitasking, claimed that such bills did not exist.
“I remind everyone, we have not seen a proposal for congestion pricing, I would just urge you guys, you might want to ask for that proposal because you ask about it all the time except it does not exist we literally have not seen a proposal from Albany on congestion pricing,” de Blasio said. A few minutes later, just before the cock crowed, the mayor repeated this assertion.
“The most important point I can make to you is, I could respond better if there was a plan I could respond to, I’ve only seen the plans of the past, maybe they’ll be a new plan that looks different, but based on the plans of the past I stand by my position.”
Surely the mayor, who has proposed yet another millionaire’s tax scheme to fund transportation improvements, isn’t holding out on congestion pricing merely to preserve a childish grudge with a governor who’d rather stand on the opposite side of the Brooklyn Bridge than stand next to him. And he wouldn't conflate Mayor Bloomberg's 2008 congestion pricing proposal with the significantly different plan being discussed now, especially when the leader of the State Assembly told reporters a month ago that congestion pricing was "on the table."
So how else to explain why de Blasio would blindly and repeatedly (and falsely!) dismiss a proposal that would raise billions of dollars for public transportation and the city’s pockmarked roads, all while reducing the traffic and pollution that is literally choking the city?
Back in July, at the peak of the Summer of Hell, de Blasio's deputy mayor assured frustrated New Yorkers that their leader was riding the subway "constantly." Lots of New Yorkers catch some sleep on the train. The mayor should give it a shot.