Spring 2003, p.3

Publisher's Letter: "Mayors Win"

The guys at Empire Deli on 6th Avenue say Mayor Bloomberg is bad for business and raised transit fares. They're not alone. The Mayor's approval rating has fallen to 32%. Worse could be ahead for Bloomberg as the City faces even more popularity-killing budget woes the next two years.

One (unpopular) way to help close these deficits is by tolling the East River bridges. Because of the great success of London's congestion pricing program, there is renewed speculation by pundits that such tolls are on the way. Indeed, the Mayor's budget contains toll revenue of $400 million in '05 and $600 million in '06.

The political reality is otherwise. There will be no tolls until Bloomberg is re-elected or a new mayor steps in. Queens and Brooklyn councilmembers have quashed any hope of getting the City Council's approval for tolls--which the Mayor must have. In Albany, both houses of the state legislature have also nixed tolls. A closer look also reveals that the City has not started the extensive planning, environmental studies and other preparation needed to put tolls in place. (An army of experienced consultants and high- level city managers spent two years on London's program.) This is probably because the Mayor hoped to lease the East River bridges to the MTA. That agency's credibility problems now make this very unlikely.

Battered as Bloomberg may be at the moment, there is an old NYC political saying "Mayor's win."

In essence, mayors have tremendous power and usually get there way. Indeed, there are still many things Mayor Bloomberg can do quickly and inexpensively to make NYC a better place to live and travel in. Here are a few:

  • Remove the Midtown crosswalk barricades. They never worked and now serve no purpose; turns at the barricaded crosswalks are now banned by the Thru Streets program.
  • Create car-free early mornings in Central Park. Prospect Park is car-free in early mornings until 7 am. Central Park, where traffic is sparse at that hour but park usage heavy, should be so privileged.
  • Car-Free Sundays on the Grand Concourse. During the early '90s, children frolicked and bands played each summer Sunday on The Bronx's Grand Concourse. The Mayor should revive that car-free vitality and community.
  • Ban car alarms. The City is revising its noise code for the first time in thirty years and two bills restricting car alarms are before the City Council. Car alarms are NYC's number one quality of life complaint. The Mayor would be a hero.
  • Extend the Commercial Congestion Parking program citywide. The DOT's Midtown program is working very well. Truck drivers would rather pay a few dollars more a day and get a parking spot than face $115 fines.
    Raise the rate for unrestricted on-street parking in Manhattan south of 60th Street from $2 to $6 an hour during weekdays. Pay more to get more.

These are just a few of the ideas T.A. has for making NYC a better place to bicycle, walk and live in. Check us out. Read this magazine, share it with a friend, and if you haven't already, join as a member.

John Kaehny
Executive Director

P.S. Note to guys at Empire Deli: the Governor, not the Mayor, controls the MTA and transit fares.

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