Mayor Bloomberg came out swinging for congestion pricing today. Facing a March 31 deadline for the city and state legislatures to collect $354 million in federal start-up funds, Hizzoner appeared at breakfast with U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters at his side. To an Anthony Weiner question about congestion pricing's threat to federal funding, Bloomberg snapped: "That's one of the stupider things I've heard!"
In one of its more curious repercussions, it looks like Eliot Spitzer’s fall might mean the resurrection of Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing agenda. The groups pushing for a fee on midtown driving to fund mass-transit improvements say that governor designate David Paterson’s reputation as a conciliator bodes well for brokering a deal on the controversial proposal. As it stands, city and state lawmakers must adopt a proposed pricing plan by March 31 to retain a $354 million federal start-up grant — but that too could now change. The city will likely play the our-state-government-is-in-crisis card, pressing the Feds — who badly want to see New York get the money — to extend the deadline. (An ally of Sheldon Silver sniffed: “The mayor's office has cooked up lots of deadlines and may be cooking up this one, too.”)
Mario Cuomo, like Mayor Bloomberg, knows presidential-bid scrutiny. But he knows Albany even better. And the former governor doesn't see congestion pricing coming out of the legislative swamp by the end of March — when lawmakers must adopt a commission-sponsored plan to keep the city from losing $354 million in pledged federal transit aid. “I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not ruling it in,” Cuomo told us (there's that hedging we remember from the presidential-run talk). After hearing Eliot Spitzer talk up an ambitious budget proposal to the developer-heavy Association for a Better New York, the former governor noted that Mayor Bloomberg's air-quality cause seemed conspicuously absent from his successor's weighty wish list. “He has a complicated and very impressive agenda,” Cuomo tells us, “and if congestion pricing were on it, we'd have heard about it.” To be fair, Spitzer's slideshow did include an endorsement of the MTA's five-year capital plan, which relies on upwards of $4 billion from bonds that congestion-pricing fees would support. But Albany can always find ways to borrow more money — that's something Cuomo knows, too. —Alec Appelbaum
One of the things that we love about Mayor Bloomberg is that he always makes an effort during speeches. He always has a joke handy, he's personable, and crowds always eat him up (who doesn't want to eat up a munchkin?). So it was last night at the Global Green USA Awards. "When I first got elected mayor, [my mother] said to me, 'Now don’t try to be witty or clever; just be yourself,'" Hizzoner cracked, to much general amusement. Then he went straight into his eco-themed speech, which touched upon a lot of his PlaNYC initiatives. And then he threw down the gauntlet to PepsiCo, of all people. "Coca-Cola Enterprises has developed a hybrid delivery truck," he explained. "This new truck produces zero emissions when it’s going very slowly, which is the only thing it’s ever going to do in our city … If I can start to get people saying, 'Hey, Coca-Cola is a responsible company,' then it’s good for Coke. They will make more money, and they will have an increased interest in investing in our future. And other companies will hopefully follow suit. After all, if you were PepsiCo., what would you do?" Um, bring back that commercial where Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Pink are gladiators? Is that the wrong answer? —Robert Fischer
Have you heard? The Jews are voicing their disgust — disgust — with Michael Bloomberg! According to CBS, the mayor's visit to London, aside from leaving the city in the hands of a shadowy nameless ruler, turned into a Jewish PR disaster: Bloomberg's U.K. counterpart, Ken Livingstone, whom Bloomie is hoping to emulate with his congestion-pricing initiative, is apparently an anti-Semite and thinks the State of Israel shouldn't exist. Asked whether the resulting mayor-on-mayor photo-op action may hurt Mayor Mike with his constituents back home, Assemblyman Dov Hikind gravely offered that, quote, “It doesn't help.”
• Sure, the Feds promised Bloomberg $354 million for his traffic-reduction plan (if he can get the city and state to pass it), but that dough's mainly to put up new bus depots. Of the roughly $200 mil needed to charge drivers entering Manhattan, Uncle Sam's promised only $10 million. [NYT]
And so it has finally happened: The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced it will give New York City a $354 million grant to implement a congestion-pricing system in the city. It's not quite the $500 million Mayor Bloomberg and Dan Doctoroff told everyone the city stood to receive, but it's a whole lot more than nothing, too. It's a big win for the mayor, except for one thing. The Feds will only pay out on that grant if the state legislature signs off by March of next year — which means that seventeen-member commission formed just after the (alleged) application deadline pass a plan before then, and the city council, too, must agree to it. Shelly Silver, we think, is going to have a whole lot more fun.
U.S. Offers New York Millions for Congestion Pricing [City Room/NYT]
Earlier:Daily Intel's coverage of congestion pricing
• The Feds are expected to announce today that, yes indeed, they'll shell out the big bucks necessary for Bloomberg to execute his congestion-pricing dream plan — if Albany passes it first, that is. [NYT]
• The newest chapter in the fast-developing Spitzer scandal: The State Ethics Commission, which definitely has subpoena power, has joined the State Senate in requesting the documents from the Bruno investigation. Not looking good. [amNY]
As Geoffrey Gray warned us earlier, there's now a deal for congestion pricing. From City Room, the Times's metro blog:
“We have a deal,” Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate majority leader, just told reporters in Albany. “Like any deal, like any arrangement, its [sic] subject to the definitive word ending up on paper. As we speak, we are drafting paper, press release, with the governor’s office, with the Assembly.”
Asked if the deal would still qualify for a grant of $500 million in federal financing, Mr. Bruno said: “We are told if we get this there today, we will be one of the nine considered.”
Thought you didn't have to hear any more about congestion pricing? You may not be so lucky. This morning's Daily News reported that a marathon private negotiation went till the wee hours last night, putting Bloomberg and Albany leaders tantalizingly close to a deal to salvage the mayor's traffic plan. "We are extraordinarily close, but it's just not going to get there tonight," Spitzer's spokesman told the News just before midnight. "All the pieces have not come together." Well, the word we're now hearing is that those pieces have finally come together. A source in City Hall tells New York's Geoffrey Gray that they'll be holding a press conference in a few hours to announce a deal. We wouldn't hold our breath — considering the mercurial people involved — but it's what we're hearing.
Related:Congest Fight U-Turn [NYDN]