A Brooklyn Youth’s view on Congestion Pricing

I am disappointed to read that some of our Brooklyn elected officials are still claiming congestion pricing would place an “unfair burden on the poor” — Assemblyman Nick Perry (D–East Flatbush) calls congestion pricing “a wanton exploitation of tax-paying New York City drivers” and Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene) claims “It’s unfair and unjust that those who make the least should pay the most and those who make the most should pay the least”.

I agree with Mr. Jeffries’ equation, just not with the driving part: those who truly make the least are also the least likely to own cars! With rising gas prices far out of any local control, what elected officials (and, frankly, everyone in this city) should be worrying about is how to create a public transit infrastructure that gives every New Yorker, especially those of less financial means, equal access to a decent car-free commute. At the moment Brooklyn’s wealthiest neighborhoods are also the ones best served by public transit; if people who live in those districts choose to drive, they are also the ones best equipped to pay a premium for it, and to finance a better transit system for the rest of us.

I would go on to say that if Jeffries is truly concerned about “those who make the least”, he should work on providing them with a safe bicycle network, which would bring their commute costs close to zero. More people on bicycles and fewer in cars would also be a great boon for public health: less pollution and more exercise is a win-win. As Enrique Peñalosa, former mayor of Bogota, explained the motivation to improve his city’s bicycle infrastructure (in leiu of building an elevated highway around the city), it “sends a message that a citizen on a $30 bike is as important as one in a $30,000 car”.

Here is today’s last word on the subject, from a youth activist:

“Congestion pricing would not only help get cars off the road, leading to a reduction of pollution, but will reduce the upper respiratory diseases that have settled in the lungs of my mom, cousins, aunts, uncles, abuelas, abuelos and even my little brother,” said 16-year-old Joaquin Brito, a youth justice organizer with UPROSE, a Sunset Park–based activist group.

Brito scoffed at politicians who claimed congestion pricing would be an unfair economic burden on drivers.

“If you can afford to pay $8 for a venti latte and a cookie from Starbucks every day, then you can afford congestion pricing,” he said.

I hope Perry and Jeffries are listening.

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