Seeking to bring the Sunset Park community on board, UPROSE, an environmental advocacy group based in the neighborhood, on Wednesday, April 29 held a presentation with MoveNY, a grassroots campaign currently seeking to build support for a master transportation plan, in the meeting room at Community Board 7.
The plan was created by Samuel Schwartz, a former traffic commissioner, and in some ways is a reboot of the failed Congestion Pricing plan introduced in 2007 by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Like congestion pricing, the MoveNY plan includes new tolls on bridges that are currently free, including the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges — a concept which was vigorously opposed by many residents and elected officials in outlying communities in the outer boroughs. The new plan, whose goal is to reduce and redistribute traffic and lower cost for transit riders, includes lower tolls for crossings that are currently tolled.
The Fair Plan Education Forum was co-hosted by State Assemblymember Felix Ortiz.
“Uprose has always had a history of transportation justice [advocacy],” said Assistant Director of UPROSE Cynthia Moices. “Most recently, we were fighting to get the B 37 bus back and we had a big success with it. Knowing that Sunset Park has a lot of transportation needs, we are always fighting for the needs of the community and the concerns they have.”
Representing MoveNY during the presentation was Campaign Coordinator and Analyst Jonathan Matz. During the meeting, he listed growing concerns about transportation, specifically regarding trains and busses.
“We have uncomfortable, inaccessible stations. We have overcrowded trains. Certainly anybody who rides the R-train can tell you about that. We have late trains,” Matz said. “We have to equip our system to be able to handle more flooding. And in the meanwhile, it’s a system that’s getting more expensive. We are paying more and getting less out of it.”
Matz, utilizing a projector, presented possible solutions. “We need to expand express bus network by running more buses on certain lines, [adding] new lines, and decreasing the fare on express busses,” he said. He also mentioned other improvements, like expanding countdown clocks.
Although CB7 had previously voted for the plan, not everyone is on board with it. “On the surface, I see many problems with it,” said Sunset resident Javier Nieves. “Obviously, the ultimate goal is to reduce the congestion that happens and make the city a bit more livable. But people are going to be pretty upset, especially if you’re going to start charging for driving over the bridges. This has been discussed for a number of years. The question becomes, have any of the other components been looked at other than just simply trying to generate revenue and impose tolls on the bridges in New York City?”
But, the needs of the Sunset Park community outweigh that, contended Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE. “The MTA and transportation system has a lot of aging infrastructure that just gets older,” she explained. “The population is growing and the majority of people in our community take mass transit. The majority of people in our community are not going over bridges. They take the train and they take the buses. It’s a system that’s becoming more expensive to sustain so there has to be a funding mechanism to make sure that the people most impacted and who need the most don’t continue to be charged more.”