Volume 21, Number 43 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | March 6 - 12, 2009


$2 tolls are a start

Drivers’ free ride into Downtown and Midtown Manhattan moved closer to ending last week with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s compromise plan to charge drivers one subway fare to cross the East and Harlem River bridges. The token toll (for those riders who remember the pre-MetroCard days) hits too few drivers and is not nearly enough when you consider the enormous costs society pays in pollution, lost business time, added traffic, and reduced pedestrian safety because of driving. But the Silver plan would be a step toward shifting more responsibility to drivers to pay for some mass transit.

Car-pooling commuters will pay less than straphangers under the compromise and will not pay any more at busier times.

Shockingly, the new proposal has drawn resistance from outer-borough state senators who apparently think their lower-income, subway-riding constituents should pay more to enter Manhattan than the tiny minority of the wealthier drivers living in their districts. Somehow, a free ride over the Brooklyn Bridge is sacrosanct, but the existing toll on the Henry Hudson Bridge is OK.

The tolls with the proposed small payroll tax should fund some capital improvements and help avoid severe service cuts and drastic fare increases. Market-rate parking fees and congestion pricing would be good additions, but unfortunately Albany is not yet capable of the bold changes we see in Washington. We’ll hope for one step for now.

Help or move out of Obama’s way

President Obama was able to get his stimulus bill passed in remarkable time, but there are much tougher fights ahead on the budget, health care and on saving the banking industry after the Bush administration mismanaged the first half of the rescue money in its closing days. Republicans have so far proven to be obstructionists.

Obama put many of the tax breaks the G.O.P. requested in the stimulus package yet still got virtually no Republican support in Congress. He should continue to make attempts to reach out, but we trust he’ll do it with his eyes wide open. Rush Limbaugh, who is hoping for Obama’s failure, emerged this week as the real leader of the Republicans. His more diplomatic followers in Congress say they want the president’s policies to fail, not Obama himself.

Well, if the policies fail we will remain in economic crisis. Just how many millions of more jobs do these Republicans hope to lose? In 1993, the Republicans opposed Clinton’s plan because they were certain it would lead to a recession. Instead we got robust, sustained growth and our nation’s largest surplus. The Republicans turned that into a record deficit and sent us to the economic cliff. It’s time for them to start working with our president, not against him.




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