Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Raidarmax
Traffic in New York City on July 17, 2012.

Do you drive in New York City’s five boroughs? Do you drive into Manhattan?

If you do, fasten your wallet. New York MTA officials released the long-delayed “environmental assessment” of the city’s proposed Central Business District Tolling Program, the so-called “congestion pricing plan,” bringing its implementation one step closer.

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If it is passed, the plan could cost drivers from $5 to $23 per trip into the city, depending on the time of day and type of vehicle used. Trucks will pay the most.

The document, reviewed by The City, claims the plan would potentially cut congestion entering midtown Manhattan by nearly 20 percent. It also claims the plan will improve air quality, boost bus service reliability, and increase use of the mass transit system.

The plan is expected to fund $15 billion worth of improvements in the subway, bus and commuter rail systems as part of the MTA’s 2020 to 2024 Capital Plan.

“Bottom line: this is good for the environment, good for public transit and good for New York and the region,” Janno Lieber, MTA chairperson and CEO, said in a statement.

Hochul: It Won’t Be Soon
New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul said during the state’s Democratic gubernatorial debate this past June that she supports congestion pricing – but that it won’t happen soon.

“I support congestion pricing, but we’ve been in negotiations with the federal government that has the say on the next step, and they have now put some other, I would call them hurdles, in the way that we have to overcome,” Hochul said.

“So, this is not going to happen over the next year, under any circumstances. But now is not the right time… We’re in conversation with the federal government,” she said.

“They just asked us to deal with an additional environmental issue, so I don’t think it’s going to be before the end of the year. I’m rather certain of that.”

“So, we’re asking them for a time frame, but we’re on a path, and now we have to address their concerns, and the flags that they’ve raised,” she added.

Nevertheless, she said her administration is “committed to getting it done.”

Good for the Environment, But at What Price?
All the above comes with the assumption that Manhattan businesses will choose to stay in the city once it becomes more expensive for suppliers to continue trucking goods to their customers.

Here’s another issue: the continuing murders, stabbings and other attacks taking place in the subway system workers are supposed to use to get to their jobs.

Good for the environment, perhaps. But at what price?

Over the past two years, the city’s business districts have taken a terrible beating thanks to the George Floyd riots, smash-and-grab looters, mobs and organized criminals, not to mention the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the skyrocketing shootings that have continued into this year.

The Great Exodus
In 2020, the first year of the pandemic which encompassed the summer violence, a net 70,000 people left the metropolitan area, resulting in approximately $34 billion in lost income, Reuters reported, quoting the Unacast analytics firm.

Some 3.57 million people left the city from January to December 2020, but 3.5 million people with lower average incomes moved into the city during the same period.

Tracking returns filed in 2019 and 2020 showed a net 248,387 residents fled the state in those years. The state lost $19.5 billion in the exodus, the IRS confirmed – the worst net loss of income of any state in the country, according to Wirepoints as quoted by The Center Square.

Approximately one-third of those who left the city had an average income of $214,300, according to The New York Times. The problem was compounded by the fact that the top one percent of earners contributed 41 percent of the city’s personal income taxes in 2019.

Part of that lost income affected the city, since New York residents pay income tax to the state and to the city, as well as to the IRS.

During the pandemic, those who fled the city had average incomes that were 28 percent higher than those who stayed. Federal pandemic aid to New York City $16 billion helped keep it afloat.

It is believed the city’s population has likely returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021, according to a report by the Department of City Planning.

The question is, how many of those new residents are bringing big business along with them – and how will the “congestion pricing plan” affect their ability to stay?

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.