With Election Day a little more than two weeks away, Mayor de Blasio largely avoided politics on Sunday and instead focused on a problem that has plagued New Yorkers almost since the invention of the Model T. Political Reporter Zack Fink has the story.
Addressing a bread-and-butter issue for almost every city resident, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday unveiled a plan to reduce vehicular traffic, involving increased ticketing of motorists and reducing curbside deliveries by trucks.
"Congestion is at a level that, for so many people in this city, really affects their lives negatively, and I certainly don't find it acceptable," de Blasio said at a press conference to announce his plan. "There is more we have to do to address the congestion issue."
According to AAA, 1 million city residents drive to work each day. But it's not just the people who live in the city who are clogging up the streets; it's tourists, delivery trucks, and other visitors as well.
Specifically, the mayor's plan would create "clear lanes" on cross-town streets in Manhattan, dedicating more lanes to traffic flow; a pilot program, which would begin in January to ban curbside truck deliveries on certain streets during the morning and evening rush hours; and hiring an additional 50 police officers to ticket motorists who gridlock or "block the box." In total, the mayor's plan is to hire 160 new officers for traffic enforcement, whom the mayor said the city will pay for by additional revenue from ticketing violators.
De Blasio said the goal is to see a ten percent increase in speed on Manhattan streets by the end of 2018.
De Blasio said no single part of the plan will work on its own. "I will tell you up front: it's not a panacea," he said at his press conference. "It will not make all the congestion go away overnight. Some of the reality is that so many people are in this city — particularly Manhattan on a weekday."
The mayor's Republican opponent in next month's election said the plan is typical for de Blasio.
"We need to upgrade our traffic lights using smart light technology. That's what we really need to be doing, is bringing our city into the 21st century, not looking — once again, as the mayor is always looking to do — is take more money from the hard working people by hitting them over the head with fines," State Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis told me.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is exploring some form of congestion pricing, which the mayor opposes.
"I have not seen a plan that I think is fair. There is no plan from Albany right now, let's be 100 percent clear," de Blasio said. "The governor said he was interested in congestion pricing; that was, what, a month or so ago? We have not seen a plan."
In a statement, a spokesperson for the MTA said, "The Mayor's plan to ease congestion is to enforce the law, which begs the question: what has been City Hall's policy for the last four years? We're glad he seems to finally recognize the severe problems caused by congestion."
Cuomo has appointed a task force to study the issue of congestion pricing. He is expected to take its recommendations and unveil his plan in the State of the State message in January.