Hudson Valley commuters rip ‘absolutely unacceptable and ridiculous’ $15 NYC congestion toll

February 19, 20240

Class Action lawsuit part of pushback against NYC zone tolls

Hudson Valley commuters ripped into the MTA’s congestion toll in a town hall in Ulster County Saturday, begging the Big Apple and Albany to put the controversial pricing plan on-hold.

The event was sponsored by battleground congressional district Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY), who regularly excoriates his fellow Democrats who are pushing for the Manhattan fares.

“I think this is an absolutely unacceptable and ridiculous plan,” Ryan told the crowd crammed into a meeting room in the Castleton-on-Hudson Village Hall on Saturday.

Class action lawsuit filed as citizens protest MTA’s zone tolling program, scheduled to being in June. News video here.

The proposed congestion pricing toll would charge drivers $15 a day to enter midtown Manhattan south of 60th Street.

Ryan says he feels slighted after the feds helped bail out the MTA with a $10.5 billion aide package in 2021.

“I think it’s total bulls–t,” Ryan told the Post. “I think people feel that this isn’t even a partisan political thing, it’s sort of a ‘are you for working people? Are you for union members? Are you for cops? Are you for firefighters? Are you for farmers?’ I mean, that’s our community.”

The freshman congressman wants to see opportunities for in-person public comment on the plan outside of the five public hearings scheduled over the next few weeks at MTA headquarters in Manhattan. Beyond that, Ryan wants exemptions or discounts from the toll for public workers like cops, firefighters and city workers.

“We have to have exemptions, I would say full exemptions, or at a minimum significant discounts for the public servants and other critical workers,” Ryan said. “We talked about essential folks during the pandemic. What are we doing for essential folks now?”

Saturday’s hearing included testimony from a number of firefighters and union workers, all taking issue with the plan.

“If I’m going to be forced to do public transportation, that adds the amount of time it takes for me to commute back and forth because you don’t have that many trains,” Jim McCarthy, an FDNY lieutenant, said.


The congestion pricing plan, passed by the state legislature in 2019, would charge drivers $15 per day for driving south of 60th Street in Manhattan.Christopher Sadowski


“That’s less time with my family, less time at home, less time in my community, more time just traveling back and forth,” he said. “That’s a burden that we can’t take on.”

McCarthy, a 35-year veteran of FDNY, complained about the lack of reliable and timely train service from his home in southern Orange County, especially during odd times of the day.

The Port Jervis line, for example, only has five trains at peak times, with trips taking around two hours before having to transfer in Secaucus or Hoboken.

The same sentiment was voiced by Kjell Pettersen, a union construction worker who said he commutes into Manhattan every day.

“To make the train to get in on time, I’d have to be on the train at 4 o’clock,” Pettersen said. “I’ve got two kids 4 and under. Anyone who has kids understands that once you get home, the second shift starts. Dinner, bedtime, doing dishes. That means I’d probably have to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning just to get the train.”

Pettersen said if the plan does pass as intended, there should be more trains added on both sides of the Hudson River to make commuting easier.

Ryan faces a challenging reelection campaign later this year, one of the most competitive races in the country according to Cook Political Report. Ryan, an Army veteran and former Ulster County executive, will face off against Alison Esposito, a former NYPD officer and lieutenant governor candidate.

Republicans are expected to attack Democrats over congestion pricing ahead of this year’s elections.

Ryan said that’s part of the reason why he wants elected officials to push to stop the congestion pricing plan before it ever starts.

“I think these things, we can stop them if we raise our voices enough, but I’m worried on this one that it does seem like they’re gonna force it,” Ryan said.

MTA Chief Janno Lieber was not present at the hearing, but he sent his Chief of Staff Laura Wiles, who told the crowd at one point she was instructed not to answer questions.

Many commenters said mass transit options are lacking if they’re forced off the roads by the tax.Matthew McDermott

“The legislature passed the congestion pricing law four years ago to reduce gridlock, improve public health and support mass transit,” MTA Spokesperson Aaron Donovan said in a statement provided to The Post.

“Since then, there have been thousands of pages of analysis and dozens of public meetings,” Donovan added. “We welcome Representative Ryan to the conversation.”

The MTA did not respond when asked whether Wiles took public transit to the hearing.

Nolan Hicks contributed reporting to this story.

John Ley

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