Gov. Hochul shelved congestion toll over subway-crime worries, David Paterson claims

Gov. Kathy Hochul scuttled the congestion toll to enter Midtown because she believes too many people are afraid to take the subway so they drive in instead, ex-Gov. David Paterson said Sunday. 

“What she told me in a private conversation was she just thought about people who were afraid to ride the subways, so they drive their old car over the bridge, and they have to pay all this money,” Paterson said on 77 WABC radios’s “The Cats Roundtable.” “She was thinking really of individuals who would be affected.

“Hochul realized that some of the problems that the antagonists to congestion pricing are raising are not going to go away,” said the former governor, who is a Democratic, as is the governor.

Governor Hochul scrapped the Midtown congestion bill in the eleventh hour. Governor Kathy Hochul/Facebook

Former Governor of New York David Paterson claims he knows why Hochul shelved congestion pricing. Getty Images

Felony assaults on straphangers soared more than 50 percent from before the pandemic in 2019 through last year, with 373 vs. 570 incidents.

The violent trend prompted authorities to flood the subway system with extra cops — but even that has resulted in just a 1% decrease in overall transit crime between January and March of this year compared to the first quarter of 2023, according to the NYPD stats.

Paterson admitted Hochul’s 11th hour about-face was jarring coming “so close to the June 30 deadline,” when the MTA was supposed to implement the controversial first-in-the=nation $15 congestion toll to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street.

He dismissed speculation that Hochul shelved the toll so that fellow Democrats running in November for competitive New York congressional seats — a situation that could determine which party controls the House — don’t have to defend congestion pricing from withering attacks from Republicans.

Paterson said he ultimately backed Hochul’s decision on reneging on the toll, insisting she did not make such a momentous turnabout based purely on political expediency.

“Those who would be antagonistic to her have tried to say that this is a political move. … But I think that’s kind of [unfair] at this point with all that is involved to think that the governor would just turn around and do it just to win a few [congressional] seats,” he said.

Former governor Paterson does not believe that Hochul stopped the congestion bill for political reasons. Getty Images

Debate rages now over how the MTA would make up the lost revenue from the $1 billion a year that had been expected from the new Manhattan toll to finance transit capital needs.

There also has been criticism over the nearly $500 million that has already been spent by the transit agency on trying to get congestion pricing up and running, including installing toll collecting technology.

“It’s still the right decision,” Paterson said of Hochul’s controversial move.

Hochul and state lawmakers could not agree on alternative financing for the MTA, after the toll plan was yanked, during the final days of the Legislature’s session last week.

Transit advocates who championed congestion pricing are livid that the governor threw the program under the bus and are holding rallies to try to save it.

“The 2% of New York commuters drive to work in Manhattan are far wealthier than public transit riders and people who drive to work elsewhere, making congestion pricing a highly progressive policy, the only one that will raise sustained, dedicated billions of real dollars for reliable and accessible subway service — while also speeding up bus service and deliveries and cutting emergency response times and air pollution,” Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance said Sunday.

But congestion pricing is deeply unpopular, with nearly two-thirds of New York voters — across all demographics and regions — who are opposed to charging a specific toll to enter Midtown, a recent Siena College poll revealed.

The tolling program was approved by ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic-run legislature in 2019. But even Cuomo said the state should hit the brakes on congestion pricing earlier this year, asserting it wasn’t the right to time to do it given New York’s slow-than-expected recovery from the pandemic.

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