Congestion pricing: Bronx pols split on last-minute decision to pause toll program

cross bronx expressway
Traffic along the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Photo ET Rodriguez

Bronx politicians are mixed in their support for congestion pricing following Gov. Kathy Hochul’s abrupt announcement earlier this month to delay the start of the Manhattan toll program. 

Some have expressed frustration with Hochul’s about-face — reported on by nearly every Manhattan-based publication the first week of June — but a few others threw their support to the governor, claiming congestion pricing will burden their constituents. 

The program, approved by state lawmakers five years ago, would charge most motorists entering lower Manhattan a $15 toll — an effort to reduce traffic and auto pollution and instead encourage public transportation, as well as fund the MTA’s outstanding capital projects. Congestion pricing was set to take effect June 30 of this year until Hochul announced earlier this month she would postpone it indefinitely — in a video address citing this “moment of financial stress, high inflation and already high cost of living” as her rationale.  

‘I would not have done what she did’

Northwest Bronx Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz told the Bronx Times in an interview last week that while he’s not a fan of the “ridiculously high” cost to motorists and the “Manhattan-centric” nature of the plan, funding the MTA’s capital projects is a priority for him. Dinowitz voted for congestion pricing as part of the state budget package in 2019 and said he’s worried about sourcing funds for the MTA if the program gets axed.

“I would not have done what she did, especially two days before the end of the legislative session,” Dinowitz said. “I think that was a mistake and I worry about coming up with the money.” 

While the assembly member said congestion pricing seems generally unpopular among New York City metro-area residents, a group of vocal proponents of the toll program is protesting the governor’s last-minute decision.

Bronx Assembly Member Karines Reyes — who represents Castle Hill, Parkchester and West Farms in the 87th Assembly District — shared similar sentiments with Dinowitz, expressing her support for congestion pricing as a “mechanism” for critical public transit improvements. 

“Though I am sensitive to the reality that some of my constituents are struggling financially, congestion pricing was a way to ensure that the vast majority of Bronxites would not bear the brunt of the cost of the MTA’s capital projects,” Reyes told the Bronx Times in a statement. “I am very unsettled by Gov. Hochul’s announcement of a delay. This sudden and abrupt decision has jeopardized funding for potential projects that are needed to improve the MTA’s performance for New Yorkers.” 

Reyes said the pause in her district will likely mean delays in the “much-anticipated” new Parkchester Metro-North station, as well as improvements like elevators at the Parkchester station on the 6 train and increased bus frequency. 

State Sen. Gustavo Rivera told the Bronx Times that he’s similarly a supporter of congestion pricing as a way to reduce traffic and pollution, and said he worries about his constituents with disabilities who are waiting on “long-promised” MTA accessibility upgrades, as well as the poor air quality caused by auto emissions.

Rivera represents a part of western Morris Park stretching across Belmont, Fordham Heights, and north to Norwood, Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale in the Bronx’s 33rd Senatorial District. 

I was disappointed by the governor’s eleventh-hour decision to delay implementation,” Rivera said in a statement. “The proposals she then suggested to the Legislature included raising this funding through either a payroll tax on New York City residents or an empty promise to find revenue by kicking the can down the road. I cannot in good conscience support committing $1 billion dollars a year to address a shortfall unilaterally created by the governor’s shortsighted decision.” 

‘Now is not the right time to implement congestion pricing’

Assembly District 86 rep Yudelka Tapia, however, said she thinks that “now is not the right time to implement congestion pricing” because it would add another cost onto both commuters and local businesses that are still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. She argues the toll program would increase traffic and pollution in her district from suburb and upstate motorists who would be “diverted to the Bronx instead of Manhattan.”

Assembly District 86 includes the sectors of Tremont, Fordham Heights and Morris Heights. 

“I support Gov. Hochul’s decision to temporarily pause congestion pricing,” Tapia told the Bronx Times in a statement. “My constituents will be relieved from the immediate additional financial burden, allowing them to allocate their income towards other essential and basic needs.”

Tapia said she “remain[s] committed to advocating for” MTA capital improvements, but said she thinks the funding should be obtained “through different means.” She wasn’t specific about what those means would be, however. 

People catch the 4 train at the Woodlawn stop on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.
People catch the 4 train at the Woodlawn stop on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024.Photo Camille Botello

More local reaction

While New York City Council members don’t have any legislative say on the issue of congestion pricing, support seems fairly mixed among the 52-member body as well. 

City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, who represents parts of the South Bronx in District 17, told the Bronx Times in an interview that he was “happy” with the governor’s change of heart because he’s never been “a fan of congestion pricing.” Salamanca said he believes the program would bring more traffic and parking issues to the South Bronx — especially near the newly-planned Hunts Point Metro-North station — that the area doesn’t have the infrastructure to accommodate. 

“My community is already overburdened with the amount of trucks and traffic that’s coming in and out of Hunts Point because of the markets,” Salamanca said. “I hope that … whenever they decide that they’re going to implement it, they have a real plan on how to address the influx of cars that my community is going to get.” 

Bronx Council Member Kristy Marmorato’s office said she has “stood alongside her constituents against congestion pricing,” citing the concern she has with rising cost of living. Marmorato represents the 13th Council District in the East Bronx, and is the only Bronx Republican City Council member. 

“The implementation of congestion pricing would disproportionately impact our constituents in the Bronx, many of whom rely on personal vehicles for their daily commutes due to limited public transportation options,” Marmorato’s Chief of Staff April Cardena told the Bronx Times via email.

But even so, she said the about-face is “concerning,” “especially after millions of taxpayer dollars were spent preparing for its rollout.” 

“This issue should have been thoroughly evaluated and addressed long before the scheduled implementation date,” Cardena said. “The last-minute nature of this decision is concerning and seems awfully politically motivated.”                                                          

City Council Member Eric Dinowitz — Jeffrey Dinowitz’s son who represents the northwest Bronx’s 11th Council District — didn’t explicitly say whether or not he supports congestion pricing, but emphasized that “it is crucial that the state find alternate sources of revenue to pay for critical capital improvements in the MTA.”

In the days since Hochul paused the program, the Federal Highway Administration gave its final approval on the toll program — indicating that it would save people money associated with vehicle operating costs, save people time while commuting, provide MTA improvements, and would pose no significant impact on the environment. 

Additionally, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander announced he’s assembling a coalition to potentially sue the state over Hochul’s pause on congestion pricing.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Jeffrey Dinowitz represents the East Bronx. He represents the northwest Bronx. 

Reach Camille Botello at For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes