Congressmen Mike Lawler and Josh Gottheimer slam congestion pricing as “money grab,” say it will wreck area small businesses

December 4, 2023

CBS New York
By Marcia Kramer

NEW YORK — Small business owners spoke out Monday about congestion pricing. They say it will have a negative impact on their bottom line, which is already reeling from increased delivery prices.

They are the unintended victims of congestion pricing — thousands of small business owners who say the new plan could price them right out of existence.

“To have this congestion pricing shoved down our throats, it’s going to be a death blow. It’s going to be a death blow to small businesses like ours,” said Julio Pena, owner of Il Posto Accanto restaurant on the Lower East Side.

While Pena’s eatery is hung with snowflakes to celebrate the holiday season, he said this may be the last Christmas with any economic joy for him because of the plan to charge people to drive into Manhattan below 60th Street.

“It’s really going to kill us as small business owners,” Pena said.

He said his problem is how to make ends meet, when he gets 10 deliveries a day from trucks that will have to pay a steep congestion fee to get to his restaurant, fees that will be passed along to him and then passed along to customers, who, if they don’t live in the Central Business District, will have to pay a fee to just to get there.

“I mean, our sanitation company … I can’t wait for them to tell us they’re going to charge us more because their trucks are going to have to pay a fee to come into the city,” Pena said.

Pena on Monday joined Rep. Mike Lawler of Rockland County and Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey to slam the MTA plan. Gottheimer offered startling figures about just how much a single truck will have to pay to make deliveries in the Central Business District.

“We think it’s about nearly $30,000 a year, what they’re taking, for a truck to come in and out every day because the tolls, plus the congestion tax. It’s a fortune. You can imagine what it’s going to do. The cost is going to be on these small businesses,” Gottheimer said.

Both congressmen called the MTA plan a “money grab” to raise a billion dollars that has little to do with congestion.

“If you stop all the congestion then I guess you’re not raising a billion dollars, so clearly it’s not about the congestion. It’s about getting the money,” Lawler said.

Lawler also charged that if the MTA was truly interested in congestion there are many things it could do, including, “stop narrowing the lanes and the number of lanes on all these cross streets.”

New York City Transit President Rich Davey fought back.

“I don’t know about that small business. I hope this business does well, but I’m telling you congestion is killing the neighborhood I live in. I reject whatever absurd arguments are being made,” Davey said.

Lawler, a Republican who faces a stiff re-election campaign next November, also claimed congestion pricing is so unpopular in the suburbs and New Jersey that anyone who supports it could be politically vulnerable.