2007-06-13 / Political Page

Tough Haul For Mayor On 'Toll' Plan, Despite Strong Support

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has attracted impressive high-level support for his congestion pricing plan, but still has a difficult task before him because of the tangled political factors that can spell success or failure for the plan.

The mayor last week added the names of Governor Eliot Spitzer, state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and federal Transportation Secretary Mary Peters to his list of supporters. Ordinarily, this impressive lineup would make the mayor's objective a slam dunk.

But a very powerful pol- Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver- has not announced any decision on which way he will go on the controversial plan. But a good indication that he is in a mischiefmaking mood came last week when an

Assembly committee gave the

mayor a rough time at the first

of several hearings on the

plan.

The plan calls for

motorists to pay a

toll of $8 and truck

owners a toll of $21

each time they enter

Manhattan south of 86th

Street between 6 a.m. and 6

p.m.

There has been some support expressed for the plan; along with opposition from the outer boroughs.

The mayor highlighted Crowley's support at a Sunday press conference where the Queens lawmaker and Democratic Party leader backed the mayor's Midtown Manhattan proposal as part of his overall environmental plan which, he said, had national and world implications.

The key to all the jockeying from both opponents and supporters of the plan is that it must win legislative approval. Spitzer and Bruno indicate by their endorsement that two-thirds of the necessary approval will be provided.

But Silver would have to provide the other third through a vote by the huge Democratic majority for the controversial proposal. If Silver decides it's a "no go", that he doesn't want the plan approved, will the combined political power of Governor Spitzer, Mayor Bloomberg and Democratic leader Crowley be enough to overcome Spitzer's enormous power over Democratic lawmakers throughout the state?

This would be very difficult to achieve, we believe. In fact, it would take a rebellion among the Democrats in the Assembly to vote "yes" if Silver said to vote "no".

Besides Silver's tight hold over the Democratic majority, there has already been some opposition expressed to the plan Queens lawmakers. This came from Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D- Ridgewood) in Western Queens, and from Assemblymembers Mark Weprin (D- Little Neck) and Rory Lancman (D- Flushing) in Eastern Queens.

At the outset, there was some opposition expressed in these areas by local businessmen and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

Crowley said in announcing his support for the plan that he has assurances from the mayor that he would improve or provide mass transit alternatives before the full congestion pricing plan would be implemented. Crowley cited the reopening of LIRR stations in Corona and Elmhurst as well as two Metro North stations in The Bronx portion of his district as among the improvements.

Nolan's remarks came before Crowley announced his endorsement, but Lancman and City Councilmember David Weprin stated their positions after Crowley's support was announced.

Weprin (D- Hollis) has also spoken in opposition to the mayor's plan, as has Borough President Helen Marshall.

With all these varied political forces at work, it's clear to see the mayor still has a difficult job ahead, especially since he would like legislative approval to come before the Albany lawmakers end their session on June 21, only eight days away. There's no doubt that legislative approvals can come immediately when all the major power wielders are in agreement, but when there are strong disagreements, it can take an eternity to get everyone on the same page.

It's our guess the latter scenario will apply here.

PASSPORT RULES EASED TEMPORARILY: Easing of new rules requiring passports for U.S. citizens flying to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean were applauded last week by Crowley.

The lawmaker said the State Department's action, taken because of a major processing backlog, "comes as welcome news for my constituents". He added, "The new restrictions, added to the enormous backlog caused major delays for those planning to visit family or spend their holidays in Mexico, Canada or the Caribbean."

WEINER: PROTECT COPS, INFORMANTS, WITNESSES: Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D- Queens/Brooklyn) complains that a new Web site gives the identities of about 4,300 informants and 460 undercover agents. He has filed legislation to ban it.

Weiner, a member of the Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee, said the Justice Department is concerned that the site subjects the undercover agents and informants to harassment, intimidation and retaliation and should not be allowed. Under Weiner's bill, disseminating this information would be illegal.

PHEFFER: 'CEASE AND DESIST' LISTS UPDATED: Cease and desist lists, which prohibit licensed real estate brokers and salespersons from soliciting business from homeowners on the list, are currently being updated by the state Department of State, according to Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer (D- Rockaway Beach).

Pheffer says homeowners who want to add their names to the 2007 list, which is updated every six months, can do so by filling out a card which is then sent to area real estate brokers. The homeowners are then protected from solicitation by phone, mail or in person. Violators face investigation and possible fines if they do not honor the restriction.

Forms to get on the list can be obtained by calling Pheffer's district office at 718- 945-9550 or 718-641-8755. You may also register at http//www.dos.state.ny.us/lens/edrealest.ht m. Requests must be received by June 27.

ORGAN DONATING MADE EASIER: Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette's bill making it easier for a person to become an organ donor has passed the Assembly. Under the legislation, employees are granted an unpaid leave of absence to become an organ donor, but if the donor's employer grants a paid leave of absence, the employer will be reimbursed for the wages by the transplanter's insurance company.

There is a great need for organ donors nationwide and particularly in New York state, Lafayette (D- Jackson Heights) said. To sign up to become a donor, call the Statewide Organ Donor Registry at 1-866- NYDONOR.

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