Fidler Waxes on “Haves” and “Have-Nots”

In this five-minute speech, delivered at the Stonewall Democratic Club in Manhattan and captured by The Politicker, Council Member Lew Fidler draws on the 2005 mayoral campaign of Freddy Ferrer to rehash the old saw that congestion pricing would create a city of "haves" and "have-nots."

"This is its stated purpose. This is exactly how it’s supposed to work, so there’s no debate on this point: it allocates your ability to enter the heart of our city by who can and can not afford it."

Again, Fidler betrays his windshield perspective. Of course congestion pricing will not keep a single person from entering Lower Manhattan, as long as they can walk, bike, or pay the (up to) $2 transit fare. And, as has been stated ad nauseum on Streetsblog, the city is already stratified, only in reality the "haves" have cars and/or parking placards while the "have-nots" have MetroCards.

Judging by the tepid reception Fidler gets here, his audience seems to get this, even if the councilman does not.

  • Competitive primaries

    We need a lot more democratic clubs in this this city to stimulate competition in primaries. A lot of elected democrats are embarressments to the Party.

    I could see a lot of these “No” folks get taken out of office if they see their union, environmental and transit taking constituents rebel and back another candidate. Drivers may show up at community board meetings and high income fundraisers, but transit riders vote in large numbers.

  • nobody

    I can’t believe that this guy calls himself a Democrat.

    Oh wait, yes, I can, considering how illiberal and spineless they’ve been on the national front.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I can’t believe that this guy calls himself a Democrat.)

    You need to wake up to what the Democrats and Republicans are.

    In theory Democrats are people who believe EVERYONE should have to contribute more to their community, but should expect more from their community, EQUALLLY AND FAIRLY in return.

    And Republicans believe that EVERYONE should rely on themselves, and volunatary contributions from others, to a greater extent, but would be forced to make fewer involunary contributions to the government in return.

    In that case I could respect either or both.

    In reality, both parties are in the business of handing out privileges some those who matter can get an unfair share out, and contribute less than their share in. All while throwing out rationalizations for the psychological benefit of the beneficiaries of the deal, so they can feel that they are the “deserving people” in some sense. And both parties agree that the future, and those who will live in it, do not matter.

    So there are all these things that no one dares to talk about. Like the placards, until recently.

    If nothing else, this issue — and the coming economic debacle — may open some eyes. The best argument the opponents have is that if we pay congestion pricing the money will just go to THEIR special interest and most of us will get NO benefit.

  • Dave H.


    CP is a three-year trial. If hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles make it into showrooms next year, I am sure we can reconsider the CP thing once the trial period is up. (Of course, emissions are not the only problem with cars in an urban environment, but we can bracket that for a second).

  • Timz

    Come On Lew! Get with the times! I can enter the heart of the city anytime I want. And guess what… I don’t own a car!!! In fact, people who drive their car into the heart of the city actually make it harder, more dangerous and less healthy for me to enter into the same place. Oh, and 90% of the population gets into the heart of the city in exactly the same manner as I. And this 90% of the population is adversely affected by that small minority of drivers in the same way I am. How is it that this situation is fair but congestion pricing isn’t?? Your line of thinking just doesn’t hold up to the facts.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (If hydrogen-fuel cell vehicles make it into showrooms next year, I am sure we can reconsider the CP thing once the trial period is up.)

    There are two problems with our motor vehicles — the space they use, and the energy they use. The hydrogen cars are a response to the energy part. Lew’s response to the space part is to tax wage income to make more space available for cars.

    Lew, if taxes on wages are lower in three years, I’m sure we can consider raising them back up again for transportation. But I have more confidence in the sudden appearance of hydrogen cars.

  • Fan of Fidler

    None of you have yet said how Fidler is wrong. Criticize and mock if you wish, but the fact remains that this plan will clear the rif-raf off the street so Mike Bloomberg’s rich buddies can have the streets to themselves. If the mayor was SERIOUS about congestion, all he has to do is take a look around the financial district at 9-10-11pm and the thousands and thousands of black town cars idling in front of office buildings waiting for their fancy pants customers who are too good to take the subway home. haven’t heard a peep from Kathy Wilde or the Mayor about THIS yet. but the idiot from queens in his pontiac? lock him out.

  • JF

    Fan, please re-read the comment by “Timz” above. It says exactly how Lew is wrong, without any mockery that I can see. What about the “idiot from Queens” who just got off the subway? There’s a lot more of us from Queens who take the subway than drive Pontiacs. Why do the Pontiac-drivers get so much money and street space, but the subway riders so little?

  • Outer Boro Man


    Your gripe is with capitalism. Mine is with traffic congestion, tailpipe pollution, degraded public spaces, immobilized buses, horn honking a-holes, pedestrian fatalities, climate change, oil war, the list goes on.

    So, yeah, as far as I’m concerned, the guy in the Pontiac from Queens (with the Pennsylvania plates, no doubt) needs to find another way to get into town. But, sure, let’s add a $20 surcharge to the Wall Street guys’ black cars. I’m all for it. Has Lew or Brodsky or anyone else proposed it? Nope. They haven’t proposed it because they don’t really believe in establishing policies that actually reduce traffic congestion, VMT and automobile dependence. And that’s why they lack credibility in this debate.

    It’s been pretty clearly spelled out the many ways in which Fidler and his plan are wrong, not the least of which being that waiting for hydrogen cars and multi-billion dollar tunnels to be built isn’t really a “plan” per se. Do a search on this site for “Fidler” if you’re interested in reading many articulate commenters spelling out the ways in which he is wrong.

  • Larry Littlefield

    BTW, CP proponents and opponents — smell the reality:

    The real estate transfer tax fantasy is over, and state operating aid to the MTA is being slashed by our legislators who “fought for the people” by protesting against the fare increases by the “unaccountable MTA.” Not doubt they will also “fight for the people” by protesting against the next round of fare increases, while passing a 20/50 pension plan.

    We need CP to encourage carpooling and bike commuting, the only options — along with telecommuting — on offer in the near future. Not fair to have someone drive solo and take up all that space just because they have a placard, once the transit option is gone.

    Just remember, the Wall Street bonsuses “earned” last year were paid in the first quarter of this year, and were down only slightly from the year before. Next year, there may not be any. All this is happening BEFORE the fiscal crisis hits.

  • martha

    Aside from all the snark, there is not much to explain why it makes sense to tax, basically, only those who come in from the boroughs, esp. across the east river bridges, which Bloomberg/Doctoroff et al have wanted to tax from the minute they got into office.
    Why should their representatives support a plan so patently unequitable.
    There is precious little data to support the contours of the plan as presented, and because of the economic downturn there will be no way to determine the plan’s effectiveness if it gets put in place.
    Why did the mayor of Paris turn down congestion pricing in his city, and yet succeed massively in clearing the traffic there, which was much, much worse than here in NYC?
    Why is there no discussion of the way in which London is different from NYC (hint: mixed use vs biz only)?
    Why are supporters of the plans, from the mayor on down, so intent on shouting down the plan’s opponents rather than presenting supporting DATA?
    Why is the analogy to the lottery not a good guide on what will happen with them money, which is not what we straphangers would like?
    I am a born-&-bred brooklyn resident and DO NOT drive into the city during the applicable hours, but a know a boondoggle when I see one.

  • The King of Spain

    Martha, the data that proves the CP argument has been stated and restated again and again, but opponents have clipped elements and attacked them to distract citizens from the real issues at hand.

    London has plenty of mixed uses in the center of the city; to suggest otherwise is just wrong.

    Lastly, it’s a tax, but it is actually the most equitable one possible, a user fee, for driving, something that is only questionably in the public good and by no means an unreasonable restriction of movement.

  • JF

    Why did the mayor of Paris turn down congestion pricing in his city, and yet succeed massively in clearing the traffic there, which was much, much worse than here in NYC?

    The mayor of Paris was backed by a government that was actually willing to fund transit expansion. That means streetcars and BRT all over the car-dominated neighborhoods, providing a viable alternative to driving. When Lew is willing to fund a streetcar on Linden Boulevard and a physically separated busway on Flatlands Avenue, then maybe we’ll see some Paris-style congestion reduction.

  • Data


    I’m sorry but the only person I’ve seen shouting recently was Queens Councilman Avella, yelling at congestion pricing supporters at his failed press conference on Friday. He was probably upset because almost no one, including his own colleagues in Council, showed up and stood with him.

    So much transportation policy data has been publicly presented over the last few months it’d makes your head spin. The only way you could have missed it is if you weren’t looking. In fact, there was a whole months-long public Commission process covered extensively here on Streetsblog.

    Here’s a small sample of material that I rounded up. There’s tons more here. All you have to do is look and read.

  • Actually, if people are looking for data I’d recommend that they take a look at this user-friendly report recently put out by Environmental Defense, currently linked to the top post on Streetsblog.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Hopefully the City Council will vote right on this, if they don’t its not the end of the world and the Paris model is something that I encourage the Mayor and the City Council to look at in its absence.

    And, it was not so much the Parisiens willingness to fund transit infrastructure and service improvements, after all they have a gas tax to fund them with, but it was chiefly their will to clear the streets of the space hogging private cars. The efficient limits on access to the street space are what distinguishes their system.

    Shove all the private cars to a single lane, let the MTA run efficiently in the remaining space let the traffic back up to Kings Plaza. Let a thousand bicycles bloom. Works for me. Of course you would still need more money for buses, trolleys, subways and trains. Lew can tax your wages for that, or Shelly can tax the millionaires and drive them to Jersey (what that would do to the MTA’s Mortgage Recording Tax could be a problem).

    As I remember, when fuel prices started to jump a couple years ago many of the “progressive” Democrats were the first to call for actually lowering fuel taxes. I thought Weiner was one of them, correct me if I’m wrong.

  • JF

    many of the “progressive” Democrats were the first to call for actually lowering fuel taxes. I thought Weiner was one of them, correct me if I’m wrong.

    There’s a lot you can criticize Weiner for, but that’s not one of them:

  • Larry Littlefield

    No it’s Weiner’s mentor Schumer who holds press conferences about “price gouging” every time the price of fuel goes up.

    In any event, as I’ve said, I hope the City Council approves CP — and the state legislature votes it down. Because with the legislature slashing operating aid to the MTA, the combination might wake a few people up.

    My advice to the Council — follow Christine, let her take the heat from the placard holders, and avoid the backlash from everyone else.

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    Talk about haves and have-nots:
    Pro-CP’ers – you are supporting the Jaguar crowd.

    Subject: Rich Fans only for Congestion Pricing
    Faster, Maybe. Cheaper, No. But Driving Has Its Fans. By DIANE CARDWELL
    “Despite snarled urban traffic and the threat of new fees, many New Yorkers insist on opting out of mass transit. March 31, 2008”
    Diane Cardwell, in her article “Faster, Maybe. Cheaper, No. But driving has it fans”, March 31, 2008, cites proponents of congestion pricing who drive Jaguars and drive their poodles around town. This kind of reporting only adds to the devisive nature of the proposed unfair congestion pricing tax. Ms. Cardwell would have portrayed a more realistic picture of how this bill is perceived by NY’ers if she interviewed small business owners who care about keeping their customers, and, truck drivers, who would end up paying $5,000-plus per year out of pocket to drive and make a living. Better still, the reporter should have interviewed a few cops and firemen, whose unions are now asking for exemptions from congestion pricing, because they can’t afford to come to work. This kind of reporting is wholly offensive to the middle class. No wonder the gap between rich and poor is increasing in NY, NY Times stories like this only serve to widen that gap.

  • The person with a Jaguar does not say he supports congestion pricing. He lives in the Bronx and has a “maintenance job at a courthouse downtown,” so he presumably is not rich. I suspect this Jaguar is the one status symbol in the life of a relatively poor person.

    The person with the poodle backs congestion pricing but she doesn’t use her car to get around town. She uses her car to drive to Pennsylvania with the poodle on weekends.

  • Jason A


    You’re absolutely right. Our city has grown increasingly feudal in recent years, divided between the haves and have-nots.

    Fortunately Congestion Pricing redistributes wealth from those who drive (the rich) to those who take the train (the poor).

    As a have-not, fed-up with spotty transit service, I welcome Congesion Pricing as a much needed funding source for my “Jaguar” – the JZ train.

    If you’re concerned about inequality in nyc, you should support CP too…

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    TO: C. Siegel – The poodle lady backs Congestion Pricing, and lives on Central Park West. When the gentleman with the Jag sells it and gets a Jeep – we will have another anti-CP’er.

    Jason – I am quite concerned about inequality in NYC and it’s the small businesses and middle class, like our soon-to-be-Jeep driver above, that will suffer the most as a result of CP. I know someone with a small business that regularly does business in another boro. With CP, the extra $5,460/year out-of-pocket for his one commercial vehicle will break his bank, and he will not be able to afford to pay his part-time worker like he usually does – CP will cause loss of jobs for small businesses. It’s different when you don’t have to pay outright for CP, but when everyone feels the added costs of CP, the lower and middle-class feel it more.

    The inequity of the toll bridge/tunnel crowd getting a freebie is plain and obvious. Even if you shuffle $1-billion dollars over from NJ, CP will do nothing to actually reduce the number of cars at those toll sites.


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