Advocacy group: NYC doesn't need Albany to OK congestion pricing

Driving down Manhattan's busiest streets could soon cost you. The New York City Council is debating a plan to implement congestion pricing. This has been tried before, but one advocacy group said the city could impose it with or without Albany's approval.

"This is not a legal question, it's a political question," Move NY campaign director Alex Matthiessen said. Testifying at City Hall Monday, he proposed a $2.75 fee on cars entering Manhattan's central business district south of 60th Street. Trucks would pay a higher fee while all for-hire vehicles would pay a congestion surcharge based on travel within the zone.

Matthiessen, accompanied by NYU law professor Roderick Hill, said a majority vote in the City Council could pass the plan. They claim a state law from 1957 gives cities with more than 1 million people the power to toll their own roads.

"I would challenge any New York driver to tell me why they can't afford a $2.75 toll when everybody else -- including most of the city's low-income people -- are paying that and more to travel into the same area," Matthiessen said, referring to the base subway and bus fare.

Move NY said the money collected would raise about $1 billion a year. The group wants that money to go to maintain bridges, roads, the MTA, and more.

"The only way congestion pricing can even be considered is through Albany," Mayor Bill de Blasio said. "That is what has been determined."

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg testified Monday about the DOT's plans to address congestion in the city. Some ideas include enforcement technology, trying to expand bike and bus lanes, and giving trucks incentives to make deliveries at night.

"We're not a city that's looking to give up authority, but in this case the city just feels strongly unfortunately we don't have that legal authority," Trottenberg told reporters.

Other cities, like London, use congestion pricing. It has been successful in reducing the number of cars on the road.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office did not respond to our request for comment.

About a decade ago, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed congestion pricing. He modeled it after London's congestion pricing. The proposal died in the state Assembly.