Hochul justifies NYC congestion pricing delay: 'Collective sigh of relief'

In her first public appearance since she slammed the brakes on congestion pricing, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul doubled down on her decision and said it was made to address the needs of everyday New Yorkers.

Hochul spoke to reporters at the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade as New Yorkers on both sides of the debate swarmed city streets in protest.

The program was set to begin June 30. It was signed into law by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2019 following years of work from transit and environmental advocates who argued it would result in better public transit and cleaner air in the city. Drivers entering the core of Manhattan would have had to pay a toll of about $15, depending on vehicle type.

In Brooklyn, demonstrators in support of the controversial tolling program held signs, waved bells and chanted, "Flip the Switch!"

Danna Dennis is a Senior Organizer for the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance and supports congestion pricing.

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"She has really not only messed up a policy that was going to help millions of subway and bus riders, but you’re crippling the city by doing this," Dennis argued.

Local elected officials on Staten Island— a borough where most people commute by car— celebrated the plan’s sudden stoppage.

"These words about suspending it indefinitely, you know, they raise a lot of concern because you don’t know what the government is capable of doing. They still have the overhead scanners in Manhattan that they wasted half a billion dollars on," said Borough President Vito Fossella.

Congestion pricing tolls for vehicles entering Manhattan south of 60th Street were expected to generate around $15B in revenue for the MTA’s $54.8B capital program.

Hochul has offered little detail about how she’ll help to replace that money, which was earmarked for accessibility improvements, hundreds of new electric buses and phase two of the Second Avenue subway extension.

The governor did promise, though, that she’s spoken with the state legislature about solving the issue.

"All the important MTA projects will be funded. The congestion pricing is only gonna bring in an estimated— if they hit that much— $400M a year. We’re gonna be meeting again for our budget, even before, possibly, the budget session; so we’ll take care of that," Hochul reiterated.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.