Republican challenger Lee Zeldin lambasted Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday for backing the MTA’s controversial congestion pricing plan — and said the best way to get drivers out of their cars would be to make subways safer.
At a press conference outside the Bronx subway station where a man was pushed onto the tracks on Saturday, Zeldin slammed the Democratic incumbent for failing to address the underground crime problem.
“If you want more people to use public transport, the answer is not to punish people for using public transport more, but to improve their driving experience,” Zeldin said.
Zeldin pointed to a series of recent attacks on Tube riders, including the unprovoked attack on 33-year-old Elizabeth Gomes and the fatal shooting of 15-year-old Jayjon Burnett.
“I meet people all the time who tell me that they don’t take the metro anymore,” he said.
“I meet people who tell me that the hours they take in the metro have been impacted. They will only ride the subway during particular times that are shorter than the period they used to ride the subway.
Zeldin — who has pledged, if elected, to declare a “criminal emergency” that critics say would be unconstitutional — also said congestion pricing would ironically increase traffic in the Bronx and other outer boroughs due to Manhattan-bound drivers using local roads to avoid up to $23 in new tolls.
So far, no official has been willing to commit to exemptions for drivers such as yellow cabs, who would have to repeatedly enter and exit toll zones, or commuters who already pay a hefty toll. just to get into Manhattan.
During a Democratic primary debate in June, Hochul said she was “100%” in favor of congestion pricing, a week after city public counsel Jumaane Williams was the only candidate to say that the plan should be enacted “now”.
Mayor Eric Adams said congestion pricing was needed ‘as soon as possible’ when he ran for office last year, but has since backtracked, complaining the city ‘has very little input’ .
“How is this going to affect a district with high asthma and ensure that we are not being unfair to outlying boroughs?” Hizzoner asked at an event last month sponsored by Crain’s New York.
Adams also called for a “thoughtful conversation” about who would be exempt from paying the new tolls “and under what circumstances.”
“I’m ready to do that and make sure we do it right,” he said.
Also on Monday, Zeldin was endorsed by the Coalition of Suffolk Police Unions, an umbrella group of law enforcement officials from its home base of Long Island,