Commuters concerned about how NYC’s proposed congestion pricing plan would affect them received three simple words of advice from a congressman – Stay in Jersey.
But U.S. Rep Josh Gottheimer’s, D-5th, home state appeal for commuters to continue working from home also came with something for their New York employers, possible tax incentives to open satellite offices in New Jersey.
Gottheimer, a vocal opponent of New York’s plan to raise money for transit improvements by charging drivers a fee to drive south of 60th Street in Manhattan, suggested Wednesday that workers already working from home should continue to do so and asked Manhattan-based employers to consider opening a remote office in New Jersey.
“Today is the day we take our stand, rather than pay tolls and a congestion pricing fee, why not make life easier and stay in New Jersey?” Gottheimer said
The North Jersey Congressman ticked off a list of advantages: $20,000 a year saved in commuting costs, more quality time with family, better pizza and boosting town economies by spending money at local businesses instead of in high-priced Manhattan shops.
But it’s more than just an angry sound bite, Gottheimer wants state legislation to provide tax incentives for Manhattan-based companies to open regional hubs in New Jersey, which two lawmakers are working on, he said.
“We should do whatever we can to encourage people to stay in New Jersey and tax incentives for New York businesses to open facilities in New Jersey,” he said adding that State Senator Joseph Lagada and Assemblyman Christopher Tully, both D-Bergen are working on legislation.
“We’re encouraging more flexibility from New York businesses to allow moms and dads to work from home in New Jersey, we’ll set up regional hubs, we’re going to give you legislation to make it more attractive to let people work from here,” he said.
Those regional hubs could be located in existing vacant office buildings that would provide property tax relief and jobs for contractors retrofitting those buildings, he said.
He announced the plan from a Paramus parking lot off Route 4 east, as traffic roared past in the background
“Why go on these roads every morning, pay exorbitant tolls, $16 a day, $4,000 a year, money on parking and gas costs another $10,000,” Gootheimer said. “let’s face it, commuting sucks.”
Concern that North Jersey commuters who use the George Washington Bridge would be double charged, once for a bridge toll and again to drive in Manhattan’s central business district has prompted him to vocally oppose congestion pricing.
That opposition ranged from threats of a “Jersey style” border fight to tax New York residents coming to shop in New Jersey to save on sales taxes to proposed legislation in 2021 to attack MTA funding if the plan goes through without relief got George Washington Bridge commuters.
“If the long commute, tolls and gas are not enough to convince you, there is congestion pricing and the moochers in New York won’t back off. We asked for years, Gottheimer said. “It could be $23 a day in congestion pricing , with tolls $39 every single day.”
A round of 19 regional public hearings ended on April 27 about an environmental assessment of congestion pricing. That plan is supposed to be released this spring, prompting a second round of regional public comment and hearing in the region, according to the MTA.
New York City’s third version of congestion pricing was proposed as a way to raise $1 billion annually to fund major projects on the city’s subway and bus system. A study that proposed the latest plan recommended giving drivers who use the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels credit for their tolls toward the congestion fee, which hasn’t been set.
No such credit has been proposed for George Washington Bridge commuters. A traffic panel is supposed to hammer out the final details of the plan
Congestion pricing supporters have responded those commuters could ride NJ Transit instead of using the bridge. But those commuters from the state’s northern counties, including parts of Bergen, Sussex and Warren have no public transit option, he said.
NJ Transit and PATH would not receive congestion pricing funds to handle the additional passengers that the plan could put on those systems, Gottheimer said. A 2018 congestion pricing report said the funds would solely go to the MTA.
The plan, if implemented, would make New York City the first U.S. city to use congestion pricing. Cities like London, Singapore and Stockholm already use congestion pricing to fund transit and reduce traffic congestion.
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Larry Higgs may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.