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March 3, 2020
by Adam Roberts
NYC traffic. Image by Raidarmax via Wikimedia Commons.

Last year, AIA New York and other advocacy groups successfully fought for the passage of congestion pricing in the State Legislature. Congestion pricing would toll entry into Manhattan south of 60th Street, with funds being used by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to implement its Fast Forward Plan to fix the subway. The immediate implementation of congestion pricing is crucial, though politics may be delaying it.

In late January, New York City Transit (NYCT) President Andy Byford announced his resignation, who had been brought in by Governor Cuomo to fix the subway. While Byford did not stay to oversee the beginning of work, he did release the Fast Forward Plan. He served as a strong advocate of consistent funding for the MTA, something which congestion pricing would provide. Lawmakers also saw him as a competent manager they trusted to effectively oversee the subway’s improvement. It remains to be seen whether his leaving will have an impact on the implementation of congestion pricing. The agency is pushing ahead, with Sarah Feinberg, an MTA board member, acting as interim NYCT President.

Meanwhile, larger issues linger in Washington, DC. As part of President Trump’s continuing feud with Governor Cuomo, the Trump administration has implied that it may withhold approval of congestion pricing. For the plan to be implemented, approval by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is required. While this approval was long considered a sure thing, the FHWA has made clear this is not the case. Without federal approval, the future of congestion pricing, and therefore the subway system, remains in question.

Nevertheless, AIANY and other advocacy organizations will continue to work with the MTA to ensure that congestion pricing is finally implemented. AIANY’s Executive Director, Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA, was recently appointed to the MTA’s Major Construction Review Unit, which is tasked with overseeing the projects funded by congestion pricing. While political challenges lay ahead, there are some opportunities as well, including the potential change in federal leadership in 2021.

Pulse Points:

  • The NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) has released its long-awaited request for qualifications (RFQ) for the borough correctional facilities to replace Rikers Island. This RFQ is for a design-build team, which will be selected in a two-phase best-value process, with those who make it to Phase II receiving a stipend. AIANY will be hosting DDC at a bid solicitation event from on Thursday, March 5 at the Center for Architecture.
  • Last week, AIANY hosted the NYC Economic Development Corporation for a discussion on the future of Sunnyside Yard. Speakers included Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, RPA President Tom Wright, ABNY EVP Melva Miller, and AIANY Executive Director Benjamin Prosky, Assoc. AIA. It was a lively discussion, which touched upon the need for more affordable housing and transportation options in the area.

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