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District 31

Selvena N. Brooks-Powers

Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Jamaica (parts), Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens (parts)

Testimony from Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers on Congestion Pricing at MTA Public Hearing

Monday, March 4th

Good evening. I am New York City Council Majority Whip Selvena Brooks-Powers. I chair the City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and I represent District 31, which includes parts of Southeast Queens and the eastern end of the Rockaway Peninsula.

I want to acknowledge what Chair Lieber said in his op-ed yesterday: that a principal goal of congestion pricing is to improve transportation equity. I recognize that congestion pricing can reduce traffic in the CBD and establish a major new funding stream for transit projects throughout the city.

But I also know that tolling stands to impact people living in outer-borough neighborhoods, including members of my community who would prefer not to drive. Many do so because they lack access to reliable, affordable transit. I note that upgrades to our transit network do not happen overnight—at the city level, for example, the NYC DOT built just 5 miles of a mandated 30 protected bus lanes last year.

So I urge the MTA to work to minimize the impact of tolling on marginalized communities. Failing to center equity will harm vulnerable New Yorkers in communities citywide.

Those traveling into the City by car to receive care in the CBD’s crucial medical facilities should be exempted from tolling. The CBD contains some of the City’s largest and most important hospitals, like H+H Bellevue and NYU Langone. The MTA should ensure those receiving care from these facilities—those going to an oncologist, for example—aren’t tolled as well.

I stand with the City’s taxi and for-hire-vehicle drivers and call for the MTA to minimize the impact of tolling on drivers. I also echo the calls of medallion taxi drivers, who seek a full exemption from the charge for taxi trips.

The money the MTA collects from congestion pricing must be distributed equitably. The MTA should invest in reliability and transit access in outer borough communities underserved by the existing network, especially as it becomes more expensive for residents to drive into Manhattan.

We intend to monitor the effects of congestion pricing and the MTA’s use of the funds generated by the program. We urge the MTA to be transparent about how the program works and to center equity in the months and years to come. Thank you.

Statement from Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers on TMRB Congestion Pricing Report

November 30, 2023

The Traffic Mobility Review Board’s (TMRB) Recommendation takes another step towards the implementation of congestion pricing. While I recognize that congestion pricing could reduce traffic in the Central Business District (CBD) and establish a new funding stream for transit projects, I have repeatedly urged the MTA to prioritize equity in the program’s implementation to ensure vulnerable New Yorkers are not unduly burdened by tolling, which this proposal threatens to do. Districts like mine are heavily car-dependent and the proposed $15 toll will significantly impact my constituents and others from outer-boroughs that do not have reliable public transportation access. The TMRB recommends certain accommodations to alleviate this burden, like an exemption for buses and commuter vans or a modest discount for low-income New York City commuters, but it is not sufficient.

An issue of primary concern is that no accommodation is made for medical visits in the CBD, which contains some of the City’s largest and most important hospitals (i.e. NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, NYU Langone Health, and the VA hospital). Vulnerable, low-income New Yorkers rely on this medical infrastructure, and they should not be burdened further as they try to obtain the healthcare they need. Additionally, The medallion taxi industry has been decimated over the past decade, first by the introduction of app-based FHVs and then by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be harmed by anything other than a full exemption from congestion pricing fees. Finally, upon implementation, the MTA must invest revenue generated from congestion pricing in underserved neighborhoods – beyond the CBD – and should actively pursue not only upgrades to existing infrastructure, but also additions to that infrastructure that could better serve neglected communities.

This is not the end of this conversation. The MTA will soon initiate its formal rule-making process, and I encourage all New Yorkers to participate and make their voices heard. I will be present at meetings and hearings to come, will continue to closely monitor the progress of the program, and plan on working to hold the MTA accountable such that tolling revenue is used efficiently and put towards communities that need it. 

Statement from Council Member Selvena N. Brooks-Powers on Mayor Adams’ Street Safety Initiatives

November 30, 2023

“Street safety is a critical issue that requires a multifaceted approach to address, demonstrated by this morning’s Administration announcement on multiple initiatives. Crashes at intersections comprise of, on average, 50 percent of all traffic fatalities and 70 percent of traffic injuries per year. Daylighting intersections is a proven safety measure that increases visibility to oncoming traffic and reduces danger for pedestrians and drivers alike. Earlier this year, the Council passed Local Law 66, which requires the DOT to implement daylighting at intersections throughout the city in an effort to improve sight lines and safety for all road users. Today’s announcement includes the daylighting of 1,000 intersections across the city. This has been a priority issue for me as Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and I’m glad to see the Administration moving this work forward. The inclusion of traffic violence in NYPD reporting and the expansion of speed assistance technology on our City’s school buses are also two developments that will lead to significant progress in creating safer streets for New Yorkers.”

Statement from New York City Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, on NYPD Tow Driver Fatally Striking 7 Year-old Boy

October 26, 2023

This morning’s death of a 7-year old boy in Fort Greene is an unspeakable tragedy that was entirely preventable. He should be alive and thriving, with a long life ahead of him. Instead, his family and community are in mourning. My thoughts and prayers are with them and all who are affected by this senseless traffic fatality. This is just the latest painful incident underscoring the need for additional investments in street safety, such as by daylighting intersections, a proven safety measure that increases visibility to oncoming traffic at intersections and reduces danger for pedestrians and drivers alike. I will continue advocating for improved street safety in all neighborhoods of our city, and I call for a thorough investigation of the circumstances that allowed for this incident to take place.”

Statement on Elimination of For-Hire Vehicle Cap from Council Member Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

October 26, 2023

“As Chair of the New York City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I’m focused on creating a greener, more accessible, and equitable city for all New Yorkers. Investing in both accessible and zero-emissions transportation is a critical step, but I have serious concerns about eliminating the license cap on electric for-hire vehicles. As we work to green the City’s FHV fleet, we must remain mindful of the impacts on current drivers and the ever-increasing congestion on our City’s streets.”

Statement on Second Avenue Subway Expansion from Council Member Selvena N. Brooks-Powers, Chair of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

October 25, 2023

“The extension of the Second Avenue Subway through East Harlem is an essential development in the effort to expand public transportation to underserved communities. In my role as Chair of the New York City Council Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and as a representative of an outer borough district, I am dedicated to working towards a transit system that serves all neighborhoods equitably. Bringing increased subway service directly into East Harlem marks great progress in that area. I commend the Biden Administration for making this investment in our city, and am grateful to Senator Schumer and Rep. Espaillat for their advocacy for this community.”

Statement on MTA’s 20-Year Needs Assessment by New York City Council Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Selvena N. Brooks-Powers

October 5, 2023

“A comprehensive review of our public transit system is critical for the long-term future of our city. I am reviewing the MTA’s 20-Year Needs Assessment in anticipation of the 2025-2029 capital plan due for release next year. This assessment highlights outstanding issues with our aging infrastructure and draws attention to where future resources need to be allocated – including in outer-borough neighborhoods and transit deserts that deserve better access to reliable transit. New York City has not expanded the subway system in the outer boroughs in far too long, and the lack of reliable public transit options disproportionately burdens these communities. Expanding our transportation infrastructure to better serve the outer boroughs is a top priority, and I will continue this work to ensure these efforts are reflected in the MTA’s capital plan.”

Statement on the United Auto Workers Strike by New York City Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers

September 15, 2023

“The United Auto Workers strike that began this morning is yet another example of union workers coming together to advocate for what they deserve. As a former union worker, member, and delegate, I stand with the UAW and workers everywhere who are calling for increased and fair wages, benefits, and job protections. Auto workers are essential workers, serving every day as the lifeblood of an industry that does the important job of connecting our communities. They are critical contributors to their local economies, and rely on their employers to provide livable wages and adequate benefits so that they can provide for their families. We must regard these men and women with the dignity and respect they have earned when it comes to the terms of their contracts.”