NEW YORK CITY — A picture of a girl clutching an asthma inhaler is being used to sell Mayor Bloomberg's controversial plan to charge motorists to enter much of Manhattan. As the deadline looms to secure federal money to implement congestion pricing, Brooklyn and Queens are being blitzed today with heartrending flyers warning that if state lawmakers don't approve the plan by July 16, the city "will get nothing except more polluted." The text next to the girl says, "She cannot hold her breath waiting for Albany to act."
The ad, which is being sent to 350,000 families, is being paid for by the Partnership for New York City, the plan's chief backer. The flyer says that "over 300,000 New York City kids have asthma — a disease made worse by air pollution and traffic congestion."
The goal of the print campaign is to "point out all the benefits" of congestion pricing and tell fellow supporters to make sure state representatives hear them, said Kathryn Wylde, the partnership's president. "We found from talking to legislatures that they only hear the negative side — constituents who are concerned about new fees. They haven't really heard from the voters in their district who are supporters of the plan," Wylde said.
If state lawmakers don't sign off on the plan by July 16, the city could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT). New York is one of nine cities vying for the DOT grant to reduce traffic. Five winners will be named by Aug. 8, but U.S. officials are leery of giving money to New York City without a state-approved plan.
But the state Senate and Assembly ended their legislative session last month without acting on congestion pricing, with leaders saying they'll convene a special session to address the subject. So far, there are no signs of such a session.
Although the ads will be distributed citywide, the bulk of them are going to car-dependent parts of Brooklyn and Queens where gripes about the plan have been the loudest, Wylde said.
Under the mayor's plan, cars will be charged $8 and trucks $21 to enter Manhattan south of 86th St. from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays.
To put more pressure on Albany, Bloomberg is holding a rally today on Military Island in Times Square to promote his agenda for a greener New York.
And yesterday, during a parade in Travis, S.I., where mass transit options are limited, the mayor singled out the state's role in his solution for reducing traffic.
"We need a lot more mass transit and we need moneys for mass transit, and unless Albany comes back the week after next and helps us pass the congestion pricing bill, we are going to walk away from $400 million or $500 million of federal moneys that we could use to enhance mass transit in all five boroughs," he said.
Source: New York Daily News