A lawsuit is set to be filed by a collective of residents and merchants from the Lower East Side to halt the implementation of the MTA’s proposed $15 congestion toll.
They argue that the toll will adversely affect local businesses and lead to a surge in traffic problems. Concerns include the potential diversion of drivers to the toll-free FDR Drive, causing congestion on that route.
Local shop owners express worry about the toll impacting their businesses and necessitating passing additional costs to customers. Daniel Bazzetta, owner of Peter Jarema Funeral Home, a plaintiff in the case, emphasizes the inevitability of his hearse navigating through the central business district.
Bazzetta stressed, “Public transit is not an option for me, especially when dealing with transporting deceased individuals.” He seeks an exemption or relief for occasions requiring the transportation of bodies from hospitals and morgues to cemeteries or crematoriums.
The forthcoming lawsuit, anticipated to be filed on Thursday, features various plaintiffs. Among them are the group “New Yorkers Against Congestion Pricing Tax,” retired state Judge Kathryn Freed, residing near the FDR Drive on the East Side.
Baruch Weiss, the proprietor of East Side Glatt Kosher Butcher Shop, and residents from the Two Bridges Neighborhood, including Chinatown dessert maker Ricky Yang. Elected officials such as Councilman Robert Holden and Assemblyman David Weprin from Queens are also part of the legal action.
The argument presented, shared by plaintiffs in two additional lawsuits, asserts that both federal and state entities failed to conduct a satisfactory environmental review. These legal actions were initiated by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and, jointly, by the United Federation of Teachers and Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella.
The new lawsuit contends that toll planners:
1. Failed to adequately examine potential increases in pollution along the FDR Drive.
2. Neglected to study if those pollution increases will be exacerbated by the East Side Resiliency Project, which has required knocking down and eventually replacing numerous trees.
3. Did not properly assess hardships for those avoiding mass transit due to COVID.
4. Overlooked the impacts on local businesses and sectors, including the aforementioned funeral home and kosher butcher shop, a teacher required to commute to The Bronx, and several eateries dependent upon deliveries.
5. Failed to properly assess hardship for those who maintain homes both upstate and in the Lower East Side.
6. Neglected the concerns of outer Queens lawmakers who argue that the program places an undue burden on senior citizens by requiring them to make trips with at least one (and likely more) transfers to get into the city.
“This is merely a money acquisition funneled into a void referred to as the MTA — and indeed, it is a void,” stated Freed, the retired judge and resident of the Lower East Side, in comments to The Post on Wednesday.
“There are both beneficiaries and those adversely affected by congestion pricing. We, on the Lower East Side, fall into the latter category. We already contend with a substantial amount of pollution,” she remarked, expressing concerns that increased traffic will adversely impact residents living along the FDR Drive.
“It’s not only impacting car owners. Our air quality will deteriorate, and we won’t reap any benefits,” Freed added.