Can the state implement congestion pricing without NYC’s approval?

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Traffic exiting the Brooklyn Bridge onto the BQE.

Can the state implement congestion pricing without NYC’s approval?

The state has the right to decide what happens on New York City’s streets.
March 11, 2018

In 2008, the New York City Council voted on a home rule message urging state lawmakers to pass then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal. Ten years later, a new congestion pricing plan is being considered by the state Legislature, but New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said that the council would not request legislators pass a specific proposal.

“I don’t think it’s my place to come to the Legislature today with a baked plan,” Johnson said in February, according to Politico New York.

Indeed, the state has the right to decide what happens on New York City’s streets. As codified in the New York Constitution and the 1929 case Adler v. Deegan, the state Legislature has the authority to act on local affairs. Cities can send home rule messages to the state Legislature, which “may request the legislature to pass a specific bill relating to the property, affairs or government of such local government,” if passed by the local legislative body and approved by the city’s mayor or supervisor, according to New York’s consolidated laws on municipal home rule.

The home rule request on Bloomberg’s congestion pricing proposal was passed in the council 30-20 on March 31, 2008. One week later, the proposal was shut down by then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who did not bring it to a vote.

It appears as if the congestion pricing process will be far different than it was in 2008, as it is being driven by Gov. Andrew Cuomo rather than the New York City mayor. A blueprint plan was published by the Fix New York City panel, which was convened by the governor in October. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota also announced that the MTA board would hold an advisory vote on congestion pricing to send a strong signal to lawmakers.

Perhaps cautioned by the political fireworks surrounding the 2008 congestion pricing proposal, the city seems to be following the state’s lead. If a home rule request is passed, it may be a formality based upon a plan already constructed by the state.

“I do not see passing a home rule message early on, I think we want to hear from you all, work from you all in a constructive and pragmatic manner to try to get something passed that will create revenue,” Johnson told the Assembly in February.

Grace Segers
is City & State’s digital reporter. She writes daily content on New York City and New York state politics.