Legal battle brews as Battery Park City residents challenge MTA's congestion pricing plan
In the face of impending congestion pricing in New York City, Battery Park City residents are launching a legal challenge against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
They argue that the toll program failed to consider the unique challenges presented by their neighborhood, suggesting that the improvements promised by congestion pricing may have detrimental effects for those in the area.
“If the congestion plans go through and there’s congestion on West Street, the time that it could take to get to the hospital is a matter of life and death for my daughter,” said Elizabeth Chan, a lifelong resident of Battery Park City.
Chan, whose 3-year-old daughter has an autoimmune issue requiring urgent medical attention, decided to take legal action after she says her concerns were ignored. She fears that the city's congestion plan could impede emergency vehicles, endangering not only her daughter but also other residents along West Street and the FDR Drive.
“Whenever she has a seizure, she has to have emergency medicine dispensed, and she has to be at a hospital within 10 minutes,” Chan explained.
Despite raising these concerns during community input periods, Chan claims she received no response.
“We spoke with public officials, we’ve called every elected official we possibly could talk to, we sent letters to the MTA, we sent letters to the FHA, nothing got responded to,” said Chan.
Over a dozen volunteer residents say they scrutinized the MTA's documentation on the Central Business District Tolling Program, also known as the congestion plan. The program would charge drivers south of 60th Street, leaving West Street and the FDR Drive toll-free. Residents argue that the impact on these landlocked streets is not adequately addressed in the plan.
Tamara Hoffman, another resident and plaintiff in the suit, raised concerns about the plan merely moving congestion outward. She stated, “We’re just moving the congestion to the edges. My concern is my daughter’s playground is next to the West Side Highway, her school is a block from the West Side Highway. If traffic increases in that area, what does that make me worry about - air quality and pedestrian safety.”
In response, MTA Chief of External Relations John J. McCarthy said in a statement.
“Every detail of this issue has been studied extensively as evidenced by the 4,000+ page environmental assessment, and now it’s time to deal with the congestion that’s clogging roads and slowing down buses, emergency vehicles and commerce while also polluting the air we breathe.”
Chan argues that unilateral decisions with potential negative impacts on communities must come with clear answers. The group of concerned residents is now fundraising to support attorney fees following the involvement of a federal judge.
“If it hurts children no matter where they come from, no matter what class, no matter what race, no matter where they live, it’s going to hurt our children. We can’t let that happen,” Chan concluded.
The group contends this legal battle may not only shape the fate of Battery Park City but could have broader implications for communities facing the challenges of congestion pricing.