De Blasio considering ‘hardship’ exemptions to congestion pricing

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Mayor de Blasio said Monday that he’s ready to support “hardship” exemptions to congestion pricing — including for farmers.

“Would you consider a waiver here for hardship for upstate farmers who bring their produce into the city for farmers markets?” asked state Sen. James Seward (R- Oneonta) at an Albany budget hearing.

“There’s a lot of concern in terms of our upstate farmers having to have to pay this congestion pricing.”

“I think that’s a good example” of hardship, de Blasio responded. “We value those green markets and we’re particularly trying to get them to communities that don’t have enough fresh produce. So that’s a great example of something where there might be an important carve out to be made.”

De Blasio said he could also support hardship exemptions for small businesses and outer borough New Yorkers who need to commute into Manhattan for medical reasons.

“I think that when it comes to hardship… I hear the most from folks from other parts of the five boroughs who need medical care,” de Blasio said.

“We want to be sensitive to a real mom-and-pop operation. Other businesses might have more resources,” he added. “But I’d be very open to any discussion that we all end up feeling is fair.”

Those statements left some state legislators perplexed about de Blasio’s level of support for congestion pricing, which still has to be approved by the Legislature.

State Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) encouraged the mayor to take another look at a congestion fee plan called MoveNY, a revised and updated version of the congestion pricing plan first introduced by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg a decade ago.

That plan called for tolling the East River Bridges and charging a fee to enter central Manhattan — and using the money to fund the subways and lower the tolls on other MTA bridges.

“So I’m suggesting you might want to talk to your four members on the MTA board and review why we walked away from a plan [Bloomberg’s MoveNY] where there seemed to be more equity in who the winners and losers would be, there was something for everybody,” she said.

Hizzoner responded by knocking the Bloomberg’s proposal as the “least appropriate plan,” but also said he has “complimented” the similar MoveNY plan.

City Council speaker Corey Johnson, who also came to Albany to testify Monday, said he too was “working off” the old plan and took a shot at the mayor for supporting major cutouts.

“We need the revenue, we need it badly,” Johnson said.

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