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Staten Island files federal lawsuit against congestion pricing plan, citing lack of mass transit options

Staten Island, teachers union file federal lawsuit against congestion pricing plan
Staten Island, teachers union file federal lawsuit against congestion pricing plan 02:22

NEW YORK -- The United Federation of Teachers and Staten Island leaders are suing the MTA over congestion pricing.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday morning in federal court and also names federal and state agencies as defendants.

With congestion pricing coming, Staten Islanders are already bracing to pay the toll for the Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn, and then another $15 just to cross into Manhattan's Central Business District.

"So we're gonna stay at home. No, this is too much," said Medhat Garas of West Brighton.

But according to Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella, money isn't the only issue.

"It will increase traffic. It will make air quality worse," Fossella said.

READ MOREMTA's congestion pricing public comment period runs through March 11  

Officials added the tolling program will increase pollution to parts of the borough that already have high rates of asthma.

Teachers will not be exempt from the congestion pricing toll to get to work, and some of them have joined the borough president and UFT in filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the state and city Department of Transportation, and the MTA.

"This is going to raise money off working middle class and we're sick of this," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said.

"The cost of gas, the cost of insurance, all these things is adding up and then everything is getting huger," added Lios Muldrow of Stapleton.

READ MORELong Island Republicans urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to pull support for congestion pricing   

The plaintiffs say because the borough doesn't have a subway or commuter rail, most residents drive to work. They add the surveys done by the MTA are not accurate because they didn't take into account the cost of the Manhattan toll, as well as the change in driving patterns post-COVID.

In a statement, the MTA said, in part, the environmental review process took four years, adding, "If we really want to combat ever-worsening clogged streets, we must adequately fund a public transit system that will bring safer and less-congested streets, cleaner air and better transit for the vast majority of students and teachers who take mass transit to school."

St. George resident Vanessa Renee Mical agrees.

"I think it's great. I think climate change is real. We have to do whatever, we do whatever, we can to get less people on the road and more public transportation options," she said.

Fossella said he believes more people will come through Staten Island to get to and from New Jersey to circumvent the Manhattan toll.

The Riders Alliance said, in part, "Staten Islanders will benefit from congestion pricing in faster express bus speeds in the Central Business District, less traffic over the bridge through Brooklyn and into Manhattan."

Rep. Josh Gottheimer discusses findings of congestion tax study 16:25

New Jersey Rep. Josh Gottheimer also held a briefing Thursday morning to share the findings of a tax study and what he calls a "cash grab."

Congestion pricing is currently under a public review period, with hearings coming up in February and March.

The MTA's board voted last month to approve the plan that would charge most cars $15 to enter Manhattan below 60th Street.

The approved weekday fees would include: 

  • $15 for cars
  • $7.50 for motorcycles
  • $24 for small trucks
  • $36 for big trucks

CLICK HERE for a full breakdown of the plan.

The state DOT and the Federal Highway Administration told CBS New York they don't comment on pending litigation.

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