RELEASE: Gottheimer, Lawler Stand with NYC Restaurant Owner Against NY’s $15/Day Congestion Tax

MTA's Congestion Tax Will Drive Away Holiday Tourists, NJ Commuters — Decimating NYC Small Businesses. NJ is Ready to Welcome NY's Businesses and Jobs. Manhattan Chamber of Commerce Opposes Congestion Tax.

Dec 04, 2023
Press

Above: Gottheimer with Rep. Lawler and Julio Pena, co-owner of NYC restaurant Il Posto Accanto.

NEW YORK, NY — Today, December 4, 2023, U.S. Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Mike Lawler (NY-17) joined Julio Pena, owner of restaurant Il Posto Accanto, to highlight the terrible impact New York’s proposed $15-a-day Congestion Tax will have on small businesses, commuters, and families visiting Manhattan, especially during the holidays. Il Posto Accanto has been open for more than 25 years. A list of New York businesses and organizations against the Congestion Tax can be found here.

Negative Effects of New York’s $15/Day Congestion Tax

  • The $15 Congestion Tax, on top of the existing tolls, gas, and parking, will drive many of Il Posto’s customers, including tourists and Jersey commuters, away from the city, decimating their small business.
  • It will also cause new fees for deliveries to the restaurants because trucks will have to pay the Congestion Tax every day. That cost will be passed down to the small business owners and customers.
  • New Jersey commuters and families will be priced out of coming to New York City for a meal, seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, walking past Macy’s store front windows, or huddling together with hot chocolate while you watch the light show on Fifth Avenue.
  • The Congestion Tax will increase carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, and even formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, into North Jersey and parts of New York.
  • Hardworking Jersey and New York families will soon face a $15 dollar a day — nearly $4,000 a year — Congestion Tax just to drive to work or visit south of 60th street in New York City. That’s on top of the $17 dollar tolls Jersey drivers pay a day already.

Gottheimer-backed Actions to Stop New York’s Congestion Tax

  • Gottheimer and Lawler are leading the bipartisan Anti-Congestion Tax Act to
    • Prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from awarding any new Capital Investment Grants to MTA projects in New York until drivers from all New Jersey and New York crossings into Manhattan receive exemptions from any Congestion Tax.
    • Amend the U.S. tax code to offer commuters a federal tax credit at the end of the year equal to the amount they paid in a Congestion Tax. This will protect both New Jersey and New York drivers.
  • Gottheimer helped announce a new class action lawsuit put forth by Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and Richard Galler, a Fort Lee resident and commuter who suffers from asthma. The lawsuit seeks:
    • An immediate stop to the Congestion Tax.
    • A full and proper environmental study from the Department of Transportation that includes the impact on Jersey.
    • If the court does not stop the Congestion Tax, New York must provide funding for a medical monitoring program to evaluate and treat respiratory distress and asthma resulting from the Congestion Tax.
  • Gottheimer helped announce New Jersey’s lawsuit to stop New York’s Congestion Tax. The lawsuit argues that the U.S. Department of Transportation violated the National Environmental Protection Act, which requires a full environmental impact review for projects like the Congestion Tax plan, as well as the Clean Air Act.

Gottheimer-backed “Stay in Jersey” legislation to avoid New York’s Congestion Tax was signed into New Jersey state law to provide grants for out-of-state businesses who allow their Jersey resident employees to work in New Jersey locations. The legislation also takes steps to lower taxes for New Jersey residents working for out-of-state employers.

“It’s a slap in the face to every single hardworking small business owner and employee who just wants to put food on the table for their families. If I were a New York City business owner — small, medium, or large — I would call Governor Hochul today and demand she clean house at the MTA,” said Congressman Gottheimer, co-chair of the Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus. “Because of MTA Chairman Janno Lieber’s Congestion Tax, families will be priced out of coming to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, walking past Macy’s store front windows, or coming to dinner at Il Posto. Janno ‘Scrooge’ Lieber is putting coal in everyone’s stockings this year with his $15-a-day Congestion Tax.”

“At a time when New Yorkers are struggling to make ends meet and can barely afford to live here, Governor Hochul has enacted an outrageous cash grab, stealing hundreds of millions from suburban commuters to fund the MTA’s bloated and mismanaged operations. This regressive tax will punish working class and middle class New Yorkers, while also hurting businesses and workers in New York City who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Congressman Mike Lawler (NY-17), co-chair of the Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus. “I’m proud to be working in a bipartisan fashion with Congressman Gottheimer to fight to put a stop to Hochul and the MTA’s congestion pricing cash grab.”

“As a small businessman, my wife and I have been running this business on this block since 1995. Whatever has come our way, Sandy, 9/11, anything and everything, the community has all rallied around. But after Covid and the difficulties we went through with that, to have Congestion Pricing shoved down our throats it’s going to be a death blow. It’s going to be a death blow to small businesses like ours and our customers will think twice about coming into the city from Jersey or Long Island, or Westchester — or even from the Upper East Side or Upper West Side,” said Julio Pena, co-owner of local small business Il Posto Accanto Restaurant. “It also going to hit us over the head with our vendors. We get at least 10 deliveries a day… they’re going to hit us with a fee. It’s just a money grab as far as we’re concerned.”

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer in New York City to highlight the coming negative effects of the MTA’s Congestion Tax.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. Congressman Lawler and I are here today on East Second Street in New York City at Il Posto Accanto, a local mom and pop favorite that’s been open for more than 25 years. Ask anyone around here and they’ll know about Il Posto. It’s a neighborhood staple that makes some of the best Italian food in New York. We’re so thankful for the owners — husband and wife Julio and Beatrice — for welcoming us to their restaurant and for being a strong voice for all small businesses. Beatrice is prepping for the day as we speak! 

We’re here today because it’s important to see first-hand the types of small businesses that will suffer when New York and the MTA stick it not just to Jersey with the Congestion Tax, but to their very own New Yorkers, whether that’s a restaurant, a dry cleaner, or a local store. At $15 dollars, on top of what folks already pay in tolls, gas, and parking, the Congestion Tax will drive many of Il Posto’s customers, including tourists and Jersey commuters, away from the city, decimating their small business, and others like it. You’re talking about a hundred dollars before you get an appetizer or beer. 

$15 dollars for the Congestion Tax, $17 to go over the GW Bridge, plus parking and gas. 

And it’s not just Christmas time when folks from Jersey or Rockland or Westchester drive in and go to restaurants. It’s everyday commuters that suddenly won’t be able to afford that $15 dollars a day, nearly $4,000 a year Congestion Tax — and will stay and work from home. 

That means they won’t be eating here, or shopping down the street, or going to a Broadway show. They may ultimately be good for Jersey, but it will crush New York City and undermine the regional economy, at a time when the City is begging Jersey commuters and tourists to come back. Everybody knows that it’s the small businesses like these that are the heart and soul of New York City.

If I were trying to jumpstart a city, the last thing I’d do is make it harder for people to come to work and visit. It’s a slap in the face to every single hardworking small business owner and employee who just wants to put food on the table for their own families. 

Just look at the list of New York businesses against the Congestion Tax and you’ll get what I mean — the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, Broadway, restaurants, dry cleaners, gyms, trucking associations, taxis, limos, Uber, Lyft, and bus companies, the state builders association, and warehouse workers. Even the New York Farm Bureau is against it and the list goes on. 

Trucks depending on their size will have to pay up to $36 per-day. That means delivery trucks bringing goods and supplies to small businesses will be whacked. That cost will be passed down to the small business owners and their customers. 

But MTA Chairman Janno Lieber doesn’t seem to care. Neither does Governor Hochul.  They just need the money for the woefully mismanaged MTA – which loses billions of dollars every year, including $700 million last year alone to fare skippers. Those who ride and don’t pay. 

Because of the Congestion Tax, next Christmas, families will be priced out of coming to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, walking past Macy’s store front windows, or coming to dinner at Il Posto. Every single restaurant, store, dry cleaner and small business in Manhattan will lose customers. Janno “Scrooge” Lieber is putting fifteen lumps of coal in everyone’s stockings this year with his $15-a-day Congestion Tax. 

If I were a New York City business owner — small, medium, or large — I would call Governor Hochul today and demand she clean house at the mismanaged MTA.  

John Samuleson, a great labor leader in the City, who is International President of the Transit Workers Union, already made his opinion pretty clear. He quit the Congestion Tax pricing board the day they released their outrageous small business and commuter crushing pricing plan. I bet he understood what it would do to the local economy. 

To that point, if the MTA goes ahead with the Congestion Tax, there will be people who have no choice but to drive in from Jersey, Rockland, Staten Island, and Westchester. Hardworking men and women from labor who have to be on site. The cop or firefighter. The nurse working the late shift. It will hit them hard. $4,000 a year after taxes they may not have sitting around. 

Now, as I mentioned a minute ago, think of all of those workers who have a choice and can work from home, they will stay in Jersey and go to a new local office that gets set up when they complain about paying nearly $100 a day just to commute. So many of them don’t have a mass transit option. I bet Jersey will roll out new Stay in Jersey tax incentives for businesses to move jobs to Jersey, including opening up satellite offices and filling up the empty office parks. 

All those people — from Jersey alone that’s twenty percent of the traffic that comes into Manhattan every day, 300,000 who go over the GWB — none of them will be at Il Posto for lunch. No, they’ll be shopping locally in Jersey at the local restaurant, dry cleaner, and store.  

So, Governor Hochul, if you want to be selfish, do the math for New York. Don’t stick it to your own small businesses. To your own families. Think of how we used to do things, together, the regional economy. That’s what led to a century of cooperation at the Port Authority – the bridges, tunnels, airports, and ports. I know this is a giant cash grab for the bottomless pit at the MTA, but it’s a net loser for New York. Not a nickel is going to Jersey, to our mass transit, or to mitigate traffic  – that’s all true. But, net, net, you’re going to lose commuters and tourists – and all they spend here. 

I’ll keep fighting for Jersey because our hard-working families can’t afford the Congestion Tax. And our children can’t afford the cancer-causing pollution that will be billowing from the truck traffic backed up at the GW Bridge. We’ll keep slapping New York and the MTA with lawsuits, and we’re going to win them. 

In the meantime, I’ll also be working closely with my Democratic and Republican House colleagues from New Jersey and New York in the Anti-Congestion Tax Caucus, that I co-Chair with Mike, to move expeditiously on federal legislation. Legislation that will cut the $2 billion a year the MTA gets from the federal government if they keep plowing forward — because if they’re going to stick it to us, why should we send them our hard-earned federal tax dollars? 

But New York can short circuit it all today. They can back down. They can find another way with New York’s $229 billion-dollar annual budget to clean up their own mess. I don’t know, take the $600 million of state tax dollars they’re sending over to the owners of the Buffalo Bills to build their new stadium.

None of us — not Governor Murphy or my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Congress — not the hardworking New York City small businesses Il Posto — none of the Jersey commuters will stop fighting. This is about our hard-working families, and, let’s be honest, you don’t mess with Jersey or Rockland County. Governor Hochel, Janno, you have a few months left to change your mind, and put your economy and ours first. Working together. 

That’s how we do it in the greatest country in the world, where I know our best days will always be ahead of us. Thank you, and may God bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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