Downtown Traffic May Ease with Split Verrazzano Toll
In a photograph taken in 2019, MTA chief Patrick Foye describes a plan to reinstitute two-way tolling on the Verrazzano Bridge, as (left to right) New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, and U.S. Congress members Nydia Velázquez, Jerry Nadler and Max Rose look on.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is poised to implement federal legislation (enacted in 2019) that will modify the tolling regimen on a bridge barely visible on the horizon from Lower Manhattan, but this may nonetheless reduce traffic congestion Downtown.
A federal spending bill ratified at the close of last year requires that the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge abandon its policy of charging double-tolls for eastbound drivers, while westbound vehicles cross free of charge. In a story first reported by the Staten Island Advance, the MTA has now settled on Tuesday, December 1 as the start date for the new tolling program.
Under ordinary circumstances, this would have been a question for City Hall, since both ends of the Verrazzano Bridge sit within the five boroughs of New York City. But in this case, the City Council, the Mayor, and even the Governor are all reduced to an advisory role, because the United States Congress enacted a law in 1986, prohibiting the MTA from collecting tolls in both directions on the span. This bill was sponsored by then-U.S. Congressman (and later Staten Island Borough President) Guy Molinari, in response to pressure from his constituents, who complained about air pollution from the Verrazzano’s toll plaza. (This made the Verrazzano-Narrows the only bridge in the United States with a tolling policy mandated by the federal government.) Pollution ceased to be an issue in 2017, however, when cashless tolling was implemented on the Verrazzano.
MTA chairman Patrick Foye said, “the restoration of split tolling will end a 30-year loophole in New York City that will help alleviate congestion on Staten Island, while improving the environment and delivering a modest benefit to the bottom line of public transportation during an unprecedented fiscal crisis.”
This change matters to Lower Manhattan residents because, although the Verrazzano is eight miles away from the Battery, its tolling pattern is a significant contributor to Downtown traffic patterns, as a result of perverse financial incentives. Traffic (especially large trucks, for which bridge and tunnel tolls are much costlier than for passenger cars) seeks the path of least expense. As a result, each day, more than 1,000 trucks making a round trip between New York and New Jersey cross the Verrazzano on their way into the City, and then exit via the Holland Tunnel, which collects no toll on westbound traffic, but does charge for vehicles moving eastward.
This counter-clockwise vortex brings into Downtown’s already-congested streets many hundreds of trucks that would otherwise never enter Manhattan, but choose the route because the combination of the free East River crossings, such as the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges, with the Holland Tunnel, gets them back to New Jersey free of charge. On the last leg of this journey, vast fleets of trucks use Kenmare, Broome, and Canal Streets as an interstate highway, on their approach to the Holland Tunnel.
The Verrazzano Bridge is located more than eight miles from Lower Manhattan, but multiple studies indicate that tolling patterns there have a significant impact on traffic congestion here.
According to a 2018 study performed by Sam Schwarz Engineering, collecting a toll for cars headed in both directions (rather than levying double that amount, but only on cars headed from Brooklyn to Staten Island, as is the case now) would divert up to 130 cars per hour away from Lower Manhattan during peak driving periods.
A separate study, commissioned by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority—the arm of the MTA that oversees the Verrazzano—in 2019 predicted that imposing a toll in both directions on the span would largely eliminate this perverse incentive, and estimated that the bridge would gain an additional 4,361 New Jersey-bound vehicles each weekday. Of this number, the report estimated, some 38 percent (or slightly more than 1,650 vehicles) would otherwise use the Holland Tunnel, meaning that they would travel through Lower Manhattan (primarily via Canal Street) to get there. Almost all of the remaining 2,700-plus vehicles, the study estimated, would also pass through Manhattan, but use either the Lincoln Tunnel or George Washington Bridge to cross the Hudson River into New Jersey.
Somewhat surprisingly, the MTA report also projected that the changed Verrazzano tolling policy would motivate approximately 4,325 additional vehicles originating in New Jersey to enter Manhattan each weekday via the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, or the George Washington Bridge. Of these, the firm estimates, 31 percent (or 1,340 vehicles) would come through the Holland Tunnel. In net terms, this would amount to a daily decrease of more than 300 vehicles (many of them large trucks) using Lower Manhattan streets to enter or leave the Holland Tunnel each weekday. The MTA also expects the new tolling program (which will divide the current one-way toll of $19 into a tithe of $9.50, charged each way) to generate $10 million per year in additional revenue.
This federal spending bill ratified and signed into law last December followed an October resolution from Community Board 1 (CB1) that noted, “pedestrian safety, health and quality of life in the Manhattan neighborhoods located around the entrance to the Holland Tunnel and along Canal Street are severely compromised by the congestion, exhaust fumes, and noise that are related to one-way tolling on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge,” and concluded that, “CB1 strongly urges the MTA to implement two-way tolling on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.”
The 2018 report from Sam Schwarz Engineering also noted that since 1986, when the Verrazzano stopped collecting tolls in both directions, and began charging a double-toll on westbound-traffic, both vehicular volume and statistics about accidents have spiked upward. Even in 1986, the effects of the change were apparent almost immediately. In the three years before the Verrazzano changed its tolls, one pedestrian was killed along Kenmore and Broome Streets. In the years that followed, the rate jumped to an average of one death per year.
What are the social and political dimensions of industrial innovation and technological change? In the 1880s and ‘90s, Joanna Merwood-Salisbury argues, the skyscraper was the subject of an ideological battle, as both the symbol of capitalism’s triumph and the target of anti-capitalist protest. As metal replaced masonry in tall-building construction, traditional building trades such as bricklayers and carpenters lost power and new trades, including ironworkers, gained importance. General contractors, architects, and engineers organized into professional groups to manage the complexity of industrialized construction. The tall buildings they designed and erected were occupied by new kinds of urban workers – not only office employees but also immigrant laborers engaged in manufacturing. Tracing labor protests in the construction industry in Chicago in the 1880s and the movement to improve working conditions for garment industry workers in New York’s commercial lofts in the early twentieth century, Merwood-Salisbury examines the formation of unions uniting trades-based groups with ethnic organizations, as well as the public spaces of their protest movements.
1) 13 Harrison Street, application for rooftop addition to existing townhouse – Resolution
2) Trinity Church Wall Street, application for installation of two digital “poster box” signs located on the Broadway fence of the property – Resolution
3) 271 Church Street, application to replace historic window with new storefront and relocate previously approved bracket sign – Resolution
4) 250 Water Street, application to construct (a) a new building on the 250 Water Street parking lot and (b) a new building at 173-69 John Street for the South Street Seaport Museum and alterations to the existing Museum Buildings on Block 74 – Resolution
Downtown Voters Are Biden Their Time
Local Electoral Patterns Show Varying Levels of Enthusiasm for Presidential Contenders
The City’s Board of Elections (BOE) has released unofficial local results for last week’s presidential election, which offer some insights into voting patterns at the community level. The portion of the 65th Assembly District served by the Broadsheet (a jagged line running from west to east, roughly connecting Vesey Street, Fulton Street, Park Row, and the Brooklyn Bridge), is divided into 25 election districts, or neighborhood-level precincts.
The total for all of these polling places was 9,191 votes cast. The ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (running on the Democratic Party and Working Family Party lines) took a total of 7,059 of these ballots (or approximately 76.8 percent). The incumbents—President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, running under the Republican Party and Conservative Party banners—tallied 1,939 votes (or roughly 21 percent). To read more…
Local Small Business Swims Against the Tide by Reopening
In Italian, the word “inatteso” means “unexpected”—which is an apt adjective to describe what a small business in Battery Park City is doing. At a time when large enterprises, from the Century 21 department store to the restaurant, bar, and catering facility at Pier A, are shuttering, a spunky upstart is voicing optimism by reopening.
Downtown Advocacy Group Prepares Lawsuit Over Lack of Connectivity for Homeless Kids
A non-profit based in Lower Manhattan is threatening to sue the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio over the lack of Wi-Fi service in City-operated homeless shelters that house thousands of public school students living below the poverty line. To read more…
November 4: Morning fog over New York Harbor and Governors Island (video clip)
CLASSIFIEDS & PERSONALS
Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found
The Tale of the Ticker Tape, or How Adversity and Spontaneity Hatched a New York Tradition
What was Planned as a Grand Affair became a Comedy of Errors
New York’s first ticker-tape parade erupted spontaneously from bad weather
and an over-zealous stockbroker.
While the festivities in New York Harbor didn’t go as scripted that afternoon, the spontaneous gesture it generated from the brokerage houses lining Broadway famously lives on more than a century later.
On October 28, 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World was to be unveiled to New York City and the world as it stood atop its tall base on Bedloe’s Island. But the morning mist had turned to afternoon fog, blurring the view of the statue from revelers on the Manhattan shore and the long parade of three hundred ships on the Hudson River.
What was planned as a grand affair-with President Grover Cleveland as the main speaker-became a comedy of errors. The fog prevented efficient communication between the dignitaries on the island and the ships awaiting orders to fire their salutes and blast their horns at the given signal.
Even the dramatic unveiling moment itself went awry. To read more…
TODAY IN HISTORY
The Berlin Wall in Battery Park City
1202 – Fourth Crusade: Despite letters from Pope Innocent III forbidding it and threatening excommunication, Catholic crusaders begin a siege of Zara (now Zadar, Croatia).
1580 – After a three-day siege, the English Army beheads over 600 people, including papal soldiers and civilians, at Dún an Óir, Ireland.
1847 – The passenger ship Stephen Whitney is wrecked in thick fog off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 92 of the 110 on board. The disaster results in the construction of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.
1871 – Henry Morton Stanley locates missing explorer and missionary, Dr. David Livingstone in Ujiji, near Lake Tanganyika, famously greeting him with the words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”.
1898 – Beginning of the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, the only instance of a municipal government being overthrown in United States history.
1918 – The Western Union Cable Office in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, receives a top-secret coded message from Europe (that would be sent to Ottawa and Washington, D.C.) that said on November 11, 1918, all fighting would cease on land, sea and in the air.
1951 – With the rollout of the North American Numbering Plan, direct-dial coast-to-coast telephone service begins in the United States.
1958 – The Hope Diamond is donated to the Smithsonian Institution by New York diamond merchant Harry Winston.
1970 – Vietnam War: Vietnamization: For the first time in five years, an entire week ends with no reports of American combat fatalities in Southeast Asia.
1972 – Southern Airways Flight 49 from Birmingham, Alabama is hijacked and, at one point, is threatened with crashing into the nuclear installation at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After two days, the plane lands in Havana, Cuba, where the hijackers are jailed by Fidel Castro.
1975 – The 729-foot-long freighter SS Edmund Fitzgerald sinks during a storm on Lake Superior, killing all 29 crew on board.
1983 – Bill Gates/Microsoft introduces Windows 1.0.
1989 – Germans begin to tear down the Berlin Wall.
2008 – Five months after landing on Mars, NASA declares the Phoenix mission concluded after communications with the lander were lost.
1483 – Martin Luther, German monk and priest, leader of the Protestant Reformation (d. 1546)
1810 – George Jennings, English plumber and engineer, invented the flush toilet (d. 1882)
1932 – Roy Scheider, American actor (d. 2008)
1727 – Alphonse de Tonty, French-American sailor and explorer (b. 1659)
1982 – Leonid Brezhnev, Ukrainian-Russian general and politician, 4th Head of State of the Soviet Union (b. 1906)
2001 – Ken Kesey, American novelist, essayist, and poet (b. 1935)
2007 – Norman Mailer, American novelist and essayist (b. 1923)
Downtown Dowager Gets Her Due
First Lady of Lower Manhattan Recognized, Half a Century On
If you live in Lower Manhattan, and are even remotely fond of the community, you owe a debt of gratitude to the woman who saved it from slum clearance and multiple highway schemes. The late Jane Jacobs (she died in 2006) was recognized last week with a plaque outside her longtime home at 555 Hudson Street, in the West Village. To read more…
Validating the Vision
CB1 Offers Qualified Endorsement to Plans for Brooklyn Bridge Revamp
The August designation of two winners in the Reimagining Brooklyn Bridge design competition has spurred Community Board 1 (CB1) to weigh in about the pragmatic implications of the vision contained in the proposals. To read more…
Howard Hughes Corporation Proposes Scaled-Back Towers for Seaport Site, Along with Package of Amenities
The Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) has unveiled its plans for 250 Water Street (a 1.1-acre parking lot in the Seaport District), including high-rise towers, more than 100 units of affordable housing, and a plan to build a new headquarters for the South Street Seaport Museum. This announcement has inspired both enthusiastic support and fierce criticism. To read more…
Contract One, Station One
The Jewel in
Just below the surface of City Hall Park sits one of New York’s architectural gems. Built during the City Beautiful movement, its design sought to uplift the spirits of New Yorkers on their daily commute.
City Hall Loop station—Contract One, Station One—was the flagship of New York’s first subway and the focus of the international press on October 27, 1904, when Mayor George McClellan connected the Tiffany-designed motorman’s handle to propel the first train north to its endpoint on 145th Street and Broadway.
The design of the other twenty-seven stations it stopped at that afternoon was dictated by the practical needs of subway efficiency—the architect’s only role was to choose the tile work that would cover the structural columns and walls. But the station below City Hall Park is different. Here, design and structure are one in the same.
City Hall subway station, was designed to be the showpiece of the new subway system with its elegant platform and mezzanine featured Guastavino tile, skylights, colored glass tilework and brass chandeliers.