The Horns of a Tax Dilemma

Background Reading


New York City Council members Mark Weprin (L) Ydanis Rodriguez, with Families for Safe Streets' Amy Cohen, standing outside City Hall (Kate Hinds )

New York City Council members Mark Weprin (L) Ydanis Rodriguez, with Families for Safe Streets’ Amy Cohen, standing outside City Hall (Kate Hinds )

The de Blasio administration wants to give four New York City streets a $250 million safety overhaul.

Under the mayor’s preliminary budget, Fourth Avenue and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, as well as Grand Concourse in the Bronx, are slated to get major capital improvements that could included expanded pedestrian space and protected bike lanes. Of that amount, $100 million will go to Queens Boulevard, a street so hazardous it was once studied by the CDC.

“We want to try and envision something more grand,” said Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner, talking about the future of Queens Boulevard. “Something that makes it a move livable street, that looks at greenery, that looks at bus lanes, bike lanes, you name it.”

That news thrilled members of City Council, who held an oversight hearing Thursday on the city’s transportation budget.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you,” said Council member Karen Koslowitz. “My dream in life is to not call Queens Boulevard the Boulevard of Death.”

Those four streets together account for dozens of traffic fatalities over the years. While they have all received some measure of safety upgrades — last year, Atlantic Avenue became the city’s first designated arterial slow zone, and Queens Boulevard has some speed cameras — the city envisions completely redesigning them.

Paul Steely White, the head of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, hailed the plan as a lifesaver.

“On average, we’re looking at a 30 to 40 percent reduction in death and injury on streets that receive these fixes,” he said.

But he added that the city needed to speed up its street safety program.

“Right now there’s $1.2 billion in the 10-year capital program for street reconstruction,” he said, speaking in front of City Hall just before the hearing. “That’s great, and that includes that $250 million. But at that rate of street redesign, we won’t fix all the dangerous streets for 100 years.


Here is the ugly truth. For all of the whining being done by those who are conducting the ‘War on Cars‘ you cannot make the changes you deem necessary without those cars being on the roadway. What you are in essence demanding of the driving public is that it finance its extermination. You want to raise taxes on automobiles which (besides taking money out of the pockets of motorists) will be used to make things easier for pedestrians and cyclists while at the same time harder for motorists.

Then when you have managed to drive down the miles driven per motorists you will want to again raise the tax rate to squeeze as much money out of the remaining few before you finally choke the life out of them, right? That is of course not how it will be framed during debates. It will be about ‘safety‘. And like the last round of new infrastructure installations there is no assurance that the new ones will work any better.

Why not simply demand that everyone in the city use mass transit? That way you can fund your bus and train boondoggles without needing extra funds from motorists (who probably do not use your services)? At any rate the taxation would be of those who actually will benefit from the upgrades, rather than motorists whom you plan to ban from your streets just as soon as you can afford to have them go.