Cy Vance facing write-in challenge + Congestion Pricing

A note to our readers: The Thorn has switched from Mailchimp to Substack so we can keep delivering you local New York politics news from a socialist perspective with fewer administrative costs. Starting in January 2022 our new issues can be at along with how to subscribe. This website will serve as an archive of our past issues.

Local News


  • Former Brooklyn DA candidate Marc Fliedner has announced a write-in campaign to challenge incumbent Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance in the November election. Vance, who is otherwise running unopposed, is facing strong criticism for recent revelations that he killed investigations against Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Harvey Weinstein.
  • City Limits has a roundup of five City Council candidates who are running on unexpected party lines, including DSA-endorsee Jabari Brisport running in District 35 (Crown Heights) on the Socialist and Green Party ballot lines.
  • Seven of the eight candidates for City Council Speaker signed onto a pledge not to take money from Dan Loeb, a billionaire hedge fund manager who supports charter schools, after Loeb compared NY Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to a Klansman for opposing charters. The eighth candidate, Robert Cornegy, claimed he was unaware of the pledge.
  • Justin Brannan and John Quaglione, the Democratic and Republican candidates in the 43rd Council District (Bay Ridge), faced each other in a candidate forum last week.
  • WNYC’s Radiolab podcast series released an episode extensively covering the Khader El-Yateem campaign for City Council.
  • Adem Bunkeddeko, an investment banker turned community organizer from Crown Heights, is planning to challenge Rep. Yvette Clarke in the 2018 Democratic Primary.
  • A mayoral debate happened.

In-Depth: Congestion Pricing.


Congestion pricing refers to a mechanism that tolls vehicles entering a busy area of a city in order to discourage driving, cut traffic, and fund transit. Such programs currently exist in cities like London, Stockholm, and Singapore. Congestion pricing is a particularly salient issue in New York City due to its irrational tolling distribution; the four East River bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Queensboro) that lead drivers directly into Manhattan’s central business districts are free, while other  major bridges and tunnels are steeply tolled, meaning drivers are essentially incentivized to drive straight into the busiest parts of the City.

While some form of congestion pricing in New York City was proposed as early as the 1970s, the most recent attempt to pass such a measure was in 2008, when Mayor Bloomberg tried and failed to win support for the initiative in the State Legislature. Bloomberg’s plan was designed to toll all cars coming into Manhattan south of 60th street (via other boroughs and northern Manhattan) with a flat fee from 6AM-6PM. The billions in new revenue were intended to fund a host of new subway, bus, and rail improvements and expansions throughout the City. The plan passed a City Council vote 30-20, but was fiercely opposed by many outer-borough politicians, including then-Council Member Bill de Blasio, who called the plan regressive and “unfair to the outer-boroughs.” The plan was also opposed by the parking-garage company lobby. Although the plan had support from then-Governor Patterson, the Republican-controlled State Senate, and other power brokers on both sides of the aisle, it died in the Assembly due to then-Speaker Sheldon Silver refusing to hold a vote and preventing the positions of vulnerable Assembly Members from being put on the record.


Congestion Pricing has gained new traction in the past few years as MTA service has declined spectacularly and traffic congestion has worsened in large part due to an unregulated explosion of Uber and Lyft. MoveNY, a plan devised by a former NYC transportation commissioner, was publicly proposed by activists in 2015 as a compromise measure that was seen to have addressed some of the criticisms of the original Bloomberg plan. It still tolled all vehicles entering Manhattan below 60th Street, but it provided toll relief targeted at outer-borough drivers, including lowering tolls on certain bridges, and preventing situations where vehicles could be tolled twice in an hour. This new plan has gained support from a number of outer-borough entities that previously opposed Bloomberg’s 2008 push, as well as a host of unions, the Working Families Party, and other progressive organizations. With Sheldon Silver out of power and the City Council controlled by more transit-friendly progressives than it was 9 years ago, the new plan appears to have at least a marginally clearer path through City and State government.

Current Prospects

After years of dismissing the concept, Governor Cuomo surprised many this summer by suggesting that he would consider congestion pricing and subsequently appointing a panel to study it. Mayor de Blasio, in line with his 2008 City Council vote and his endless feud with the Governor, has signaled a firm opposition to any congestion pricing plan. De Blasio is instead trying to rally support behind a “Millionaire’s Tax” to fund transit, which appears in part to be a move to “out-progressive” the Governor due to its blatantly poor odds of succeeding. The State Legislature would have to pass such a tax, and de Blasio has already tried proposing similar levies to fund two other initiatives over his first term (universal pre-K and subsidized senior housing) and failed both times.

There is some debate about whether a congestion pricing mechanism would be progressive or regressive, although much of the debate has been skewed by the disproportionate political influence of NYC car owners, whose median income levels are far higher than their car-less neighbors. Furthermore, the MoveNY report projects that their plan would result in an increase in tolls for only 3% of trips taken within the five boroughs, and that those trips are primarily taken by relatively high-income households anyway. However, there is also warranted skepticism over whether Governor Cuomo could be trusted to ensure that a program would be implemented in the public’s best interest. Cuomo has been vague about what his proposed congestion pricing system would entail, and he hasn’t specifically mentioned MoveNY, so he could have other, less holistic solutions in mind. This is likely to be a major item of debate in the coming 2018 State legislative season and could be a flashpoint in next year’s state elections, especially as many State legislative seats are likely to be contested next fall thanks to a post-Trump groundswell of political activism.

Contribute to The Thorn

We welcome submissions of in-depth articles, comics and illustrations from anyone in DSA. Whether you want to write for us or just know of stories we should be covering, please get in touch.

Subscribe to The Thorn

The Thorn is a weekly update on what's happening in local New York politics from a socialist perspective. Please sign up with us to receive an email every Monday morning.