- New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is getting absolutely reamed in the press here. He's being accused of killing Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan by not allowing it to come to the floor for a vote. (For you out-of-towners, Mayor Mike wanted to charge drivers $8 to enter much of Manhattan on weekdays; the city was in line for a $350 million grant from the federal government to help implement the technology had it been passed by Monday.) The Times led its editorial with: Rarely does one man have a chance to do so much harm to so many, and concluded it by suggesting that he was unworthy of his office.
From what I've read, Silver really didn't have nearly enough votes to pass the measure, which was opposed by representatives, mostly Democrats, from the outer boroughs and the surrounding commuter suburbs. In addition, Bloomberg didn't help himself with his threats to fund campaigns against those who voted against the plan. Danny Hakim wrote on the Empire Zone the other day that his reputation among Democratic lawmakers is almost as bad — almost — as that of his recently humbled Upper East Side neighbor, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer!! (exclamation points mine)
And besides, even though Senator Bruno stood firmly behind his deep-pocketed pal (what, really, were the chances that Bruno would have opposed the plan, Bloomberg's highest priority in this, his second and final term?), the measure wasn't even assured of passing the Senate; the Democrats refused to even come to the floor in a procedural dispute. Bruno accused them of "acting very Spitzer like!!" (exclamation points mine)
But even if you can't pin this solely on Silver, the Speaker has been credited with singlehandedly killing the Mayor's plan to build a stadium on the West Side which would have enhanced the city's Olympics bid, and a commuter tax which had generated billions for the city.
He also killed slots at Belmont, which were favored by Spitzer and Bruno. Even though the budget remains unresolved as the Governor and legislators struggle to figure out how to pay for a 4.4% spending increase amidst fears that the revenue projections are too high given the recession, the issue seems stone cold dead. I imagine it could have raised $250 million or so in the form of a license fee in fairly short order, and it's my contention that it would constitute a better location. And the community is left trying to get a few million bucks for the cost of police, roads and the education of the children of backstretch grooms.
The aid, estimated to be far less than the $20 million community-redevelopment fund sought last year, would also help reduce the impact of not having slot-like gambling machines at Belmont, which are to be installed at Aqueduct racetrack in Ozone Park. [Newsday]