Skip to Content Facebook Feature Image

Federal judge hears challenges to NYC’s fee for drivers into Manhattan

ENT

Federal judge hears challenges to NYC’s fee for drivers into Manhattan
ENT

ENT

Federal judge hears challenges to NYC’s fee for drivers into Manhattan

2024-05-18 06:25 Last Updated At:06:30

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s first-in-the-nation plan to levy a hefty toll on drivers entering much of traffic-choked Manhattan was the focus of a legal battle that played out in federal court Friday.

A Manhattan judge heard arguments in lawsuits brought by unionized public school teachers and other New Yorkers seeking to put the brakes on the plan set to launch June 30.

But U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Liman didn’t issue any decisions following the daylong hearing, where the central question was whether transportation officials have sufficiently thoroughly studied — and come up sufficient plans to address — the negative health and environmental effects of the toll.

Most drivers in private cars, locals and tourists alike, heading into Manhattan south of Central Park should expect to pay about $15 during the daytime, with higher tolls for larger vehicles and lower rates for motorcycles and late-night entries into the city, according to the proposal finalized in March. Those who aren’t enrolled in a regional toll collection program will pay $22.50.

Alan Klinger, a lawyer representing lower Manhattan residents, said the toll amounts to a “cash grab” by transit officials looking to pump billions of dollars into the region’s creaky subway, trains and buses.

“There’s a desperate need to put funds into mass transit, and that is their overriding issue,” he said.

Lawyers for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the agency overseeing the congestion fee plan, didn't dispute that the toll will provide a critical cash infusion of around $1 billion annually for the system, which carries about 4 million riders daily.

But they also argued that the toll will help reduce traffic and improve regional air quality by discouraging driving into Manhattan. The MTA also maintains it conducted extensive environmental reviews that found no significant effects to local communities that could not be addressed by focused mitigation efforts.

Klinger and other lawyers representing Manhattan residents argued Friday that the tolling scheme was given the green light by federal transportation officials without proper scrutiny.

Among other things, they noted that the Federal Highway Administration’s review was complete even before New York officials approved the toll’s final structure.

Toll opponents want the court to order transit officials to conduct a more comprehensive environmental study before rolling out the plan.

“This is supposed to be an all-encompassing process, and it has been anything but,” Klinger said.

Lawyers for the highway administration countered that New York transit officials had thoroughly analyzed the plan’s consequences and presented sufficient details for how they would address any harmful effects.

“None of these challenges have any merit,” said Zachary Bannon, a highway administration lawyer.

While the toll is expected to lead to an overall decline in traffic across greater New York City, some areas will see a “small degree” of increased congestion, acknowledged Elizabeth Knauer, an MTA lawyer.

The agency, she said, has committed to investing about $155 million over five years to offset those effects, including installing more roadside plants, parks, school air-filtration systems and more electric vehicle charging stations.

Other lawsuits argued Friday contend that low-income and minority communities already dealing with poor air quality will be particularly hard hit by the health effects of increased traffic through their streets.

They also argue drivers from other city boroughs and suburbs that lack adequate mass transit will take a disproportionate financial hit. Additionally, they claim, small businesses in the congestion zone will face higher operating costs and fewer customers.

“We have been clear that this current MTA plan moves pollution and congestion out of Manhattan and sends it into the other boroughs and neighborhoods already dealing with environmental hazards,” Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers that’s among the groups challenging the plan, said in a statement. “It is not fair, and we are asking the courts to tell the MTA to come up with a better plan.”

Many of the claims in Friday’s lawsuits echo arguments made last month during a two-day hearing in a New Jersey federal court, where New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich have each filed lawsuits.

Judge Leo Gordon, who is weighing those legal challenges, has said he plans to issue a written decision before the toll takes effect.

Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo.

FILE - Traffic is steady as vehicles approach Hugh Carey tunnel linking Brooklyn to Manhattan, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in New York. New York’s first-in-the-nation plan to levy a hefty toll on drivers entering much of traffic-choked Manhattan is the focus of a legal battle set to play out in federal court Friday, May 17. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

FILE - Traffic is steady as vehicles approach Hugh Carey tunnel linking Brooklyn to Manhattan, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, in New York. New York’s first-in-the-nation plan to levy a hefty toll on drivers entering much of traffic-choked Manhattan is the focus of a legal battle set to play out in federal court Friday, May 17. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

Next Article

Movie Review: A new generation drives into the storm in rousing ‘Twisters’

2024-07-18 01:15 Last Updated At:01:22

We have a complex relationship with disaster movies. Just look at the discussion about a “ Twisters ” poster, which became a perfect encapsulation of our love-hate tendencies.

In the promo for the film, in theaters Thursday, actors Daisy Edgar-Jones, Glen Powell and Anthony Ramos are standing in front a massive, menacing cyclone. It not only contains various objects swirling in mid-air, from houses to trucks, but also appears to be on fire. Some people wondered why the stars weren’t looking at said tornado. Others said if you’re asking questions like why the tornado is on fire, this movie isn’t for you.

Both lines of thought can be true though. Maybe their coexistence is essential. This makes no sense! Also, sign me up immediately! Disaster movies are almost required to be graded on a curve. And filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung’s entry into the canon is perfectly paradoxical.

It might not be fair, or rational, but there is something about the genre that inspires otherwise reasonable moviegoers to giddily give themselves over to a wild premise — the more ridiculous and illogical the better. There is something to be said about the joy of collective laughter where there wasn’t an intentional joke, or a spirited post-movie debate about the flawed logistics of a plan and exactly how many people have died from being sucked into a tornado. These are the movies that are hard to see clearly the first time but tend to become sneaky favorites over the years.

Such is the case with “Twister,” Jan de Bont’s film about storm chasing and remarriage. The modern collective love for it would probably surprise even the critics who reviewed it favorably in 1996. Part of that is certainly the fact that in the 28 years since it was released we lost both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Paxton. But it’s also just fun to watch with fresh eyes, to see the internet remember (or realize for the first time) that one of the storm chasers was played by Todd Field, the man who would go on to write and direct “Tár.” I re-watched it recently on plane and had a blast. I’d forgotten the insane opening but remembered Dusty’s impassioned foot chant.

There’s been a lot of cautious optimism surrounding “Twisters” that’s felt different from a lot of the reboots and “new chapters” (anything to avoid calling it a sequel) that have come and gone in recent years. Audiences are craving something big and fun, but worried that it won’t live up to their idea of what it should be. This is inherently flawed because “Twister” has earned its reputation, its quotability, across many viewings and many years. “Twisters” we’re just meeting. It’s hard to get too excited about a first date.

But Chung, a filmmaker best known for the comparatively small “Minari,” has made a solid film with escalating action sequences that look great on the big screen. There is once again a crazy opening that gives Edgar-Jones’ tornado-obsessed Kate a trauma origin story. Her hubris in thinking she could “tame” a tornado with science backfired and people died; But five years later her old friend Javi (Ramos) convinces her to come back to Oklahoma’s Tornado Alley to attempt a different kind of study.

The story is credited to Joseph Kosinski (who was once going to direct) and the screenplay to Mark L. Smith (“The Revenant”) and none of them can get the original out of their heads. Yes, these are all new characters (including Powell’s YouTube star storm wrangler Tyler) and the only real connection to the first movie is that the Dorothy technology exists. But it is so referential as to be distracting: Literal lines of dialogue (“I’m not back”); An attempt to make Tyler’s crew a gang of Dustys (which underserves actors like Sasha Lane and Katy O’Brian); Making David Corenswet wear what’s essentially a recreation of Carey Elwes’ baseball cap and earpiece. Don’t they want us to think of “Twisters” on its own terms?

But Chung clearly also had a vision, attempting to ground the insanity in a real place with regionally appropriate styles and music, and deeper characterization. The supporting players were thoughtfully cast. Its leads, Powell and Edgar-Jones, are endlessly watchable with palpable chemistry, even as they’re monologuing about sodium polyacrylate.

I wish I had the ability to know how “Twisters” will play 28 years from now, in 2052. Will the 12-year-olds seeing it this weekend go back to it as a comfort watch? Will it feel like it was part of the good old days of big studio movie making? Right now, it doesn’t necessarily feel like it’s destined for that kind of longevity. And I’d love nothing more than to be wrong about that.

“Twisters,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association for “intense action and peril, injury images, some language.” Running time: 122 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Sasha Lane, left, and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Sasha Lane, left, and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, from left, Anthony Ramos and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, from left, Anthony Ramos and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, from left, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Maura Tierney in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, from left, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Maura Tierney in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Harry Hadden-Paton in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Harry Hadden-Paton in a scene from "Twisters." (Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Brandon Perea, from left, Harry Hadden-Paton and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Brandon Perea, from left, Harry Hadden-Paton and Glen Powell in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, left, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, left, and Anthony Ramos in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Daisy Edgar-Jones, left, and Anthony Ramos in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, right, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Glen Powell, right, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in a scene from "Twisters." (Universal Pictures via AP)

Recommended Articles