The grass is greener in the Garden State? New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sure wants you to think so!
Murphy is taking aim at neighboring Gov. Kathy Hochul over New York’s congestion pricing program — with an ad campaign aimed at wooing Big Apple residents and businesses into relocating to his state, The Post has learned.
“New York’s congestion tax scheme is unfair for North Jersey commuters who already pay so much in tolls and fees,” Murphy said in a statement, referring to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s controversial higher “congestion tax” Jerseyans would have to pay to enter Midtown Manhattan.
“At the same time, it presents an opportunity for us to stress the value proposition of New Jersey for New York City residents and businesses alike: an ideal location, talented pool of workers, less congestion, and, most importantly, no congestion tax. I’m out there every day making the argument for why businesses should give New Jersey a close look for relocation.”
Starting Monday, New Jersey’s not-for-profit economic development arm allied with Murphy — Choose NJ — will run digital ads at key strategic crossings on the New York side of the Hudson entering or leaving Manhattan.
One ad reads: “PAY A CONGESTION TAX TO SIT IN NYC TRAFFIC? GET OUTTA HERE. Move your business to New Jersey.”
A similar second ad states: “LESS CONGESTION. NO CONGESTION TAX. Move your business to New Jersey.”
At the bottom right, the billboards urge motorists to visit Choose NJ’s website, thisisnewjersey.com. The substantial six-figure ad buy will run for a few weeks, New Jersey officials said.
Many New Yorkers already move to Jersey every year for more affordable housing, space and better schooling.
Hochul backs the congestion pricing the MTA plans to charge to enter the business zone south of 60th Street, a toll that’s likely to cost motorists between $9 and $23, while trucks could face a charge of up to $85 depending on their size.
The authorization for the tolling plan was originally approved by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo — when Hochul was his lieutenant governor — and the New York legislature in 2019.
The plan had been tied up in bureaucratic reviews, but inched closer to reality when President Biden — via the Federal Highway Administration — tentatively signed off on the MTA’s long-delayed environmental assessment of New York City’s quest to implement tolling in parts of Manhattan.
Hochul, via her rep, defended the tolling plan on Sunday.
“Governor Hochul is committed to implementing congestion pricing to reduce traffic, improve air quality, and support our public transit system,” said Hochul spokesman John Lindsay.
“We’ve worked closely with partners across government and with community members over the last four years to develop a plan that will achieve these goals. The finding of legal sufficiency is a critical step that will allow our Environmental Assessment to be publicly available for anyone to read, and we will continue to work with our partners to move congestion pricing forward.”
The MTA, which will run the tolling system, defended the plan as pro-business as well pro-environment.
“New York has a world-renowned economy that attracts the most talented people and companies. Economies that thrive in the 21st century will be those with less congestion and car dependency, so New Jersey may try to syphon off a few companies but overall, the central business district tolling program is projected to be a huge boost for New York’s economy,” said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.
The MTA also rebutted Murphy and allies branding the plan a congestion “tax” — saying a tax is something that cannot be avoided, but the Midtown toll can be avoided by not driving into the central business district.
The ads are misguided, MTA officials argued, because if the program proceeds and is successful, there will be fewer motorists from Jersey and elsewhere sitting in traffic.
Murphy is ratcheting up his opposition now that the tolling plan — designed to curb Midtown traffic while raising revenue for the MTA — seems likely to become a reality.
The MTA last week announced concessions to try to soften outer-borough opposition and encourage motorists to drive into Midtown during off-peak hours to reduce traffic jams.
Drivers hitting the road below 60th street between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. will receive at least a 50% discount on a toll that’s likely to cost between $9 and $23, according to MTA officials.
Under the plan, lower-income commuters — making $50,000 annually, or otherwise eligible for government aid — will get a 25% discount on peak and off-peak tolls after making 10 trips to the zone.
Taxis and other for-hire vehicles will also only be charged once per day, no matter how many times they enter the area.
Officials are also considering letting drivers enter the congestion zone for free between midnight and 6 a.m. to reduce truck traffic on the Cross-Bronx Expressway.
The agency had been under fire after its environmental reviews that showed that the Midtown congestion program could put hundreds of extra trucks on freeways in the poorest borough with neighborhoods that suffer from among the city’s highest asthma rates.
The MTA also promised to contribute $15 million to the city’s program to upgrade the ancient and dirty diesel-powered refrigerated containers at the Hunts Point Market in the South Bronx, the main distribution point for much of the city’s supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Cleaning up Hunts Point, the MTA said, will help offset any additional pollution from new truck traffic diverting from Manhattan to The Bronx to avoid the fee.
Locations for Jersey’s new ad campaign include: the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, Queensboro Bridge and Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, as well as spots along the West Side Highway, Major Deegan Expressway, Sheridan Expressway and the Cross Island Parkway.