Claims, trains and automobiles!

New York City’s most powerful teachers’ union has teamed up with Staten Island’s Republican borough president to sue to stop the MTA’s controversial congestion pricing plan.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday by the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), has asked the court to halt the implementation of the soon-to-be-launched plan, which would charge drivers $15 per day to use city streets and avenues south of 60th Street in Manhattan.

“This is simply a money grab because they’re going to raise the money off the working and middle class of this city,” said UFT head Mike Mulgrew, who lives on Staten Island.

“Those are the folks who are going to pay for this program. We’re sick of this. We’re sick of people just trying to shove things through.”

Mulgrew announced the lawsuit Thursday at a rally on Staten Island alongside Staten Island BP, Vito Fossella, who also argued the plan would move pollution from Manhattan to Staten Island.

“For Staten Island residents, it will increase traffic, it will make air quality worse and take tens of millions of dollars out of their pockets each year. Why on earth would we support this,” Fossella said.

The UFT’s longtime president, Mike Mulgrew, speaks at a rally in Albany in 2015. AP

The lawsuit challenges the two-year environmental assessment conducted by the MTA and approved by the federal Department of Transportation. Any such decision would massively delay or potentially kill the program.

The study — which took two years and spanned more than 4,800 pages — determined that the toll program would reduce pollution and traffic across the region.

However, the review also showed that pollution could increase in Bergen County, Staten Island and in portions of The Bronx as some truck traffic shifts from cutting through Manhattan to the outer-borough expressways.

“In our lawsuit, we assert that this program, scheduled to go into effect this spring, cannot be put in place without the completion of a thorough environmental impact statement that includes the potential effects of the plan on the city’s air quality, the UFT posted on X Thursday after filing the suit.

“The current plan would not eliminate air and noise pollution or traffic, but would simply shift that pollution and traffic to the surrounding areas, particularly Staten Island, the Bronx, upper Manhattan and Northern New Jersey, causing greater environmental injustice in our city,” it added.

It is at least the fourth brought over the maligned plan in recent months.

Congestion pricing advocates argue that tolling drivers coming into Midtown and Lower Manhattan will slash traffic while funding key transit programs. Stephen Yang

Officials had hoped to launch the congestion pricing toll as soon as May. Under the plan, drivers using the Hudson River and East River tunnels would get a $5 discount of the $15 toll.

Expect the number of automobiles and trucks on the road in the toll zone to be slashed by as much as 17%.

Meanwhile, the MTA proposed to fund $130 million in clean-up programs in both Staten Island and The Bronx to offset potential new truck traffic — but did not make similar promises to New Jersey.

MTA chairman Janno Lieber has blasted critics of congestion pricing in recent months as the mounting number of legal challenges to the program means the agency is having to delay major projects. Robert Miller

Transit officials expect the toll to raise $1 billion per year, which will be used to fund $15 billion in bonds to pay for major upgrades to the MTA’s subway, commuter railroads and bus systems.

The lawsuits, the MTA says, are now delaying its ability to sell bonds — which has forced it to begin delaying some of those programs, including a billion-dollar program to replace the century-old stoplight signals on the Fulton Street subway with its new computerized system.

“The environmental review process for congestion pricing involved four years of consultation with government agencies, public outreach meetings, and engagement with tens of thousands of public comments, with hundreds of pages of painstaking detail released that considered impacts on traffic, air quality, and environmental justice across the metropolitan area,” said the MTA’s John McCarthy in a statement. 

“And if we really want to combat ever-worsening clogged streets we must adequately fund a public transit system that will bring safer and less congested streets, cleaner air, and better transit for the vast majority of students and teachers who take mass transit to school.”

Additional reporting by Carl Campanile

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