Lawyers for the city teacher’s union have ripped the decision by the MTA to set a June 30 date for the start of $15 congestion pricing — saying it shows the agency is not reconsidering the environmental impacts of the scheme, according to a new filing in their federal suit.

“We believe it fair to say that the MTA’s statement belies any genuine re-evaluation being conducted as to whether further environmental review is needed based on the actual congestion pricing program,” the lawyers said in an April 30 letter to Manhattan federal Judge Lewis Liman.

The United Federation of Teachers is bankrolling a broad, bi-partisan lawsuit filed in January that also includes Republican Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella and other elected officials and teachers as plaintiffs.

What to know about congestion pricing

  • These rates apply during peak hours, 5 am-9 pm weekdays, 9 am – 9 pm weekends. During other times, tolls are lowers to $2.75 for passenger vehicles, $6 for small trucks, $9 for large trucks, and $1.75 for motorcycles. Other rates remain the same.
  • Emergency vehicles, school buses, specialized government vehicles and vehicles carrying people with disabilities are exempt.
  • Drivers crossing into Manhattan using a tolled tunnel get a $5 discount.

The controversial program would toll drivers who head south of 60th Street on city avenues and local streets $15 per day between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. and $3.75 to drive in overnight.

The lawsuit argued that teachers, firefighters, EMS workers and other essential public servants would be “forced to shoulder the burden of the MTA’s latest fundraising gambit.”

UFT president Mike Mulgrew deferred to his lawyers’ statement, but when he announced the suit earlier said,  “This is simply a money grab because they’re going to raise the money off the working and middle class of this city.”

Some of the educators drive from the outer-boroughs to Manhattan schools in the congestion zone.

The suit also raised environmental concerns, complaining the congestion toll would shift traffic and pollution from Manhattan to Staten Island and the Bronx.

Co-plaintiff Vito Fossella on Wednesday slammed the MTA for trying to ram through the congestion toll before the legal case is resolved.

Staten Island Borough President Vito Fossella. Brigitte Stelzer

“It’s presumptuous and arrogant,” Fossella said. “You can’t just steamroll this toll through. You have to respect the process.”

“It shows that the public hearings the MTA held were a sham. They’re thumbing their nose at everybody.”

Congestion pricing is being implemented because of a state law championed by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democrat-controlled legislature in 2019.

The toll has the strong backing of Cuomo’s successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, who supports the estimated $1 billion that would be generated from the toll to fund mass transit while claiming it will curb traffic congestion and air pollution in Manhattan and encourage more commuters to take mass transit.

The city teacher’s union has ripped the decision by the MTA to set a June 30 date for the start of $15 congestion pricing. Helayne Seidman

But politically, the congestion toll is a loser with voters — nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers across the political spectrum oppose the pricing scheme  while only 25% support it, a Siena College poll released last week found.

Still, the toll is scheduled to go into effect June 30 — barring a bombshell contrarian ruling or opposition from the Biden Administration — both which appear unlikely.

The MTA’s lawyers claimed as such when they discussed the June 30 implementation date in a letter to the judge last week after MTA CEO Janno Lieber announced it.  

“While that [June 30] is the planned date, the program cannot commence until the Federal Highway Administration completes its reevaluation of the adopted toll structure and executes an agreement authorizing tolling under the Value Pricing Pilot Program,” MTA lawyer Roberta Kaplan said.

Fossella acknowledged that the litigation is the 11th hour hail mary — the last gap — to stop the new toll to enter Midtown.

“This is the last stand. This is the Alamo,” the Staten Island BP said.

Meanwhile, the MTA on Monday approved discounts to make public transit options more attractive while implementing congestion pricing.

It will increase service frequency on six popular express bus routes from Brooklyn and Staten Island to the congestion zone in Manhattan and offer a 10% cut on the price of monthly commuter rail tickets within New York City to ride along Long Island Railroad and Metro-North stops.

Both programs are designed to appeal to people in the outer boroughs who might consider switching to transit from driving into the Manhattan Central Business District.  

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