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Asian Wave Alliance Testifies at City Council Hearing to Oppose Congestion Pricing

(New York, NY) Asian Wave Alliance testified at the NY City Council Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Hearing on August 17, 2023 to oppose the Congestion Pricing Plan set to go into effect spring 2024. Below is our testimony.

Hi, my name is Yiatin Chu, president of Asian Wave Alliance (AWA). I am testifying today on behalf of AWA to oppose congestion pricing. The proposed plan will adversely impact NYC’s Asian neighborhoods and communities, particularly Manhattan Chinatown, Sunset Park and Bay Ridge.

Besides being a mobility tax on New Yorkers to get around in our city, there are many reasons we share with other opponents of Congestion Pricing: 1) Many Asians live in transit deserts which necessitates driving, 2) MTA’s incompetence in fare collection which amounts to $700 million a year – almost the same amount as their purported budget gap, 3) increased congestion outside of Manhattan, and 4) The subways and buses have gotten more dangerous in the past few years, especially for Asian NYers.

Chinatown Concerns

For the Chinese community living in the Manhattan Chinatown, this plan will destroy their way of life and have a disparate impact for its low income residents and small businesses.

Congestion Pricing is a daily tax. It will increase operational costs for all businesses, groceries, and restaurants who depend on daily food deliveries from distributors from Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Cost of living will skyrocket for local residents because of the increased costs from additional daily tolls.

The Asian elderly who depend on family members to drive them to medical appointments and assist with their shopping also face unique challenges due to language barriers and lack of technological sophistication. Many elderly are not able to hop on CitiBike or use rideshare apps.

Congestion pricing will also discourage visitors from outer boroughs and neighboring states who drive there because access to public transportation is challenging. They come to support the local small businesses, restaurants, Buddhist temples and churches, Chinese schools and a cultural way of life that is unique to Chinatown.

Congestion Pricing will create an existential problem for Chinatown. Longtime residents will be forced out because they will no longer be able to afford the cost of living. This is how gentrification begins.

Sunset Park & Bay Ridge Concerns

While Congestion pricing might sound appealing for cleaner air, the reality is that Congestion Pricing is only good for Lower Manhattan, and will be worse for surrounding neighborhoods such as Bay Ridge and Sunset Park which are 30-40% Asian, mostly Chinese.

Both neighborhoods are bifurcated by Interstate-278 which is certain to receive more congestion from drivers in order to avoid the $23 a day toll and will worsen air pollution for these neighborhoods. We know from data on the Bronx which has one of the highest rates of asthma in the country that health disparities will only worsen – just so one borough can have its cake and eat it too.

In conclusion, we respectfully asked the council to consider the following:

  1. Exempt weekend and late night traffic

  2. Exempt commercial traffic to/from Chinatown.

  3. Exempt passenger vans that shuttle people between the three Chinatowns in Flushing, Sunset Park and Manhattan.

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