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Sound Bites: MTA set to vote on congestion pricing

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered remarks at a congestion pricing rally in New York City.
Don Pollard/Office of Governor Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered remarks at a congestion pricing rally in New York City.

Good morning. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will vote on New York’s congestion pricing plan today. The plan institutes a $15 daytime toll for drivers to enter Manhattan below 60th Street. The goal is to reduce gridlock by discouraging driving, and use the money brought in from the tolls to pay for mass transit upgrades.

"My friends, this is going to be transformative,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul, rallying alongside transit advocates on Tuesday. “We'll have the resources to invest in our [subway] system, a 110-year-old system, so its [in] position for the next 110 years because of the courage here today.”

Under the plan, there are no exceptions made for public or gig-economy workers who commute from Long Island or Connecticut in their personal vehicles. 

Here’s a bite-sized look at what else we are hearing:

Connecticut was reimbursed $5.6 million in COVID-19 quarantine costs. The state Department of Correction purchased personal protective equipment and paid almost 60 hotels to use for quarantine shelters in 2020 and 2021. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has so far reimbursed over $910 million in total to Connecticut for pandemic-related expenses.

Over $10 million was awarded to Babylon communities and organizations. Suffolk County awarded the funding as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the funding will go towards supporting Jumpstart and JumpSMART programs, which strengthen the development of regionally significant projects and businesses.

Starting in January, the minimum wage will increase to $16 an hour on Long Island, as well as New York City and Westchester. The rest of the state will see the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour. According to the state Labor Department, these wage hikes will be implemented to help residents combat rising inflation contacts. Minimum wage will be increased by 50-cents an hour in 2025 and 2026.

Over 100 bills in New York await signing from Gov. Kathy Hochul before the year ends. All of these bills were approved by the State Legislature earlier this year. Several bills will impact Long Island if approved, including setting most county, town and village elections on even years to coincide with governor and presidential elections. Another bill would allow the Town of Southold to issue deer cull permits to reduce their increasing deer population.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is calling for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to send undocumented immigrants to Connecticut, as well as other New England states. Graham wants people sent to these Democratic-controlled states in order to overburden their cities with providing housing and other services for migrants. Thousands of immigrantswere sent from Mexican border states to New York in 2022 resulting in the state housing over 100,000 undocumented immigrants.

Over 120 guns were seized in New York thanks to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed last year. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said over 1,300 guns were seized from suspected gun traffickers nationwide with 190 of those being AR-15 rifles. To help combat gun violence, the federal government also provided nearly $100 million to New York to fund mental and behavioral health services.

Connecticut’s home grown cannabis task force may not hold its first meeting before its 2024 deadline. Gov. Ned Lamont was required in 2021 to create the task force to study and determine how home cannabis farmers could sell their products in retail by 2024. Members of the task force were planned to be appointed in July but were delayed due to the state General Assembly focusing on legislation and conducting studies for other task forces.

Former Connecticut State Rep. Michael DiMassa began his prison sentence on Monday. In 2022, DiMassa pleaded guilty of stealing over $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds from West Haven and was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He will serve 27 months and have to pay an additional $866,000 in restitution.

Dams may not become a fruitful renewable energy source in Connecticut. According to a report from the state hydroelectric power task force, most dam operators will have to idle or completely close multiple dams across the state. This is due to the state lacking proper funds to maintain or repair aging dams. Officials originally planned on using dams to help the state become entirely renewable energy powered by 2040.

Yale University purchased a nine-story biomedical research building for almost $140 million in New Haven. Yale previously occupied 75% of the building at 300 George St, to use for research labs and office space. The building was previously home to the call center, the Southern New England Telephone Company, in 2000.

Sacred Heart University will house the personal archives of Sikorsky aircraft manufacturer founder Igor Sikorsky. The archives were previously stored at the now-demolished Barrett House on the grounds of the Sikorsky Stratford plant. The move will allow researchers and the public to study the history of the 100-year-old company. People can view the archives at SHU’s School of Computer Science & Engineering.

Free swimming lessons will be provided alongside the Connecticut Institute For Communities. The American Rescue Plan Act provided $128,000 to fund the program. Children 17 years old or younger will be able to swim at the Danbury Community Center. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection expects to teach 300 children annually through the program.

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Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.