NYC Comptroller Brad Lander files open records request for detail on Gov. Hochul congestion pricing reversal

NEW YORK — City Comptroller Brad Lander wants to know what sparked Gov. Kathy Hochul’s about face on congestion pricing.

Lander, who last week put himself at the center of a coalition of transit advocates and business leaders threatening to sue Gov. Hochul over her indefinite congestion pricing pause, has requested a trove of documents related to the governor’s surprise decision, the Daily News has learned.

In a letter sent to the executive chamber on Monday, obtained by The News, Lander made a request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law seeking a long list of possible records relating to the scuttled toll.

“New Yorkers should know how Governor Hochul arrived at the decision to withdraw the plan just weeks before its implementation,” Lander said in a statement to The News.

“Everyone—from New Yorkers with disabilities depending on the MTA’s commitment to make their subway stations accessible to people with respiratory conditions who deserve to breathe pollution-free air—deserve a fuller explanation for the Governor’s eleventh hour walk back,” he added.

The request seeks 92 days worth of records, from March 17 to June 17, including any communications regarding the decision between the governor’s office and the MTA, the Federal Highway Administration, or the city, state or federal departments of transportation.

Lander also said he is looking for any relevant communications with civic organizations, advocacy groups or lobbyists, and any communications regarding the so-called Value Pricing Pilot Program agreement — a federal document that the state, city and federal government would have had to sign off on to allow tolling on some of the roads in the planned congestion zone.

The Comptroller’s office is also seeking any request to pause the program sent by Hochul to officials at the state Department of Transportation or its federal counterpart.

The decision to suspend the toll — which was supposed to raise $1 billion a year toward the MTA’s capital budget as well as reduce vehicular traffic in Midtown and lower Manhattan by 17% — caught many of the congestion pricing plan’s stakeholders by surprise.

MTA chair Janno Lieber, who routinely touted the program alongside Hochul for the year leading up to her decision to axe it, told reporters he found out about the pause just the night before Hochul’s announcement, as rumors were swirling in the press.

FOIL requests typically move slowly through New York’s state government, and it remained unclear Tuesday how long it might take the Governor’s office to respond substantively to Lander’s letter.

A spokesman for Hochul did not immediately respond to a request for comment.