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February 20, 2020 5:00 PM, EST

Cuomo Blasts US ‘Extortion’ for Delay on NYC Congestion Fees

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January 2017.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January 2017. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Bloomberg News)

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a program charging motorists congestion-pricing fees to enter Manhattan may be delayed indefinitely because the federal government has been slow to approve it.

Cuomo said the delay in the plan, needed to finance $15 billion worth of mass transit improvements, is part of a pattern of “political extortion” on the part of President Donald Trump to hurt the state — which voted overwhelmingly against him in 2016 — by refusing to approve programs considered crucial to New York’s economic growth.

“The federal government has been slow, obstinate and I think purposely difficult whenever they can,” Cuomo said during a news conference at his Manhattan office Feb. 20.

The White House press office didn’t respond to emails and phone calls seeking comment about Cuomo’s remarks.

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The governor blasted Trump’s refusal to approve the Gateway project — a key Hudson River rail tunnel — and a new train to LaGuardia Airport. He also cited the administration’s decision to block New York’s participation in the Department of Homeland Security’s “trusted traveler” global entry program.

“They’re holding 200,000 New Yorkers hostage on the trusted traveler program,” Cuomo said.

He said a move by the administration to restrict the ability of used-car dealers to export vehicles was meant to gain access to a Department of Motor Vehicles database that would help it identify undocumented immigrants, Cuomo said. New York law prohibits such disclosure, he said.

Congestion pricing — set to launch in January — can’t begin until the federal government approves the program because it involves some federal roads. “I’m not holding my breath for them to approve congestion pricing,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s comments are the latest hostile exchange he’s traded with the president. In October, when Trump moved his formal residence to Florida from New York, Cuomo responded by saying “Good riddance. It’s not like Mr. Trump paid taxes here anyway. He’s all yours, Florida.”

The governor has supported state Attorney General Letitia James’s investigation of Trump’s state tax payments, and Cuomo signed a bill in June allowing the state to release Trump’s tax returns to Congress.

“It’s all retaliation, what they’re doing. The cancellation of the trusted traveler program was pure political extortion,” Cuomo said. “They will hold one thing hostage to get what they want.”

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