MTA hires high-powered attorney in NJ congestion pricing suit

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The MTA has a new lawyer in it’s fight to bring congestion pricing to New York City.

Roberta Kaplan — a prominent litigator known for securing gay marriage rights and representing writer E. Jean Carroll in her sexual assault case against Donald Trump — has signed on to argue the transit agency’s case in a federal lawsuit brought by New Jersey.

Kaplan and two other attorneys from her firm, Kaplan Hecker & Fink, filed paperwork in New Jersey federal court Tuesday to appear on the transit agency’s behalf.

MTA officials confirmed the lawyer’s hiring.

“We are deeply committed to congestion pricing and have confidence in Roberta Kaplan’s ability to assist in delivering a clear path past this pro-traffic lawsuit, to fight climate change and enable better transit on behalf of the people of New York,” John McCarthy, MTA’s head of external relations said in a statement.

The administration of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sued the federal Transportation Department in July, seeking to halt New York’s plan to charge drivers entering lower Manhattan a yet-to-be-determined fee.

The federal suit claims that the US Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration failed to conduct a “comprehensive” and “complete” environmental review of the Empire State’s plan, which New Jersey claims will have significant environmental impacts by changing traffic patterns throughout the region.

Neither New York State, which passed the underlying law requiring congestion pricing in 2019, nor the MTA, which is counting on congestion pricing revenues to cover $15 billion in capital projects, were named as defendants in the New Jersey suit.

But earlier this month the transit agency filed to join the feds as defendants, arguing that the MTA had a material interest in defending the policy in court.

MTA officials have repeatedly expressed confidence in the multi-year review process that led up to the current congestion pricing plan.

“Far from the expedited, rushed process that New Jersey’s complaint erroneously portrays, the environmental review for this Project has in fact taken far longer, and at significantly greater cost, than anticipated,” attorneys for the MTA argued in court earlier this month.

MTA crews have been installing tolling infrastructure across lower Manhattan in recent months in anticipation of a spring 2024 start to congestion pricing.