getting around

Talking to the Last Man Standing at the Congestion-Pricing Hearing

Jeremy, giving it to the congestion-pricing panel. Photo: mtainfo/Youtube

Jeremy Zaida was the very last speaker at Thursday night’s semi-raucous, The Best of Youth–length public hearing on congestion pricing (it went on for six hours and 42 minutes). As residents of the Greater New York Metropolitan Area alternated between calling the plan to impose fees on drivers in Manhattan’s central business district an “embarrassment” and (approvingly) a means of punishing “car fetishists,” Zaida, who is 27 and lives in Upper Manhattan, waited along with more than 400 other people to hear his name.

I called him up to talk about being the event’s unexpected grand finale, endurance strategies for bureaucratic tedium, and The Real Housewives of Dubai. Our conversation has been condensed and lightly edited.

Jeremy, hi. Thanks for talking to me. Let’s start with the obvious: congestion pricing — yes or no?

Yes! For sure. All the way, yes.

When did you sign up for your spot? 

I got home at like eight, I think. I started watching and people were saying all these inaccurate things — just false things about congestion pricing. It’s frustrating that a lot of people who seem to be against it also don’t seem to know what it is. I wanted to get my voice in there. Really, I just wanted to talk about how much the buses suck because of traffic. It took me a while to figure out how to sign up.

Did you know you were going to be last? 

I had no idea. I didn’t even think they would call me. They were saying all these names for people who didn’t show up. It was getting a little meditative in those in-between-speaker moments. I finally got called just before midnight. Like 11:40 p.m.?

Your strategy for staying alert? 

I honestly wasn’t paying attention that much. I had my earbud in one ear and I was watching Netflix with my boyfriend.

What were you watching? 

Well, he was watching The Real Housewives of Dubai. I’m not super into it, so I was just casually trying to pay attention to both things at once. And actually, I guess it was Hulu, not Netflix.

Do you think any of the Housewives would support congestion pricing? 

None — none of them.

Did you ever consider abandoning your spot? The hearing was so long. 

At a certain point, when they were calling people for their last chances to speak, I thought, I should just hang up now. I can maybe speak at a later hearing. Maybe I’ll do a written hearing. But I just kept listening. At a certain point I was like, No, I am spending my night doing this.

How do you get around the city?

I would like to use the bus more because there’s a stop right at the end of my street, but they’re so slow — there’s too much traffic. I use the subway, but that has its own issues, obviously.

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The Last Man Standing at the Congestion-Pricing Hearing