Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll find out about a second lawsuit from New Jersey challenging New York’s congestion-pricing plan. We’ll also look at a wristwatch that belonged to Andy Warhol, who said everyone would be famous for 15 minutes.
A new lawsuit from New Jersey signaled an escalation in the cross-border fight over New York’s congestion-pricing plan, which would generate money for mass transit with tolls on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street.
Suburbanites complain that congestion pricing would cause more traffic on their roads and more pollution in their communities. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey sued the federal government last summer to block the plan, saying it would create unfair financial and environmental burdens for his state’s residents.
On Wednesday, Mark Sokolich, the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., announced another lawsuit challenging congestion pricing as an environmental threat.
Sokolich, who was joined by other northern New Jersey officials, including Representative Josh Gottheimer, a fellow Democrat, said that more vehicles would go through Fort Lee on the way to the George Washington Bridge once congestion pricing took effect, because drivers would avoid Midtown Manhattan and the new tolls.
The lawsuit, a potential class-action proceeding with Sokolich and a Fort Lee resident who has asthma as plaintiffs, asserts that congestion pricing would increase pollutants like nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide in Fort Lee.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees mass transit in New York and is counting on congestion pricing for $1 billion a year in new revenue, had hoped to start collecting the money next spring. Janno Lieber, the authority’s chairman and chief executive, said last week that Murphy’s lawsuit to block congestion pricing threatened much-needed work.
“We’re done being the nice, quiet neighbor to everybody — we’ve had enough,” Sokolich said. “I’m going to tell you that the additional traffic is secondary at this point. We deal on a daily basis with the pollutants, the soot, the filth. Additional traffic brings additional pollution.”
Gottheimer, whose district includes Fort Lee and who has long opposed congestion pricing, said the tolling system would add $5,000 a year to the price commuters paid to drive to work in New York.
“That’s on top of the $17 they pay a day already to cross the bridge or go into the tunnel,” he said. “That’s on top of parking. It’s on top of gas and the billions of dollars Jersey residents pay every year to New York in income taxes.”
Eugene Resnick, an M.T.A. spokesman, said, “congestion pricing needs to move forward for less traffic, safer streets, cleaner air and huge improvements to mass transit.” He also said that the Traffic Mobility Review Board, a six-member panel that will advise the authority on how much drivers should be charged and who should be eligible for exemptions, was continuing its work. It has yet to release its recommendations.
Sokolich’s suit, citing reports that the M.T.A. planned to spend $130 million to address pollution problems in the Bronx, noted that New Jersey stood to receive no such compensation. The suit seeks a “full and proper environmental study” and a monitoring program for people with respiratory problems resulting from additional traffic.
But Sokolich said in an interview that his priority was simply stopping congestion pricing. “I’m not suggesting that if there were some stipend program, it would be justified,” he said. “We can’t trade off our health for a check here.”
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An Andy Warhol watch that’s nothing like Pop Art
Andy Warhol is famous for saying everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. He could have timed everyone’s 15 minutes. He owned hundreds of wristwatches. It took the income from who-knows-how-many Marilyns and Campbell’s soup cans to buy them all.
Some of the watches were found after his death in the fabric of the canopy atop his four-poster bed. Others, like one to be auctioned next month at Christie’s, were discovered later, stashed in a file drawer with a false bottom.
Surprisingly, considering how Warhol’s work — Pop Art — elevated brighter-than-bright colors and everyday objects that nobody else looked at twice, the watch that is going on the block is classic and understated. It is a self-winding perpetual calendar model from the Swiss manufacturer Patek Philippe. It has a dial-within-the-dial that watch specialists call a moon phase register.
Christie’s expects to sell it for $350,000 to $600,000, in part because it is rare. Only 586 were made, and only 449 others have the yellow gold case that Warhol’s has. The cases on the rest are pink gold, platinum or white gold.
Patek Philippe introduced that model in 1962, the year of Warhol’s first exhibition of his Campbell’s soup cans.
“It was quite a feat of watchmaking when it came out,” said Rebecca Ross, a Christie’s vice president who is head of sale for watches. “You really wouldn’t expect him to have anything else.”
He was some collector, and not just of watches. After he died in 1987, about 10,000 items were offered in 2,526 lots at Sotheby’s: everything from Art Deco cigarette holders and Bakelite bracelets to paintings by Magritte, Man Ray, Picasso and Norman Rockwell. It was enough to fill three floors when it was displayed before the auction. The New York Times asked, “Where did he put all this stuff?”
More than 300 watches were included in that sale. Warhol had apparently been “hoovering them up from markets and dealers along with cookie jars, American Indian art and assorted ephemera,” as The Robb Report put it in 2020.
Not all were Patek Philippes or Rolexes. There were three plastic watches with images of Gumby, Fred Flintstone and Judy Jetson that were originally valued at $60 to $80. They sold for $2,640 for the three (just under $7,000 now).
And then, months after that auction, the curator of the Andy Warhol Foundation found the cache in the false-bottom drawer. There was another auction.
Ross said that Warhol’s Patek Philippe was made in 1977 and that Warhol had bought it the following year. “The case doesn’t seem to have been polished too much in the past,” she said. “He may have even used the perpetual calendar function. I can see him really playing around with it.”
East Ninth Street bakery
I am remembering with nostalgia a bakery on East Ninth Street near First Avenue that I used to frequent in the 1970s.
It was run by two brothers who sold bread by the pound in loaves they stored in large drawers.
“Hello, dear,” they would say when I entered. “If you eat this bread, you can live forever! You never need to eat anything else!”
They would cut a slice from a loaf, put it in my hand and direct me to taste it on the spot to make their point. There were lots of rye and dark pumpernickel loaves.
One brother began to lose his memory, and it was touching to see the other care for him as they carried on the business.
Eventually, the brothers died, and I heard on the news that one had secretly built up a small fortune that he passed on to a nephew.