Staten Islanders getting a break
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Staten Island residents who drive on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge will be getting a break on the toll, thanks to a new plan announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday.
But even before the governor made his big announcement, elected officials on the Brooklyn side of the bridge were calling on him to extend the courtesy to the borough’s residents.
“I’m all for lowering tolls for hardworking New Yorkers but the fact is this deal is one sided and does not include Brooklyn,” Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said. “Perhaps someone forgot that the bridge has two sides. This is a tale of two boroughs!”
The toll on the bridge is normally $15.00.
The Staten Island Advance reported that under a $14 million deal in which the State Legislature and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) would each provide $7 million, Staten Island drivers with the E-ZPass will pay $5.50 per trip on the bridge.
Drivers of commercial vehicles with E-ZPass will get a 20 percent discount on the toll, but will have to make 10 trips on the bridge in a month in order to become eligible for the toll break, the Advance reported.
Gentile said that while he is pleased for Staten Islanders, he feels the plan Cuomo outlined doesn’t go quite far enough.
“My council district surrounds the Brooklyn end of the Verrazano Bridge and every day residents travel across that bridge to and from the College of Staten Island or Wagner College, or to see their parents or loved ones in nursing homes or to work or shop at the mall,” Gentile said. “These residents in the zip codes surrounding the Verrazano have to pay considerably more than their Staten Island neighbors every time they use this bridge. At $15 a pop, this is completely unjustifiable not to mention a serious burden on the wallet.”
He called on the governor to extend the same discount plan for residents on the “other” side of the bridge in southwest Brooklyn.
State Sen. Marty. Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) went a step further. Golden said he’d like to see a toll discount for all New York City residents who travel on the Verrazano on a regular basis.
Golden is calling for a 58 percent discount from the $15 cash price, to be applied to EZ-Pass holders who travel over the bridge three or more times in a month.
This discount proposal is identical to the discount plan currently in place for Brooklyn residents at the Port Authority Bridges connecting Staten Island and New Jersey, which are the Goethals, Outerbridge and Bayonne Bridge, according to Golden.
“There are residents of my district who work, visit family and use the Verrazano-Narrows bridge almost every day to commute. They can end up paying more than $200 a month in tolls just for this one crossing. This is excessive, unreasonable and an almost unbearable amount of money to be paying simply to either get to work, school or visit family members,” Golden said. “It shouldn’t cost roughly $2,500 a year to go from Brooklyn to Staten Island."
Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who represents neighborhoods on both sides of the bridge, said she agrees with Golden and is in favor of extending a toll discount to non-Staten Islanders.
“The way to achieve it is to have a united front. On Staten Island, all of the elected officials are united on this issue. We speak with one voice. In Brooklyn, you do not have that,” Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The elected officials representing communities near the bridge are speaking out for in favor of a reduced toll. But elected officials in other parts of Brooklyn have other priorities.”
Malliotakis also warned against ignoring the big picture. “There are problems of function with the MTA that need to be fixed, particularly the MTA’s expenditures and increased debt. If we can solve that, then the problems with the bridge tolls can be solved once and for all because that’s a large part of why the tolls keep going up and up,” she said.