By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Motorists would have to pay a toll to drive on the Brooklyn Bridge and the other East River crossings under a proposal put forth by a Democratic mayoral candidate.
Former Bay Ridge councilman Sal Albanese, who is running for the Democratic Party nomination for mayor, issued a plan on Feb. 22 calling for sweeping changes in the city's transportation system.
Installing a toll system on the East River Bridges would reduce congestion in Manhattan and raise much-needed revenue for the city, Albanese said.
Among the changes was this point made by Albanese: “Reduce congestion and reroute commercial traffic by rewriting our tolling formula and creating a fairer transportation system.” A “fair” tolling system could raise as much as $1 billion in revenue, he estimated.
But tolls on other bridges, like the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, would be reduced under Albanese’s plan.
Albanese said if elected mayor, he would also seek to re-establish ferry service to the South Shore of Staten Island and southwest Brooklyn. There hasn’t been a Brooklyn-Staten Island ferry since the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opened in 1964.
The plan also calls for bringing mass transit under mayoral control instead of leaving the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in charge.
In his plan, Albanese advocates for 20 new Select Bus routes by 2018, investments in subway infrastructure, and installing more bike lanes to increase public safety. Albanese said vehicular fatalities are "one of the invisible public health crises in our city."
The mayoral hopeful said he has no qualms about championing such an ambitious transportation agenda.
"New Yorkers want their next Mayor to take transit seriously," Albanese said. “Right now, none of the candidates are. They've put nothing of substance on the table. That’s not the kind of campaign I’m going to run,” he said.
“We're going to talk about real ideas that make living in the city better for everybody. Our current path is simply unfair and unsustainable. Whole neighborhoods have been stranded without any access to mass transit, while those that have access are saddled with higher fares and fewer services. As a result, our economy, our communities, and our position as a global capital are suffering," he said.
"People in every borough are losing out right now. Businesses are losing almost $13 billion per year," Albanese said. "Manhattan residents are battling congestion. Staten Islanders are going into debt to pay tolls. In Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, we've got these large mass transit deserts. My plan asks everyone to give their fair share, and, in the process, makes getting around New York better for all of us," he said.
Albanese issued his report just hours after it was announced that the Transport Workers Union Local 101 had endorsed him for mayor.
Businessman John Catsimatidis, running for the Republican Party nomination for mayor, dismissed Albanese’s idea on East River bridge tolls when he was asked about it at a press conference at the entrance to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on Feb. 25.
“I don’t think we should increase the cost of getting to the city,” he said.