BY JON CRONIN
State legislators who represent Queens are calling for the removal of tolls on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, which goes to the western end of the Rockaways.
A bill introduced by Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) would end any fare, toll or charge on the bridge. Pheffer Amato noted that before taking office, she pledged to end the toll.
“The [Cross Bay Bridge] toll has outlived its original stated purpose of paying for the bridge, and has absolutely no stated current purpose other than supplementing the MTA’s budget on the backs of hardworking New Yorkers.” said Pheffer Amato. “I’m absolutely certain the cost of ending this onerous toll would be made up several times over with the freedom and ease of access it would bring to South Queens and the Rockaway Peninsula.”
The assemblywoman said that she is optimistic that the bill would pass both houses of the state legislature.
“My optimism is that we made a big first step,” she said. “The process is getting everyone educated. It’s a matter of making a practical argument. [The toll] makes no sense.”
Pheffer Amato noted that the costs of the bridge have long been paid off, and that working families on the peninsula are forced to pay this toll more than 20 times per week. On the north side of the bridge, she notes that there are people with fixed incomes who want to visit the beach, but don’t want to pay more than $4 to visit a public beach. She estimated that the MTA makes $19 million per year from the bridge’s tolls.
“When you realize that it comes from taxpayers’ pockets for something so irrational, I become more optimistic as I educate,” she said.
The bill is currently sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach).
“When you boil down the numbers, it’s a no-brainer,” Addabbo said, noting that the MTA only gets 10 percent of its funding from tolls and the Cross Bay Boulevard Memorial Bridge is only 0.01 percent of that budget. “Normally, there is motivation when it passes in one house. [But] sometimes it will pass one house when they know it won’t pass in the other. But think about the boon to the economic status of Rockaway.”
The state senator said that he has spoken to local business owners who would never deliver to the Rockaways due to the toll.
Reach reporter Jon Cronin via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 357-7400, ext. 125.