At a public hearing yesterday on Staten Island, City Councilman Vincent Gentile spoke out against a proposed Verrazano Bridge toll hike, and called on MTA officials to waive tolls for Hurricane Sandy relief workers driving in from Brooklyn.
At the meeting, which took place at the College of Staten Island [2800 Victory Boulevard], Gentile expanded on the argument that the so-called Staten Island discount should apply to Bay Ridge residents.
He also bemoaned the use of tolls collected at the MTA’s New York City crossings to subsidize suburban commuter rail lines such as the Long Island Railroad and Metro North, referring to it as “rob(bing) Peter to pay Paul.”
“Never before has a $13 round-trip toll on a bridge not connected to Manhattan seemed more insanely prohibitive than in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as first responders and volunteers racing to help realize they can’t afford to make the necessary trips back and forth to transport supplies,” Gentile’s testimony read.
The written statement also requested “relief to relief workers” in the form of toll forgiveness for “certain Brooklyn zip codes,” or alternatively, for “vehicles making several round trips” within a prescribed time period.
Gentile also tried to portray the lack of a toll discount for Brooklyn residents living in the shadow of the Verrazano as unfair in light of the educational, financial, and familial bonds many Southwest Brooklynites share with their Staten Island counterparts.
“Seven days a week my constituents travel across that bridge to and from the College of Staten Island, Wagner College, to see their parents in nursing homes, or to work or shop,” Gentile explained. “The residents in these zip codes surrounding the bridge have to pay between $3.84 to $5.28 more than their Staten Island neighbors each time they cross the Verrazano Bridge. At $13 a pop, this is completely unjustifiable not to mention a serious burden on the wallet.”
In closing, Gentile emphatically rejected the proposed raise in tolls, describing the regular interborough trips made by his constituents over the Narrows as “necessary” and “not a matter of choice or a matter of convenience.”
“…to suggest or propose an additional increase on top of an already exorbitant $13 toll – done to address a budget deficit for the overall agency – is unfair and burdensome to the Brooklynites who have little extra cash but no choice in using the Verrazano Bridge on a regular basis.”