South Brooklyn residents left wondering, “What about us?” after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced, on February 6, that the MTA would be granting long-awaited toll relief to Staten Island drivers utilizing the Verrazano Bridge, got their answer two days later, when Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams joined Councilmember Vincent Gentile and members of Community Board 10 in Bay Ridge to announce the introduction of City Council legislation to address the unfair toll difference.
“I’m all for lowering tolls for hardworking New Yorkers but the fact is this deal is one-sided and does not include Brooklyn – perhaps someone forgot that the bridge has two sides,” said Gentile. “This is a tale of two boroughs.”
The $14 million deal – a year in the making – could come as soon as April 1, allowing residential Staten Island E-ZPass holders to pay just $5.50 per trip over the Verrazano – almost $10 less than Brooklynites still expected to pay $15 per trip if they pay cash, and slightly more than half of the $10.66 Brooklynites pay if they use an E-ZPass.
In addition, commercial E-ZPass holders from New York State will cop a 20 percent discount if they make a minimum of 10 bridge crossings a month.
Adams’ and Gentile’s legislation – the first bill that Adams will introduce – calls on Cuomo and the New York State legislature to ensure community equity and/or adjust the bridge and tunnel tolls – not just for Brooklyn, but for the entire city.
“One city, one borough, one fare, we’re all together in this,” stressed Adams, adding that he and fellow elected officials do not begrudge Staten Islanders their well-deserved relief but that a two-tier toll is uncalled for.
“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,” Gentile stressed. “At $15 a pop, this is completely unjustifiable, not to mention a serious burden on the wallet.”
State Senator Marty Golden agreed.
“There are residents of my district who work, visit family and use the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge almost every day to commute,” he said, calling on Cuomo to consider a 58 percent discount for all state residents who use the bridge three or more times a month. “They can end up paying more than $200 a month in tolls just for this one crossing.”
Golden called the current tolls excessive, unreasonable and almost unbearable for hardworking families who were left out of the one-sided deal. His proposal, in contrast, would bring the toll down to $6.30 for those who cross the bridge with any frequency.
This discount plan, he said, would be identical to the discount plan currently in place for Brooklyn residents at Port Authority Bridges like the Goethals, Outerbridge and Bayonne Bridges that connect Staten Island with New Jersey.
“We cannot pit borough against borough,” said Gentile. “This is one bridge with two sides.”