2008-12-05 / Front Page

Activists Pledge To Pack CBB Toll Meeting

By Howard Schwach

Local activists are acting swiftly to pack a December 10 meeting of the Bridge and Tunnel Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) with Rockaway people to show support for maintaining the toll rebate program that allows local residents with an EZ-Pass device to travel over the Cross Bay Bridge for free.

Wave file photo, circa 1996, shows demonstrators, including Norman Silverman (foreground), marching over the Cross Bay Bridge to protest a toll on the bridge that connects two communities in the same zip code. Wave file photo, circa 1996, shows demonstrators, including Norman Silverman (foreground), marching over the Cross Bay Bridge to protest a toll on the bridge that connects two communities in the same zip code. The fate of the rebate program, reportedly the only such rebate in the city, will be decided by the committee and then by the entire MTA board of directors on December 17.

In order to facilitate the presence of locals at the committee meeting, Democratic District Leader Lew Simon, who is reportedly already running for the City Council seat that will soon be vacated by Joseph Addabbo Jr., says that he has procured at least one bus, donated by K & J Tours and Travel, to transport residents, free of charge, to the meeting, which will be held at 10:30 a.m. in the fifth floor boardroom at 347 Madison Avenue, between East 44 and 45 Streets in Manhattan. Toll Meeting

Simon says that he hopes to have a number of other buses donated by the day of the meeting and urges residents who want to go to confirm by calling his office at 718-954- 1216.

Simon added that people coming to the meeting should prepare a cardboard sign that says, "Say No To Cross Bay Bridge Tolls For Residents."

The fate of the decade-old rebate program will be decided at the December 17 meeting of the full board, Simon says, but that board takes under advisement the recommendations of its committees.

Joyce Mulvaney, a spokesperson for the MTA, told The Wave on Tuesday that there is a public speaking opportunity at the beginning of the meeting.

Those who want to speak, she says, must register in advance. The agency's Website says that registration opens 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the meeting and must be done in person. All statements must be on agenda items and there is a two-minute limit on each speaker that is strictly enforced. Speaking time may not be transferred to another speaker.

Arverne By The Sea resident Glenn DiResto, who is running for City Council in the upcoming special election, has started an online petition that has already drawn nearly 1,000 signatures.

DiResto urges people to sign the petition, but to also show up for the Manhattan meeting.

"We need to show up in force and make sure our voices are heard," DiResto says. "Even if you do not wish to speak, we have to show unity, no matter what part of the community you are from. I encourage everybody to attend - even if you do not have to cross the bridge each day."

Longtime activist Dan Tubridy and a group of community activists got together on Monday night to brainstorm a strategy to fight the end of the toll rebate.

That meeting, which was held at Tubridy's Pier 92 restaurant, included, in addition to Tubridy, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer; her executive assistant, Joann Shapiro; Ellen O'Reilly from the Broad Channel Civic Association; Peter Larkin from the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association; Fran Stathis, from the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association; Steve Greenberg, from Breezy Point; Chris Hyland, from Breezy Point; Peter Sammon, from the Neponsit Homeowners Association; Hank Iori, from the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association and Martin Ingram, from Breezy Point.

The group anointed Assemblywoman Pheffer as its leader and spokesperson and agreed to send letters to Governor David Paterson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and MTA Chairman Lee Sanders, asking that the tolls be completely removed from the Cross Bay Bridge or, as an alternative, the rebate should be continued until the tolls can be completely removed.

"Our beaches should be free to everyone," Tubridy said. "The toll insures that they are not free to anybody but those living in Rockaway."

Tubridy pointed out once again that Broad Channel residents must come to Rockaway to visit such institutions as schools, the police and fire department, and hospitals.

"There should be no tolls that isolate a community in one zip code from another in the same zip code."

The group hopes to send its letter by e-mail on Wednesday, in advance of the MTA meeting.

The letter says, in part, "The Cross Bay Bridge has the only intra-borough toll in the nation. The two sides of the Cross Bay Bridge connect the communities of Rockaway and Broad Channel in Queens. They share the same zip code, the same police precinct, firehouse and post office. If a person who resides in Broad Channel needs to go to the police station to file a report or wants to go to their local community board, they must pay a toll, a practice that is unjust."

"We implore you to once and for all realize the injustice of a toll on the Cross Bay Bridge and at best eliminate the toll, and at least, reinstate the Resident Rebate Program."

For his part, Tubridy pledges to keep fighting.

"We fought this a decade ago, and we'll fight it now," he says. "We won last time, and we believe that we will prevail this time as well."

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I went to Bishop Loughlin with Dan. He's a great activist and family man. Although I'm now in Chicago, my heart will always be in the Rockaway's. One little trivia; I think when Dan
was working his way through school, he actually collected tolls for the City.

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