2008-12-12 / Front Page

Residents Scream 'NO' To CBB Tolls

By Nicholas Briano

Aday after elected officials and civic activists from Rockaway and Broad Channel held a rally at the toll plaza at the northern end of the Cross Bay Bridge with Borough President Helen Marshall, more than 25 residents attended an MTA board meeting to testify that they are opposed to once again charging local residents to cross the bridge to and from Rockaway.

A crowd of more than 30 concerned citizens and community leaders listen to Borough President Helen Marshall as she and other elected officials rally at the toll plaza of the Cross Bay Bridge this week. A crowd of more than 30 concerned citizens and community leaders listen to Borough President Helen Marshall as she and other elected officials rally at the toll plaza of the Cross Bay Bridge this week. The intra-borough toll, which the community fought and defeated more than a decade ago, is once again proposed in light of the MTA's budget plans, which seek to close a $1.2 billion deficit.

Under the MTA proposal, residents of Rockaway and Broad Channel who use EZ-Pass would be charged $1.03 each way to travel across the Cross Bay Bridge. Presently, for residents who use the EZ-pass device, that toll is paid and then is rebated to the motorist's account.

Residents and community leaders who committee meeting on Wednesday in Manhattan, let MTA officials know how they feel about the only intra-borough bridge in the nation for which one is forced to pay a toll.

Elected officials and community leaders rallied against tolls for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents this week at the Cross Bay Bridge toll plaza. The MTA will decide on the proposed budget cut on December 17 that would eliminate the toll rebate for residents. Elected officials and community leaders rallied against tolls for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents this week at the Cross Bay Bridge toll plaza. The MTA will decide on the proposed budget cut on December 17 that would eliminate the toll rebate for residents. "The residents share the same zip code, the same police," Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer said at the hearing. "We believe this is an unfair, unjust and possibly illegal action."

Pheffer, the only Rockaway elected official to testify, said that, at the very least, if the MTA has no plans to eliminate the toll entirely, the rebate program, which allows residents to cross for free, should be retained.

Another resident, Bernie Feuer, described it as "being charged to cross the street."

"This is one street, this is the place that charges a toll to connect two parts of a community," he said. "People go across the bridge everyday to bring their kids to school, go to their doctor, community meetings. It is unfair that people will have to pay this toll."

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon carried the same five-foot-high sign denouncing the tolls that he used in the late 1990s when he participated in the battle the last time the community fought against the toll.

He told MTA officials that Rockaway is treated like a dumping ground for the city.

"Only in the Rockaways has an intraborough toll ever been mentioned," Simon said. "This is disgraceful after winning this same battle in 1997 that we have to come and argue with you here again."

Simon also committed himself to the cause by pledging to march over the bridge and getting arrested to prove his point.

Residents were worried about the financial burden on Rockaway and Broad Channel, both personally and as a community.

Gerry Romski, project representative for the Arverne By The Sea development, is concerned that a toll to get in and out of Rockaway could be devastating to the housing and economic boom that Rockaway is still experiencing even in bad economic times.

"We are concerned about the potential negative impact of the reinstitution of tolls," he said. "I would urge you to consider the impact on all developments in Rockaway."

One resident, living on a fixed income said, one of the main reasons he moved to Rockaway was because the toll was eliminated for residents.

"I go over the bridge six times a day for different things," Michael Curcio said. If the toll is reinstated, there is a good possibility that I will have to move out; the toll was the only reason why I moved to the Rockaways."

Glenn DiResto, lifelong Rockaway resident, reiterated Curcio's argument,

telling MTA officials that this toll would be an unfair economic burden placed on the community. "Eliminating this toll will further isolate Rockaway from the rest of Queens," he said. "Many residents who bought homes or rented apartments were unaware that this toll could ever be placed back on this bridge. As a result many homeowners and renters will be forced to relocate, having a tremendous negative impact." According to DiResto, the MTA recently voted to charge emergency vehicles to cross bridges and tunnels. He says it is a joke that the MTA, a state agency, is now willing to charge the city in order to close their budget deficit. Eric Ulrich, Republican District Leader, along with the other city council candidates that include DiResto and Simon, also attended and spoke to the issue. "This proposal is precisely one reason why many people in the city and state do not trust the MTA anymore," he said. "It is simply not fair. Ten years ago many of these people fought to have this toll taken away, and now because

times are tough, you are trying to balance your books on the backs of some of the city's hardest working people."

According to Bridge and Tunnel officials, the program would generate $3.6 million in additional revenue for the MTA, which residents and Ulrich say does little to overcome the budget deficit.

The proposal along with other MTA budget cuts will be decided on December 17, by the entire MTA board of directors. However, the rebate program will once again be up for discussion with the MTA's finance committee this Monday. Residents present vowed to attend this meeting as well. The meeting is scheduled to be held in the fifth floor board room at 347 Madison Avenue, between East 44 and 45 Streets in Manhattan at 11:15 a.m.

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