Simon Says: Keep The Cross Bay Bridge Toll Rebate
The following statement was made by Democratic District Leader Lew Simon at a recent hearing of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in relation to the toll rebate program on the Cross Bay Bridge.
"Good evening to the members of the MTA Board and my good friend Executive Director Lee Sander. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak. I am Democratic District Leader from the 23 AD part B which includes Rockaway, Broad Channel, Breezy Point, Howard Beach and Ozone Park.
"Tonight, I am speaking wearing two hats; the second is as Chair of the Rockaway Broad Channel Bridge Toll Committee founded in 1989.
"The Cross Bay Bridge is legally a street connecting Broad Channel with the Rockaway peninsula. No city residents have been forced to pay to travel within their own community.
"If you are seriously thinking of implementing a toll with in our community, we implore you to hold a public hearing in or near our community so you can hear from the people who will be affected by the toll.
"If any residents of my district came by public transit they face a trip of two to three hours to go home after this meeting. The MTA has failed to reopen the old Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR. There is no mass transit crossing Queens from north to south.
"We are shocked by your proposed budget. We are against any service cuts. We are against an astronomical increase in the cost of Access A Ride which will keep our poorest disabled residents as prisoners in their homes. We are against a fare increase for the hard working residents who must take a long subway ride to get to and from work each day.
"We demand that the MTA take immediate action to protect our bus drivers from any criminal or mentally disturbed person who chooses to attack them. They must be able to signal for immediate police assistance. They must have a way to escape from their trapped spot when their life is at risk.
"We demand that the MTA take immediate action to protect the lives and safety of token clerks who are sitting ducks if they are attacked when inside their booths. They must be able to get immediate police assistance and be able to escape from the booths in case of fire or similar attacks.
"On this Inaugural Day many of our most concerned citizens are in Washington celebrating the beginning a new era. They cannot be here today. We must show the same faith they have to look for a better day. Your proposed budget is not acceptable to any of us.
"Residents of Broad Channel do their shopping and do their civic duty by attending community board meetings in Rockaway. Some parents drive their children to schools in Rockaway and pick them up each day.
"No other intra-borough bridge has been mentioned in any toll proposal. This unfair tax proposal is disgraceful. I'm outraged that after being the leader of the fight to remove the toll in the 1980's and 1990's and winning the battle in 1997 that we have to come to argue again. Thanks to former Mayor Rudolf Giuliani for finally listening to our cries.
"Rockaway is an isolated peninsula. The only way to get off our peninsula to get to the rest of Queens is our road to Broad Channel, Queens. Using the Marine Parkway Bridge to Brooklyn or a long trip through part of Nassau County is a waste of a lot of fuel and time.
"I stand before you today outraged that Rockaway has been the dumping ground for the city for the last 50 years. The lack of good viable transportation makes me nauseous. Unlike Staten Island we do not have a free ferry open to all.
"We are demanding that the Rockaway rebate program stay in place and ask that you make it so that all Queens residents are made eligible to join the rebate program.
"If all of you in the audience agree with me say, "No more toll now. Keep the rebate program."
"The Rockaway economy has been booming. At this time it is utterly ridiculous to put this toll back on. Rockaway residents have spent their hard earned dollars in Howard Beach, Ozone Park and Woodhaven, Queens rather in Nassau County. To cut off the economic relationship with other Queens communities is ridiculous.
"We have vowed once again, if we need to get arrested for marching over the Crossbay Bridge, we will do so as we did in the past.
"Do the right thing, which is to keep the rebate program alive.