2011-11-25 / Front Page

Pols Make Another Cross Bay Bridge Push

By Nicholas Briano

A sign of protest from the October 2010 march across the Cross Bay Bridge to rally against the tolls. A sign of protest from the October 2010 march across the Cross Bay Bridge to rally against the tolls. State lawmakers are making another push to abolish the current Cross Bay Bridge toll once and for all, not just for the residents of Rockaway and Broad Channel, but everyone.

A new piece of legislation, Bill S3924, proposed by Assemblywoman Michele Titus and State Senator Malcolm Smith, is asking for the complete discontinuation of the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge toll. Newly elected assemblyman, Phillip Goldfeder, who represents portions of the peninsula, is also behind the proposal. He has started an online petition aimed at eliminating the toll, which he says, has garnered a record number of hits since its inception just weeks ago.

The elimination of the toll has been a longstanding wish of not only local residents, but local politicians and the Queens Borough President as well. As many already know, the Cross Bay Bridge was free of charge for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents for more than 10 years. Recently, however, under dire financial conditions, the MTA began charging residents $1.19 for their first two trips of the day, but no toll charge for subsequent crossings that day.

“The bridge is the only direct link between the Rockaways and the rest of the borough, and crossing it used to be free for residents. With the strenuous financial climate that our country is in, it is imperative that we, as elected officials, do our part to ease the financial burden on our constituents. The residents of Rockaway and the surrounding areas pay the only intra-borough toll in the MTA system.” Senator Smith said. “Finally, the residents were promised that this toll would be eliminated and the time has come.”

Locals feel the toll is a burden on their economic and cultural development. The renaissance of Rockaway will always be hampered by the prospect of new residents having to pay a toll to go from one part of Queens to another, as many residents have testified to in the rounds of public meetings over recent years.

“The Bridge divides one community board, police precinct and school district. Residents must pay for the privilege of daily activities such as shopping, picking up mail at the post office, going to the hospital or visiting neighbors,” Titus said. “Residents have no legitimate travel alternative and the financial impact on economic development and existing business has been devastating.”

Goldfeder, who addressed the 100 Precinct Community Council last week, says the toll is one of his priorities as he fills the shoes of longtime Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer who was a strong supporter of the rebate program that was instituted in 1996.

Goldfeder sent a letter to recently appointed MTA Executive Director Joseph Lhota in an effort to have the Cross Bay Bridge toll eliminated.

In the letter, Goldfeder encouraged Lhota to visit his assembly district and hear first hand from local businesses and residents how the toll on the Cross Bay Bridge affects their daily lives. Goldfeder also asked Lhota to work with him to end the toll.

“This campaign to end the Cross Bay Bridge toll for the people of the 23rd Assembly District is a top priority of mine,” Goldfeder said. “I am hopeful that the new Executive Director will inject some common sense into the MTA and heed our call to end this unfair ‘tax’ on the working people of southern Queens.”

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