Local pol looks to rollback tolls for Verrazano anniversary

September 24, 2014 Meaghan McGoldrick
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One local politician is calling the upcoming half-century birthday party for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – connecting South Brooklyn with Staten Island since 1964 – “terribly one-sided.”

“We may not like your tolls, but we love that bridge,” wrote Councilmember Vincent Gentile in a letter to Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Bridges and Tunnel President James Ferrara in which he urged the president to consider Bay Ridge in the celebration.

As it stands, celebrations are scheduled for Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth, the Staten Island Historical Society and the New York City Transit Museum in Brooklyn Heights.

“I write to remind you that every bridge has two sides,” he penned, recalling Community Board 10’s push for a one-day closure of part of the bridge so that people could walk across in commemoration. “As it stands right now, the MTA is largely ignoring a site-specific event in Bay Ridge in this historic half-century celebration of a bridge we share with Staten Island. I find that to be ill-advised and unacceptable, especially in light of the fact that we were denied a celebratory procession across the bridge as was done for the 25th Anniversary.”

Gentile is now taking it a step further, asking Bridges and Tunnels to waive the $15.00 toll for 24 hours in celebration of the 50th anniversary.

“What better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Verrazano Bridge than by waiving that exorbitant toll, just for one day,” he said, recalling when the bridge first opened in November of 1964, and its 50 cent toll. “Day in and day out, we all pay through the nose to use the Verrazano. Let’s give people 24 hours so they can enjoy the bridge without worrying about their wallets.

“If we can’t waive the toll completely, then let’s roll it back to November of 1964, when the toll was 50 cents,” Gentile went on. “Just for one day.”

According to the MTA, even “just one day” is out of the picture.

“We’re glad the councilman is excited about the anniversary but there’s no precedent for reducing or rolling back the tolls, and MTA Bridges and Tunnels is legally prevented from doing under the bond covenant set by the New York State Legislature in 1968,” said MTA Spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. “The tolls collected by MTA Bridges and Tunnels helps to maintain the bridges and tunnels and provide financial subsidies for  MTA’s commuter railroads, buses and subways.”

Still, some Ridgeites are keeping their fingers crossed.

“I think it’s a great, unique idea,” said CB 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, noting that oftentimes corporations like McDonald’s and Burger King have commemorated anniversaries with menu items sold for throwback prices. “It would be nice to have a day to celebrate the anniversary – and have a discount!”


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