Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge tolls a campaign issue in House race

December 18, 2019 Paula Katinas
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SOUTHERN BROOKLYN — The tolls on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge have become a hot-button issue in one of the hottest House races in the nation.

In the wake of a House approval on Dec. 17 of a $1.4 trillion spending bill that included installing a split-toll system in the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis blasted incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Max Rose for pushing for the plan.

Malliotakis, who represents parts of Bay Ridge and Staten Island, plans to run against Rose in New York’s 11th Congressional District in the November 2020 election.

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The district covers the entire borough of Staten Island and takes in parts of several Southwest Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Rose worked with U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velázquez to bring back a split-tolling system. The bridge has operated under a one-way toll since the 1980s.

Malliotakis is opposed to the split-tolling plan, calling it a “two-way toll scheme” that will result in 4,000 additional vehicles clogging Southwest Brooklyn streets during evening rush hours.

Malliotakis cited a recent study by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority when she presented the 4,000 vehicle figure. “Traffic is already a nightmare. It’s going to get worse,” she told the Home Reporter.

“Even after seeing the MTA study concluding that it will not improve traffic or increase vehicle speeds on the Staten Island and Gowanus Expressways, Rep. Rose did Jerry Nadler’s bidding and allowed this scheme that will reduce congestion in lower Manhattan at the expense of the commuters from Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island,” Malliotakis said.

Another reason for her objection: The MTA will be keeping the expected $12 million in additional revenue from the split toll system.

“There is no real benefit for the district. The money generated by the two-way tolls should be used to lower the tolls,” she said.

Rose defended his advocacy of a split tolling system and hinted that Malliotakis has flip-flopped on the issue.

“The fact is, we were able to secure this deal which will take millions of cars off our streets without costing local commuters a cent more, because of the broad bipartisan support from all levels of government — including Assemblywoman Malliotakis,” he said.

A source close to Rose showed the Home Reporter a March 25 letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo that was signed by a bipartisan group of elected officials in Brooklyn and Staten Island, including Malliotakis, stating their “strong support” for a two-way toll system and asking the governor to endorse it.

Malliotakis said she decided to oppose two-way tolling after reading the MTA study.

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