Councilman Vincent Gentile attended a November 28 toll hearing in Staten Island regarding the proposed MTA Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll hike.
Gentile put forth a fiery statement opposing the hike. His major point of contention is that the city would not budge in waiving the tolls when Hurricane Sandy relief workers needed to get to and from Staten Island with aid and supplies.
Never before has a $13 round-trip toll on a bridge not connected to Manhattan seemed more insanely prohibitive than in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as first responders and volunteers racing to help realize they can’t afford to make the necessary trips back and forth to transport supplies.
Earlier this month, in a letter to MTA Bridges and Tunnels President Jim Ferrara, I demanded that MTA Bridges and Tunnels immediately suspend tolls on the Verrazano Bridge for relief workers.
He goes on to criticize the MTA for spending their revenue on the LIRR and Metro-North lines.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the MTA must change its funding formula so that more fare and toll revenue goes to city buses and subways, instead of the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, which serve the suburbs.
Back in June, just days after Governor Cuomo struck a deal with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to give Staten Island residential E-ZPass holders a big toll break, I turned to the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and demanded: ‘What about Brooklyn?!’
Gentile also hones in on the inequality between Staten Island residents receiving a discount and Brooklyn residents not receiving one to travel the same distances.
Seven days a week my constituents travel across that bridge to and from the College of Staten Island, Wagner College, to see their parents or spouses in nursing homes, or to work or shop. The residents in these zip-codes surrounding the bridge have to pay between $3.84 to $5.28 more than their Staten Island neighbors each time they cross the Verrazano Bridge. At $13 a pop, this is completely unjustifiable not to mention a serious burden on the wallet.
For local people who need to cross the Verrazano Bridge on a daily or frequent basis, the same discount on the bridge should apply as the discount given to Staten Islanders.
He concludes by urging the MTA to stop the proposed toll hike and to finally allow relief workers the benefit of free travel across the bridge.
Gentile is not the only one furious about the MTA’s unwillingness to give Staten Islanders in need and relief volunteers a hand. Brooklyn resident Jason Hernandez, an independent protester, has put out a petition demanding the MTA donate one day of fare collections to Sandy relief. Currently the petition has 50 signatures.