BAY RIDGE — Hours before the proposed MTA toll hike, Gov. Andrew Cuomo found $6 million to ensure Staten Islanders maintain the $5.50 special residence rate to cross the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge, leaving their Brooklyn neighbors out in the cold, again.
Staten Islanders who participate in the MTA Rebate Program expected a $.40 increase raising the discounted fare from $5.50 to $5.90. But instead, the governor alongside lawmakers State Sen. Diane Savino and others secured funding that would stave off a hike for Staten Island residents.
The change has some lawmakers in a tizzy, saying Brooklynites, especially those in Southern Brooklyn, should also get the discount because the area — to which the bridge connects — is married to their Staten Island neighbors.
“It is ridiculous that the discounts offered to Staten Island residents have never been offered to Brooklyn residents,” said Councilman Justin Brannan whose district includes Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights, and Bath Beach. “We visit family members on Staten Island, our students attend colleges there, our teachers teach in their schools, our nurses work in their hospitals, veterans and seniors have medical appointments and so on.
The lawmaker called for E-ZPass holders, with Brooklyn addresses, to share in the discount based on making the trip at least three times a month.
With the hike, drivers can expect to pay $19 to cross the bridge, compared to $17. The cost for E-ZPass users increases more than a dollar from $12.24 from $11.52. Both hikes go into effect on Sunday, March 31.
The Verrazzano-Narrows bridge is the priciest in the nation to travel across. The double-decked bridge spans two-and-a-half miles and connects Fort Hamilton Brooklyn to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. Both boroughs share several lawmakers, including Congressman Max Rose, State Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. The latter of which denounced the fare hike calling it “unconscionable.”
“It’s unconscionable that New Yorkers are being forced to pay $19 to travel to another borough in the city in which they live,” said Malliotakis who told Bklyner she’s been fighting for a toll discount for Brooklyn residents but can’t get the support from enough Brooklyn electeds.
Malliotakis went on to suggest lawmakers proposing to tax East River Crossings should use funds to lower the bridge’s toll.
The hike is part of a slate of MTA increases. Bus and trains hikes go into effect April 21, but the new $19 cost, for drivers, will send Brooklyn drivers grumbling for a while.
“Having the most expensive bridge toll in the world is not something we’re proud of,” said Brannan.
Savino, who helped secure the funds to avoid the increase for Staten Islanders had this to say.
“The Staten Island discount has existed for over 20 years, and I’ll always fight to ensure that it continues,” Savino said in a statement to Bklyner. “Unlike other city residents, Staten Islanders have no choice but to pay a toll when they leave home. This provides them with some monetary relief for that burden. That being said, I have and will continue to work with my Brooklyn colleagues to find a solution for Brooklyn residents who travel regularly to Staten Island for work, school or to visit family.”
In the meantime, here are 25 things you should know about the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge that now costs a small mint to cross.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect State Sen. Diane Savino’s comments.