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Brooklynites blast proposed Verrazano toll hike

Brooklynites are blasting the proposed toll hike on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, contending that it will hinder the post-Sandy recovery efforts.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) plans to raise the toll from $13 to $15 for motorists crossing the Narrows without an EZ-Pass. But for Staten Island residents, the toll will increase to $6.36 from $5.76, less than half of what Brooklynites fork up.

If the proposal is approved, the hikes would go into effect around March 1, 2013.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said Sarah Oszust, who lives in Bay Ridge.

Connie C. lives right across the street from the bridge. “It’s a lot,” she said of the proposed hike. “I am glad I don’t have to take it, I can just look at it for free.”

Maria Golub is from Staten Island, but temporarily living in Brooklyn, post-Sandy. “With all that has happened, it’s better to save money. My house was destroyed very badly,” she said. “It’s not fair and people shouldn’t have to pay to go to their own home.”

Councilmember Vincent Gentile testified at a public hearing held by the MTA at the College of Staten Island on November 28, regarding the hikes. He said that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a more expensive toll would hinder recovery efforts on Staten Island.

“Staten Island was one of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, suffering a tremendous loss of life, homes and businesses,” he said. “I fear – and unfortunately, I know – that paying $13, often multiple times a day, has forced South Brooklynites to divert help to other neighborhoods that are accessible without an exorbitant toll.”

Gentile also requested that the toll be suspended altogether as efforts continue and noted an inequality between Staten Island and Brooklyn residents.

“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,” Gentile testified. “You’ve already done it for Staten Islanders, now you should be obligated to do the same for hard-working Brooklynites who have little choice but to use the Verrazano Bridge on a daily or frequent basis.”

Congressmember Michael Grimm was unable to attend the hearing, but did submit written testimony. “On Staten Island, we’re getting hit from both sides – from the outrageous toll hikes on the Port Authority bridges to the skyrocketing toll on the Verrazano,” he contended.

“While it is no secret that the MTA is faced with massive debt, tolls and taxes should not be the go-to solution,” Grimm continued. “There has to be another way. Just as every working family or business must learn to live within a budget, so should the MTA. Whether it’s the MTA or the Port Authority, our message is the same, ‘We are not your personal ATM machine and we are not your bailout.’”

State Senator Marty Golden – who some months back had held a press conference with Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis opposing any increase in tolls on the bridge — submitted a letter to MTA Chair Joseph Lhota, slamming the proposed hike.

“With many New Yorkers getting back on their feet following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, I am writing to urge you to withdraw any and all proposed fare and toll hikes on Metrocards, express bus fares and bridge and tunnel tolls,” he stated. “The fact is that New York commuters are frustrated with toll costs and already pay far too much.”

Reporting contributed by Melisa Stumpf.

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