While big changes are afloat for Verrazano-Narrows Bridge users, drivers on the Brooklyn side of the Atlantic have been left cooling their heels as Governor Andrew Cuomo announced permanent toll reductions for Staten Island residents in his recent State of the State address.
Launched to help transform New York City’s outer boroughs into “vibrant centers of economic activity and community wellness,” Cuomo’s plans will focus on projects like expanding access to affordable healthcare; establishing Brooklyn as a center of community health and wellness; incorporating the institute for basic research in developmental disabilities into the CUNY system and Verrazano Bridge toll reductions for Staten Island residents, among other projects.
The current (and ever-growing) $16 Verrazano Bridge cash toll costs E-Z Pass-using Staten Islanders $5.50 while other E-Z Pass users pay $11.08. Brooklyn residents, who utilize the bridge daily, have long been logging complaints with community boards, city agencies and elected officials regarding a fair toll for drivers from their side.
“Senator [Marty] Golden and I have advocated for a variety of proposals that would bring relief to Bay Ridge commuters who use the Verrazano Bridge regularly,” said Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. “So far, there has been no indication from the governor that he supports such a plan. No one should have to pay $16 to travel from one borough to another in the city in which they live and the skyrocketing toll structure for all MTA crossings is one that needs to be addressed.”
Current candidate for the City Council’s 43rd district seat Bob Capano also feels that Brooklyn has been given the short end of the stick.
“Many Brooklynites use the Verrazano Bridge on a regular basis to get to work, shop, or visit family and friends,” Capano said. “While a student at St. Patrick’s and Xaverian High School, I still remember my dad complaining about that ‘damn’ toll. Over two decades since then, the only thing that has changed is the ‘damn’ toll is more expensive. Brooklynites deserve the same consideration that people on the other side of the Bridge currently receive in the form of a resident discount. This will make traveling to and through Staten Island more affordable, potentially saving Brooklynites hundreds of dollars a year.”
The topic has been a hot-ticket item at many a community board meeting says Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. “It’s been widely discussed at the board that we are supportive of and we advocate for toll relief,” Beckmann told this paper. “I would say that reflects the sentiment for Brooklyn residents. [Those] who live on the other side of the bridge should get the same discount and at many community board meetings, residents have said that.”
Cuomo’s office outlined the reason behind offering Staten Islanders the permanent toll reductions in a summary of the 15th Proposal of 2017’s State of the State.
“In recognition of the vital role that the Verrazano Bridge plays in the daily lives of Staten Islanders, Governor Cuomo first announced renewable toll relief in 2014,” the Governor’s office writes. “This proposal will make that reduced fare permanent for the thousands of commuters and commercial vehicles who depend on the bridge to get to and from Staten Island every day.”
This reduction comes on the heels of other updates happening with the bridge, namely the implementation of automatic tolling to go into effect on the Verrazano towards the ends of 2017.