On the wrong side of the record books.
On March 31, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge saw yet another toll hike that once again left Brooklyn residents who drive across the bridge on the receiving end of a huge financial hit. Only this time, it’s record-breaking.
The toll to cross the bridge has risen from $17 to $19 for non-E-ZPass holders, making it the highest toll in the United States, a record previously held by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in Virginia.
While Staten Island residents with an E-ZPass who make three or more trips per month will pay $6.88, Brooklyn residents with an E-ZPass will pay $12.24, an increase from the previous fee of $11.52.
The assault on Brooklynites’ wallets has left many furious.
“I feel someone like myself is getting penalized severely,” said Dyker Heights resident Lisa Colarusso, who works in New Jersey and has commuted across the bridge for over 25 years. ”I pay less tolls on the Goethals bridge because I cross it frequently. Why in God’s name can’t frequent travelers pay the Staten Island rate? It’s outrageous and unfair. I’m considering moving to New Jersey.”
“As a member of CB 10, I find it troubling that as congestion pricing passes the state legislature, the MTA approves significant fare hikes to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge,” added Brian Kaszuba. “People in the outer boroughs, especially middle and working-class South Brooklyn, are being penalized no matter how they travel and where. The latest MTA toll increases just go to show you that the present state legislature’s congestion pricing plan is imperfect at best unless the plan also takes into consideration present tolling structures within New York City.”
“I think the increase in tolls is ridiculous,” said Bay Ridge resident Ramon D., who commutes to Staten Island regularly to visit his family. “Originally, tolls were meant to cover maintenance of the bridge. The original purpose has changed; now tolls are viewed as a way to increase state revenues. Residents of New York are taxed at an exorbitant rate as it is, through income, real estate and sales taxes. We don’t need another increase.”
Elected officials concurred.
“For my constituents, it often feels like the MTA was designed specifically to screw us over. Tolls and fares go up, but the quality of services only goes down,” said Congressmember Max Rose. “When a bridge toll is as outrageously expensive as the Verrazzano’s, we need to step in and do something to protect families and our local economy from a crushing economic burden. I’m working at all levels of government to find solutions and relief because the cost now is simply unsustainable.”
“It’s a disgrace that New Yorkers have to pay such a ludicrous toll to travel to another borough in the city in which they live,” said Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis. “I’ve been fighting for a lower toll for Brooklyn residents but not all of Brooklyn’s elected officials support such a reduction because they feel it takes away money from mass transit.
“A reduction in the Verrazzano Bridge toll should have been part of any congestion pricing deal, similar to how it was originally proposed in the Move NYC plan,” Malliotakis went on. “Adding another fee to enter Manhattan without providing relief on the high toll we already pay was a non-starter for me and a big reason why I voted against it.”
“Last time I checked, a bridge has two sides,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan. “It is absolutely ridiculous that the discounts offered to Staten Island residents have never been offered to Brooklyn residents. Our boroughs have always been tightly connected – especially southern Brooklyn and Staten Island.
“If you have an E-ZPass registered to a Brooklyn zip code and you take three or more trips to Staten Island per month, you should be eligible for the same discount as Staten Island residents,” Brannan continued. “I am glad Staten Islanders get their discount, but what about us? Why is the Brooklyn side of the bridge never part of the conversation? I look forward to working with my colleague State Senator Andrew Gounardes to make this right once and for all. Nobody is proud of having the most expensive bridge toll in the world connecting two hard-working, blue collar, middle-class boroughs.”