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Several Queens politicians take a stand against potential tolls on Queensboro, East River bridges

Queens borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Barry Grodenchik, and Assemblyman David Weprin gathered near the entrance of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge on Aug. 27 / Office of David Weprin

August 28, by Nathaly Pesantez

Several Queens politicians voiced their opposition yesterday to a proposal that would charge commuters a toll for using the Queensboro bridge—and three bridges in Brooklyn–citing the effect on middle class New Yorkers and small businesses in the outer boroughs.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Barry Grodenchik and Assemblyman David Weprin expressed their disproval of the proposal Sunday at a press conference near the entrance of the Queensboro Bridge, one of the free East River bridges that may see the introduction of tolling if legislation is passed in Albany.

Weprin said at the gathering that Assembly Democrats met with the MTA last week to discuss potential plans to solve the MTA crisis, but made very clear one thing—that regardless of what plans are laid out, he will not accept any type of toll on free bridges connecting Manhattan to the boroughs.

“It would be a very bad thing for small businesses,” Weprin said. “It’s the heart of the middle class.”

Weprin also noted that middle-class New Yorkers have been using the free bridges to cross into Manhattan since 1911.

Katz said that several plans to introduce tolling in the free bridges have been introduced in past decades, beginning in the 1970s, but have all failed because of their infeasibility.

“You should be able to travel, even if it’s a little more burdensome, for free from borough to borough,” Katz said at the gathering.

Councilman Grodenchik said that the addition of a fare on free bridges is actually a “tax by another name”, which would impose financial burdens on residents who are already experiencing rising costs of living.

“To me the tolls are a non-starter,” Grodenchik said. “I think it would place an unfair burden especially in my district, where its already difficult to get around.”

Grondenchik, like Katz, was there to lend political clout, since it’s Albany lawmakers who will determine whether the plan goes into effect.

The gathering comes two weeks after Governor Andrew Cuomo, in the midst of the MTA’s “summer of hell”, said congestion pricing—charging drivers tolls to enter traffic-packed, congested areas— in Manhattan is “an idea whose time has come,” according to The New York Times.

“We have been going through the problems with the old plan and trying to come up with an updated and frankly better congestion pricing plan,” Cuomo told the Times.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, has expressed his opposition to congestion pricing and believes the best way to raise funds for the MTA is by imposing a city tax on the very wealthy. He is advocating raising the city’s highest income tax rate by 0.534 percent to 4.41 percent for individuals making more than $500,000 and couples making more than $1 million. This tax increase, however, would require the approval of Albany too.

The concept of a wealth tax to raise funds for the MTA is backed by State Sen. Mike Gianaris, who represents western Queens and who has expressed skepticism for congestion pricing in the past.

While Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said he backs any plan that would fairly produce the revenue needed to fix mass transit, he vouches more for de Blasio’s idea to raise funds for the MTA through a tax applied to the wealthiest residents of the city.

The congestion pricing plan does have its supporters in Albany. Earlier this year, State Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island) introduced a bill to establish the “Move New York Fair Plan”, which calls for tolls on the East River bridges. The bill aims to reduce traffic congestion while raising revenue for the MTA. A similar bill was also introduced in the Assembly by Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez (D-East Harlem).

The Assembly bill would add a toll to East River bridges, including the Queensboro, of $5.54 with E-ZPass or $8.00 without. The amount is pegged to the tolls at the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and Hugh L. Carey, or Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The Senate’s version, however, puts forth a a $5.00 toll with E-ZPass,

State Sen. Jose Peralta was the first state senator to endorse the Move NY Plan, expressing his support for congestion pricing in the past and reaffirming it in a statement today.

“As we are about to have survived the summer of hell, not without endless commuter nightmares, it is time we seek a permanent solution for our decaying public mass transit system,” Peralta said in a statement. “I understand some of my colleagues’ concerns, but the door should not be shut until all mass transit options…are thoroughly discussed.”

Calls to Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who represents Long Island City and Sunnyside (among other neighborhoods), as well as to Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who represents Astoria, for comment were not returned.

While no specific plans have been put in place, a blueprint has been provided by Move NY, a grassroots campaign that first laid out ideas “to make the city’s tolling system fairer” by reducing tolls on bridges that currently have them and adding and restoring tolls on other bridges.

Councilman Grodenchik said Governor Cuomo promised New York politicians that a more thorough and specific plan to fund the MTA would be introduced early next year.

The “congestion pricing” model was first introduced by former Mayor Bloomberg in 2007. In a study conducted by Quinnipiac University Poll, New Yorkers by large were not in favor of congestion pricing, but said that traffic congestion is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem.

23 Comments

El loco

Congestion pricing has worked in other cities around the world to reduce congestion in specific areas and raise funds. Only shortsighted and narrow minded New Yorkers are against it. Radical changes need to be made or our transportation system will collapse. Stop short sighted thinking.




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Sunnyside

Queens and Brooklyn are part of NYC. We shouldn’t have to pay more taxes! That’s what it is. Put the tolls on the LIE, GCP, MB, etc, where the start of the NYC border is for those coming in from LI. They come in to work here, sometimes park here and don’t pay city taxes!




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Me

Oh wait maybe we should toll entry to Sunnyside, what do you think?
The better way is to stop commuter parking, there is enough paid parking under train, other areas should be resident only! We pay the taxes, we can’t find place to park our cars, it’s getting crazy around sunnyside, Garages around here want crazy amounts $300-$400/mo? Damn, that’s what I used to pay when I lived in Manhattan 10 years ago. Not to mention add’l tip to the guy, insane $350-$400/mo for parking. People keep bitching about rents in Sunnyside, let’s find affordable parking, I’d gladly pay $200/mo for a proper parking in this area but even houses want $300 for outside spots not even indoor, give me a break.




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Roxy

The photo reminded me of an ongoing problem with Manhattan-bound bus service on the Q32 and Q60 lines right after they cross the LIRR bridge. Quite a few years ago, a “temporary” detour was created while construction was being done. Instead of going directly into Queens Plaza, the buses have to make a right turn into Northern Blvd. and then a block later a left turn to get to QP. In any kind of traffic, this can cause long delays for passengers. It’s several years now since the construction was completed, but the detour is still in effect! Why?




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Oscar

There is no JVB because there is no big media presence like at 39th place. JVB likes a big stage. A problem that should be solved easily by tenants. Call meeting, condo owners replace board and then fire super and then clean up lobby and if they are too lazy to do it that’s their problem. Meanwhile a homeless camp in the park two blocks away with guys using the place like a bar and outdoor bathroom, too few garbage cans , messed up streets and sidewalks and a tire fixing place on 47 Ave operating out of a residential building and working on a public street ( a huge problem if a fire ever breaks out) but no JVB must fix lobbies




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JVB = puppetmaster

Granpda you posted your rant on the wrong article again! Did JVB make you do that? Did JVB hide your meds again?




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Oscar

I was explaining why JVB was not there, what part don’t you understand.I also like that the same people crying about racism every minute see no problem with agism and name calling at every opportunity




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Suncoast

You are so right!!!! JVB does nothing for his constituents. A fund raiser for his birthday??? Check out Councilman Ben Kallos and see what he does for his constituents. Leaves JVB at the starting line




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Paul

The Constitution calls for the people to be able to “Travel” freely. We already pay taxes. These tolls, permits and the like are just government doing what they have come to believe their job is, “Governments job is to keep themselves in business.”




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Do it

Charge !!!! Put the toll up and charge bikes a $2 fee Too! What’s the big deal. The overhead toll won’t slow traffic anymore than it is now. Give all the money to sick kids.




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Mayor DeBlasio

Sunnyside: “We need to reduce traffic”

“How about promoting alternative transportation with bike lanes?”

Sunnyside: “Booooo”

“Ok, how about a toll on the QB bridge like the one on Lincoln & Holland tunnels, the George Washington, Bayonne & Goethals bridges, and the Outerbridge Crossing?”

Sunnyside: “Of course not! Damn liberals!




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anon

These bridges all had tolls. The bonds used to fund the construction of the bridges stated that the tolls must be removed when the bonds mature. They matured, tolls went bye-bye. Those bonds were not written that way by accident. By the way all the other bridges and tunnels you mentioned have similar wording in their bonds, that’s why the bonds never are allowed to mature. They are reissued before maturity. To keep the tolls in place we are still paying interest on bonds that should have been paid off many, many years ago.




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Part eggplant

That guy behind the mic has a really bad wig. He’s got to realize that we know it’s a wig, but he still wears it. As do so many others. Why? Does he say to himself, “well I guess it’s better that people know I go through the trouble of getting a wig than to actually see me bald.” Is that it? I can’t sleep.




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Anonymous

IF I see one more photo of these fat and nasty looking “politicians” and “community ‘leaders'” with their hands grasping their opposite wrists, with their shoulders bowed, bored, seemingly going through the motions for the cameras, I will defecate in public; and throw the results at said “politicians” and “community ‘leaders'”.
I promise.




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Me

If they can’t afford the toll, maybe they shouldn’t be driving in the first place.
I am not against the tolls because so called middle class can’t afford it, I am against tolls being implemented without pre-planning and confirmation of where and how the revenue will be used. Please spare me the “will save MTA” BS, MTA needs a whole lot more than tolls to shape up, plus MTA makes so much money on fare, first they need to open the books and review where the money went to.

Neither wealth tax, nor tolls can survive MTA without through investigation and change of leadership.

What they should do is charge out of towners regular and city folks half, or regular for city folks and double for out of towners, that is anyone who does NOT have NY plate.




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Anonymous

If they can’t afford the toll they shouldn’t drive? How about if you can’t afford food you shouldn’t eat?




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Me

If you can’t afford the food, city provides you with foodstamp or other means of assistance. Your argument is not valid or even relevant. Food and Car is not the same thing Food is necessity, car is a luxury.




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Fan of doughboy park

These tolls are a regressive tax! The bridges are not full of commuters that would be able to opt for the subway. Bring back the commuter tax!

Cuomo needs to fix the subway.




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Anonymous

Why isn’t Van Bramer there? C’mon! It is literally highway robbery. The traffic in the morning is all working people. I don’t see any limos trying to get to work at 8am. Stand up for us, JVB!




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