You would think that the politicians that have been clamoring the longest for lower Verrazano Bridge tolls would have something to say when a serious effort to do just that starts gains steam.
You would be wrong.
Move NY is the most concerted effort to increase transit funding and transportation investment since the congestion pricing scheme championed by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2008. But the key element of the Bloomberg plan was East River tolling without toll relief elsewhere; Move NY actually reforms the way tolls are charged in New York City, by shifting the toll burden away from areas underserved by transit options and toward crossings that offer “a relatively rich menu of transit alternatives.”
The E-ZPass rate for a round-trip on the Verrazano would drop from $11.08 to $6.08 – that’s a 45% decrease for anyone that isn’t a Staten Island resident (SI residents already receive a substantial discount).
The Move NY plan has picked up a number of endorsements from city and state elected officials over the past few weeks, particularly last week when it announced the support of fourteen Senators, Assemblymembers, City Councilmembers, plus the Manhattan Borough President.
But guess who’s been asking for a thing like that and has not offered any opinion for the plan?
In February, as the Move NY plan was being released, the neighborhood’s state legislators – Senator Marty Golden, and Assemblymembers Nicole Malliotakis and Alec Brook-Krasny – took part in a press event that pushed a proposal to offer toll discounts to frequent users of the bridge, following a model already used by the Port Authority on the other three Staten Island bridges.
Golden and Malliotakis even jointly run the web site, thetollsaretoodamnhigh.com, to push the same issue.
In spite of the fact that Move NY would achieve the objectives the three politicians are seeking without blowing a hole in the MTA’s budget, and in spite of the fact that the Move NY plan details had been released by that time, none of the press articles covering the event clarified what position any of the three were taking on the Move NY plan. There appear to be no statements by the troika in the press regarding Move NY since then.
Likewise, Councilmember Vincent Gentile organized his own press event a year ago, pushing the idea that Brooklynites should receive the same discount that Staten Island residents receive.
Again, the Move NY plan would seem to go well beyond what Gentile has asked for in terms of toll relief, but there don’t appear to be any statements regarding the plan by Gentile since it was announced.
The offices of Senator Golden and Assemblymember Malliotakis did not respond to requests for comment for this article.
A representative for Gentile did promise to follow up with our request for comment (see update below). (In fairness to all three, we are a brand new media outlet without a history of reporting to point to.) If they respond to us directly, or make any sort of public comment on the proposal, we’ll post an update here.
Update (May 3): Justin Brannan, a spokesman for Councilmember Gentile, responded to our inquiry. He describes Gentile’s interest as “piqued,” but identified a few areas of concern that he feels need to be addressed.
“We realize this is a far different beast than Bloomberg’s controversial congestion pricing plan which Councilman Gentile strongly opposed back in 2007.
“Councilman Gentile wants to see a direct connection between the revenue generated from this plan to specific, tangible, attainable transportation improvements in southwest Brooklyn,” adding that “the MoveNY plan has more obvious benefits for those of us who do not live in Manhattan, and that is obviously a good thing.”
Brannan also cited the Councilmember’s concern with the specifics of the proposal’s “lock box” provisions, and the probability of future across-the-board toll increases.
“What we can say for certain is that the current system is not just broken but completely unsustainable, and what is desperately needed is a long-term solution that will stabilize finances while keeping transit affordable for all.
“Is that the MoveNY plan? Councilman Gentile hasn’t decided yet, but we know that everyone who benefits from the system needs to pitch in equally. Otherwise, we will continue this never ending game of ‘Whac-A-Mole’ as the MTA robs from Peter to pay Paul.”
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