Pheffer Amato, Addabbo, Miller: The Toll Stops Now!

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) introduced a bill that would prohibit the imposition and collection of a fare, toll, rental, rate, charge or other fee on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge. A8743/S6909 is sponsored in the Senate by Senator Joseph P. Addabbo (D-Howard Beach), and cosponsored by Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven).

In 1939, the New York City Parkway Authority built the Cross Bay Bridge and Parkway along with beach improvements in the Rockaways. This was part of a program to develop Jamaica Bay as a residential and recreational area, instead of following a previous City plan to develop the area as a large industrial port. The following year, the New York City Parkway Authority was consolidated with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. In 1970, the consolidated TBTA completed the present Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, a high-level fixed bridge, which permits boats to pass under it without the traffic delays caused by the lifting of a bascule bridge. The toll on the Cross Bay Bridge was implemented only to cover the cost of construction, and started at $0.10 per trip. The toll has since grown exponentially, to $4.25 per trip.

This past legislative session Pheffer Amato successfully secured for another year the ‘Rockaway Rebate’, which reimburses Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel residents for trips across the Cross Bay Bridge to and from mainland Queens. Local Residents of Rockaway and Broad Channel are required to pay the toll, several times a day, in order to get to work and back, transport children to and from school and complete other everyday errands. According to Pheffer Amato, the toll has the impact of dividing communities, artificially creating economic barriers, hampering tourism and keeping the area most impacted by Superstorm Sandy from affecting a full and thorough economic recovery.

“The Cross Bay Memorial Bridge is the only tolled intra-Borough or intra-County bridge in our State.” said Pheffer Amato. “The toll has outlived its original stated purpose of paying for the bridge, has absolutely no stated current purpose besides supplementing the MTA’s budget on the backs of New Yorkers. I’m absolutely certain the cost of ending this onerous toll would be made up several times over the freedom and ease of access it would bring to South Queens and the Rockaway Peninsula.”

“Charging residents of Queens to access areas of their own borough is just wrong,” Addabbo said. “The outdated toll on the Cross Bay Memorial Bridge has not only been an unfair burden to the residents of southern Queens, some of whom work or attend school daily on the peninsula, but a significant reason why this isolated area of Queens has not realized its full economic potential, by repelling developers and retail businesses. I stand beside my colleagues to say the time is now to eliminate the toll on the Cross Bay Memorial Bridge.”

“The Cross Bay Bridge toll is burdensome and unfair to our community.” said Miller. “It is especially unfair to our veterans and seniors who are on a set income and won’t be able to enjoy what their community has to offer. Some of my constituents may never get to explore the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge or enjoy a day at Rockaway Beach because of this unnecessary toll.”

As a final note, Pheffer Amato continued, “The ‘stop the toll issue’ has been around long before me, but the time is now to end it. With the Governor promising to fund MTA, there must be additional funding provided this session for the Cross Bay Bridge because we have suffered for too long, cannot continue to stunt economic growth, and dis-incentivizes freedom of motion within a single Borough and State.”

As of January 3rd, 2018, A.8743/S.6909 is currently within the Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee.