A bridge too far

A bridge too far
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

This throwback got thrown out.

A Brooklyn councilman asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to honor the 50th anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge by rolling the toll back to its 1964 price of $1.00 per round trip Nov. 21, but the agency — which controls the city’s bridges and tunnels — told the councilman that’s one bridge it won’t cross.

“I asked them to roll back the toll for the 50th anniversary, but they said ‘Try the 500th anniversary,’ ” Gentile joked at a meeting of Community Board 10.

The Authority’s board of directors establishes tolls for bridges and tunnels. Earlier this year, it authorized a rebate program to lessen tolls for Staten Islanders and commercial vehicles that use the bridge extensively, a precedent Gentile pointed to when arguing for the throwback rate.

An Authority spokesman said the approval process for rolling back the tolls, even for just one day, would take months.

“Any new MTA rebate program would require an analysis that would take months,” said spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

About 173,000 vehicles have crossed the bridge so far this year, and the Authority collects an average $936,000 daily, according to Ortiz.

The request to roll back tolls is part of the councilman’s larger push for more anniversary celebrations on the Brooklyn side of the Narrows. Staten Islanders are getting the lion’s share of transit-agency-sponsored events, and the councilman said he wants that to change.

“The bridge has two sides — I’m asking them to give us at least as many types of ceremonies and exhibits as Staten Island,” Gentile said.

Among the events currently planned are:

• An Authority-organized ceremony at the Overlook on Staten Island on Nov. 21, 50 years after the bridge opened to traffic. U.S. Army officials will fire cannon volleys from both sides of the bridge and the Fire Department will provide a water boat display in the harbor.

• An Authority-and-Staten-Island-museum sponsored exhibit on the bridge’s construction, running through year’s end. The Transit Museum will open a new exhibit, “Spanning the Narrows: The Verrazano Bridge at 50,” Nov. 1–March 23.

• Journalist Gay Talese, who chronicled the bridge’s construction in his book “The Bridge,” is reissuing the book and is slated to sign copies at the Transit Museum.

Gentile is not planning any events of his own, because he said it is the Authority’s job. The councilman charged that events at the Transit Museum don’t make sense given the Museum’s location seven miles from the span in Downtown.

“That’s not around the corner,” he said. “Who from this neighborhood that wants to celebrate the bridge is going to go down to Borough Hall to the Transit Museum?”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeg‌er@cn‌gloca‌l.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.