Fair tolls: Local pols aim to reduce Verrazzano toll for Brooklynites

Fair tolls: Local pols aim to reduce Verrazzano toll for Brooklynites
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Brooklynites who frequently cross the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge could soon see a steep fare discount, if a group of Kings County pols have there way.

Legislation introduced by State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D–Bay Ridge) and Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island) would provide Brooklyn residents using the city’s E-ZPass system who drive across the bridge at least 10 times each month, the same reduced toll price as Staten Island residents.

Brooklynites using E-ZPass system currently fork over $12.24 on each trip to the island borough, whereas Staten Island residents are charged a discounted rate of $5.50.

At an April 16 press conference announcing the legislation to even out the fares, Gounardes blasted the price disparity as excessive and unacceptable.

“For the thousands of Brooklyn residents who rely on the bridge for travel to work, school and medical appointments, these outrageous rates are unaffordable, unacceptable, and highlight the gross inequities of New York’s transit system,” he said.

The legislation, which would apply only to non-commercial vehicles, mimics the MTA’s decision earlier this month to eliminate the $2.29 E-ZPass toll on the Cross Bay Bridge for all Queens Residents.

Frontus criticized the MTA for constantly increasing fares for traveling New Yorkers, including on the Verrazzano, where fares have more than doubled since 2008.

“It’s time for the MTA to stop passing the buck,” she said. “The line has to be drawn somewhere when you see consistent increases in fares without corresponding tangible benefits being produced to match the burden.”

Freshman U.S. Rep. Max Rose (D–Bay Ridge), who represents both sides of the Verrazzano, encouraged the effort, arguing that Southern Brooklyn and Staten Island’s interlinked communities should not be separated by excessive fines.

“It is about time that we recognize that Staten Island and Brooklyn are one community, and rising tolls are becoming a barrier between families on both sides of the bridge,” he said. “I applaud Senator Gounardes efforts to give Brooklynites a break, and make it easier for them to reach their jobs or visit their families on Staten Island.”

City Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) lent his support to the state legislators’ effort, arguing for equality in fares for residents on either side of the Verrazzano.

“Nobody is saying Staten Island shouldn’t get a discount, but what about Brooklyn?” he said. “It’s about time we are part of the conversation since, last time I checked, the bridge has two sides.”

The legislation, Senate Bill S4490, is currently awaiting a vote by the Senate’s Transportation Committee.

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577.