In any language, Marty says ‘¡No!’ on tolls

Brooklyn's own "Velvet Fog" has been silenced with a mysterious throat ailment.
The Brooklyn Paper / Joe Marino

After a weekend spent mostly on the sidelines of the battle against tolls on the East River bridges, Borough President Markowitz went bilingual today to show his disgust for a fee on drivers.

In an op-ed published on Tuesday in the Spanish-language daily, El Diario, Markowitz firmly declared, “¡Peaje a los puentes — decimos que no!”

The op-ed served as Markowitz’s sole public statement on bridge tolls today, according to the Beep’s office.

Here’s the full text of Markowitz’s piece:

Bridge tolls — We say no!

Frankly, it’s unbelievable that East River and Harlem River bridge tolls are still on the table. After many public hearings and so many alternative funding proposals, how is it possible that the MTA is still looking to bridge tolls to solve its fiscal problems?

Simply put, East River and Harlem River bridge tolls unfairly burden commuters in boroughs outside Manhattan who are already underserved by public transit. Fully 65 percent of these tolls would come from residents in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx.

How is this fair? As El Diario readers know, and as Rosie Perez said when she called in to agree with me on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer radio show, many Brooklynites live in areas like Red Hook and Bushwick, underserved by subways and busses, and rely on cars for their livelihoods.

Insultingly, these tolls will disproportionately harm those affected by proposed transit service cuts [such as] those along the J/M/Z corridor who may lose the Z train, or those in Red Hook who will have no connecting route from Jay Street if the MTA cuts the B75 bus.

Furthermore, tolling unfairly burdens the elderly and disabled who can’t use mass transit. These residents are not rich — many live on fixed incomes and have high medical costs.

And make no mistake; this latest proposal to limit the toll to $2 (the cost of a subway ride) is nothing more than an illusion. What they’re not telling you is that it will be $2 this year — next year it could be $4.

Every time the MTA gets itself into fiscal trouble, they’ll think about raising this toll.

It’s been nine months since the Ravitch Commission, yet I still have no faith that the legislature or the MTA are considering innovative and fair revenue sources like the following:

• Issue a modest increase to the existing state gasoline tax for the entire metropolitan region, solely dedicated to MTA projects.

• Reinstate the commuter tax, which could bring in $1 billion.

• Increase car registration fees, and impose the current city registration surcharge on all registrations throughout the MTA region.

• Link registration fees to car model and weight, as Comptroller William Thompson has suggested.

• Dedicate a new “Mega-Millions” lottery to mass transit

• And finally, consolidate MTA assets. The MTA owns an estimated 14,000 properties, worth more than $1 billion. One is the transit building above the Jay-Street/Borough Hall station in Downtown Brooklyn, vacant for a decade and covered in scaffolding and litter. They could sell it, save over $150 million in repairs, and generate $50 million.

Instead, they do nothing. How can the MTA threaten cuts and bridge tolls when they have valuable properties that they let languish?

They may call it a toll, but we call it a discriminatory tax. The MTA needs to find a solution that does not punish the residents of the boroughs outside Manhattan, and ensures the responsibility is shared by the entire MTA region.

Editor’s note: The MTA does not own the building to which Markowitz refers.

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