Toll hike protest at Cross Bay Bridge

As Rockaway Democratic district leader Lew Simon approached a gathering near the north side of the Cross Bay Bridge tollbooth on a chilly morning, someone shouted to him, “How old’s that sign, Lew?”
Simon, a smile on his face and a worn protest poster in his hands, replied, “Older than me.”
Thus began a rally on Tuesday, December 9 that attracted a crowd of around 40 elected officials, community and civic leaders and concerned residents whose decades-old calls for a removal of the Cross Bay Bridge toll have been infused with urgency by a new Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) proposal.
Under the MTA plan, residents of the Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel, who are currently reimbursed $1.03 each time they cross the bridge using E-Z Pass, would no longer be entitled to the Cross Bay Bridge rebate they have received for 10 years.
But Borough President Helen Marshall told the crowd that the MTA’s $3.5 million proposal “can’t come off the backs of Rockaway residents,” especially at a time when people are struggling to pay off mortgages and feed their families.
Built in 1939 and reconstructed in 1970, the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge is home to the only intra-borough toll in all of New York City, and the taxation of those who wish to cross it has long been a point of contention.
In fact, Simon, who is running for Joe Addabbo’s 32nd Council District seat - and was joined at the protest by fellow candidates Glenn DiResto and Frank Galluscio - has been arrested for demonstrating on the bridge and said at the gathering that he was ready to get locked up again.
For his part, Addabbo said, “The MTA is going backwards” instead of eliminating the toll entirely. “It’s déjà vu all over again,” he added, quoting Yogi Berra.
Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer agreed.
“It’s the same as putting a toll on Queens Boulevard,” Pheffer said, noting that Rockaway residents would just as soon go shopping in Nassau - reachable without paying a toll - than pay to travel within their own borough.
Marshall struck a similar chord, noting that the MTA’s plan would “hamper economic development in the Rockaway Peninsula,” an area she referred to as “a hidden treasure.”
If anything, the MTA, which held a hearing Wednesday concerning its plan, would wreak havoc on the routines of those who regularly cross the bridge for reasons as mundane as work, doctors’ appointments or school, residents say.
Longtime area resident Geraldine Chapey, the Queens representative of the New York State Board of Regents, said the MTA is “penalizing parents and children.&#8221
“This is against all the progress we’ve made,&#8221 she said.

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