By Howard Koplowitz
The MTA is again threatening to do away with the Cross Bay Bridge toll rebate for Broad Channel and Rockaway residents to help alleviate its multimillion-dollar budget deficit, but the area’s elected officials said they will not go down without a fight.
“It’s unfair because it’s intra-borough,” state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway Beach) said of the toll. “It’s like putting a toll in the middle of Queens Boulevard.”
The MTA said if the rebate were taken away, it could add $4.2 million in revenues. The agency is faced with a $400 million deficit.
Pheffer said she believed that figure was “a little bit exaggerated.”
“Plus, it’s so minor [in terms of revenue] and an unfair burden on the Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel,” she said. “If you want to go to a police station, you have to pay a toll. If you want to go to school, you have to pay a toll,” the assemblywoman said.
Broad Channel and Rockaway residents who have E-ZPass currently pay $1.03 to go over the bridge — a $1.47 discount from the $2.50 cash rate — and then get a $1.03 credit immediately posted to their account for a free trip. Non-residents with E-ZPass pay $1.55 at the crossing.
Last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority also proposed to ax the rebate for Rockaway and Broad Channel residents, but the rebate was saved in last-minute negotiations between the agency and the state.
The area’s elected officials protested the proposal to do away with the rebate last year on the Howard Beach side of the Cross Bay Bridge.
“We are going to do the same thing as last time: We’re taking on the MTA,” said Democratic District Leader Lew Simon. “If I have to, I’m willing to get arrested again.”
Simon said he was arrested while protesting the toll in the 1990s.
“This is the only intra-borough toll that exists in the United States of America,” Simon said. “This toll should be lifted for all Queens residents.”
Simon said he was ashamed that the new MTA director, Rockaway native Jay Walder, would propose eliminating the rebate.
“We’re very surprised that he, knowing the unfair burden on the residents, that he would put this by,” Simon said. “We hope he realizes he made a boo-boo.”
Simon said he was planning a community meeting in Rockaway for residents to voice their displeasure at the MTA. No date for the meeting was set as of Monday.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.