It looks like some residents are getting soaked this summer.
Beginning in July, not only will the Rockaway Ferry service cease, but those people who live in Rockaway and Broad Channel will have to pay to traverse the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The Resident Rebate Program, implemented in 1998, means that residents of the Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel are reimbursed $1.13 each time they cross the bridge using E-Z Pass. The toll charge is credited back to residents using Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) funds that come from the State Mortgage Recording Tax.
But no more.
According to Judy Glave, spokesperson for MTA Bridges & Tunnels, those people who live in zip codes 11691, 11692, 11693, 11694, 11695, and 11697 will be charged $1.13 for the first two trips – “no more than $2.26 per day per tag.”
“All trips after that will be rebated,” she said.
But, Glave explained, each account can have up to four E-Z Pass tags, and each can be charged the $2.26 per day.
“We have no way to estimate whether people will make fewer trips,” she said.
It is unclear as to when residents will start being charged, but, Glave noted, “It’s looking more toward the end of the month.”
According to Glave, the program had cost the MTA $3.5 million a year, with the agency facing an $800 million deficit.
“We’re waiting to see what happens with the budget,” said City Councilmember Eric Ulrich.
Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer, who has been a vocal opponent of a repeal of the rebate program, and who worries about the potential impact on Rockaway beach-goers, has said that, “It’s a bridge that should not have a toll. It’s a continuation of a street – it’s from Queens to Queens. It’s the only place you have to pay to get to the beach.”
“It’s very, very upsetting,” she continued, “It’s an added burden in difficult economic times. For 10 years we haven’t had to pay the fare.”
Add to this the fact that the pilot Rockaway Ferry program is set to end, and Pheffer’s constituents are up in arms.
“Everybody is very concerned,” she said.
“The subsidy for the Rockaway Ferry runs out June 30,” Stacey Sherman, spokesperson for the New York Water Taxi, which operates the ferry, told The Courier.
The pilot program, launched in May 2008, which provides service from Riis Landing to the Brooklyn Army Terminal to Wall Street, was set to end on March 19, but a last-minute deal between city councilmembers and the mayor’s office extended service until July 1. Each rider is subsidized nearly $20.
“The ferry was destined to fail,” said Pheffer, who notes that she is in constant contact with the MTA and hopes to have the toll eliminated completely.
“This shows there’s no respect for our transportation,” she said. “We will keep fighting until the end and beyond.”