Rockaway lawmakers alarmed by proposed MTA cuts expressing need for federal relief

Photo courtesy of Addobbo's office

With the MTA hemorrhaging nearly $200 million per week due to the COVID-19 pandemic and projecting an operating deficit of $16 billion by the year 2024, state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato submitted testimony to the agency’s board on behalf of commuters who live in the Rockaways.

The lawmakers addressed the MTA’s latest plans to cut resident rebate programs to make up for their budget deficit and to call on the federal government to provide $12 billion in funding before the end of 2021. The lawmakers assert that without this aid, the agency will face substantial cuts to the staff and service that would cripple New York and bring the economy to a grinding halt.

“New York City cannot begin to rebound from the effects of the coronavirus without a substantially funded and reliable MTA,” Addabbo said. “Many of my constituents rely on the MTA to get to their jobs and access to different parts of the borough, such as those on the geographically isolated Rockaway Peninsula. My concern is that if the MTA does not get the federal funding, it may have to seriously consider raising fares on riders who are already suffering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic with hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers unemployed.”

Pheffer Amato was concerned with the MTA’s proposed cutting of the Rockaway resident rebate program for the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge that connects the peninsula with the rest of the borough. The bridge is the only tolled intra-borough crossing in the entire state. The toll on the bridge was originally 10 cents, and it has grown to more than $4 for motorists without an EZ Pass. To stave off elimination of these programs, prevent service cuts and thousands of layoffs, and to preserve the MTA’s upcoming capital plan, the MTA requested $12 billion in federal relief money.

“Let me be clear: the Rockaway resident rebate cannot be cut or eliminated under any circumstances. No way, no how,” Pheffer Amato said. “Many of my constituents would face severe economic hardship due to the amount of times they have to cross that bridge to conduct their daily lives. My constituents use that bridge to drop their kids off at school, visit their families, go to the doctor, or go to and from work. Instead of cutting the program, the federal government must step in and provide the MTA with much needed economic relief. Our region accounts for 10 percent of the nation’s gross national product, and the MTA makes sure our economy stays on track. There would be a disastrous financial impact on my constituents, this region and this country quite frankly if the MTA does not get the relief it needs.”

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