South Queens lawmakers celebrated the start of a new era with the long-awaited launch of a rebate program for motorists using the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge that connects the Rockaways to the rest of the borough. State Sen. Joseph Addabbo reminisced about being a bridge officer in his younger days when the toll was 90-cents.
“Even at 90-cents, they were complaining,” Addabbo said. “And they were right then, they were. This is a fight that’s lasted that long.”
Addabbo was joined by Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato and Brooklyn state Sen. Roxanne Peraud Friday at Bungalow Bar at the Rockway end of the span across Jamaica Bay to celebrate the tolling rebate that kicked in the next day. E-ZPass rates for all drivers is $2.60, and for parents who have to use the bridge to drop kids off at school four times a day, the rebate program will save them more than $1,870 a year, according to Pheffer Amato.
“No longer will a Queens resident pay for the toll bridge sitting right over our shoulders,” Pheffer Amato said. “It’s unfair, it’s never been a fair toll. It was a money grab, let’s just call it what it is.”
She added that it was unfair back in the days when the toll was ten cents, but, when it started to rise, Rockaway residents started to fight because the bridge goes from Queens to Queens in the same ZIP code, even the same school district. Now, Queens residents with an E-ZPass will still be charged but they will get a rebate.
“For everybody that wants to enjoy the great beaches of Rockaway, the great restaurants and everything Rockaway has to offer, rightfully so they get to do it free,” Addabbo said. “We will always be ready to make sure that reimbursement for Rockaway, Broad Channel residents and now all of Queens residents, we are going to be standing ready to make sure that this is forever because it’s the right thing to do.”
Pheffer Amato and Addabbo worked together in Albany to advocate for the MTA rebate program for Queens residents who use the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge. The reimbursement was set to go into effect in the summer of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the rollout. Addabbo cautioned that the initiative could be in jeopardy if any fiscal issues arise in the future. Pheffer Amato said she hopes one day the toll will be eliminated altogether.
“If you haven’t received any notification, and you’re an E-ZPass holder in Queens, you should reach out to your elected official,” Pheffer Amato said. “I am not the Queen of E-ZPass, but we will direct you to your representative so that they can help you with securing the proper forms to get registered as a Queens resident.”
Persaud thanked her colleagues in government for leading the effort in Albany and showing what happens when a community comes together to fight.
“We will continue to fight to ensure this is fully funded,” Persaud said.
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.