Assemblywoman Pheffer Amato called the vote “a thrilling win and a great step forward for our community.”
By Michael V. Cusenza
The Assembly on Thursday voted, 133-0, in favor of a bill that would prohibit the imposition and collection of a fare, toll, rental, rate, charge or other fee on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, according to Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Howard Beach), who introduced the measure back in October.
“I made a pledge before taking office that I would work to eliminate the Cross Bay Memorial Bridge toll,” said Pheffer Amato, the first, and only, member of the Assembly from South Queens to pass such a bill through the Lower Chamber. “Today, I had a thrilling win and a great step forward for our community. As I have said countless times: The CBB toll has outlived its original stated purpose of paying for the bridge, and has absolutely no stated current purpose other than supplementing the MTA’s budget on the backs of hard working New Yorkers. I’m absolutely certain the cost of ending this onerous toll would be made up several times over with the freedom and ease of access it would bring to South Queens and the Rockaway Peninsula.”
In 2017, Pheffer Amato secured for another year the “Rockaway Rebate,” which reimburses Rockaway Peninsula and Broad Channel residents for trips across the bridge to and from mainland Queens. Residents are required to pay the toll, several times a day, in order to get to work and back, transport children to and from school and complete other everyday errands.
“The Cross Bay Bridge toll stunts economic growth, disincentivizes freedom of motion within a single borough, and impacts the thousands of Queens residents who are required to pay this toll several times per day to conduct their daily lives. Residents often need to pay a two-way toll to work, go shopping or meet friends and family mere minutes from their house,” Pheffer Amato wrote under the Justification section of the bill. “The inequitable toll also keeps tourists from easy access to New York City’s only real extended beachfront, unquestionably costing millions of dollars every year in tourism.”
The proposed law, which is sponsored in the State Senate by Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), has been sent to the Upper Chamber for a vote.
“Charging residents of Queens to access areas of their own borough is just wrong,” Addabbo said earlier this year. “The outdated toll on the Cross Bay Memorial Bridge has not only been an unfair burden to the residents of southern Queens, some of whom work or attend school daily on the peninsula, but a significant reason why this isolated area of Queens has not realized its full economic potential, by repelling developers and retail businesses.”
In 1939, the New York City Parkway Authority built the Cross Bay Bridge and Parkway along with beach improvements in the Rockaways. The following year, the Parkway Authority was consolidated with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. In 1970, the consolidated TBTA completed the present Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, a high-level fixed span which permits boats to pass under it without the traffic delays caused by the lifting of a movable bridge. The toll on the bridge was implemented only to cover the cost of construction, and started at $0.10 per trip. It has since ballooned to $4.25.