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Cross Bay tolls draw rally

Community Board 14 Chair Dolores Orr (at podium) is surrounded by elected officials and community leaders in Rockaway to support a plan for rebates for Rockaway residents who use the Cross Bay Bridge. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

The governor may have included ending the Cross Bay Bridge toll for Rockaway residents in his budget proposal, but elected officials who represent the area said they will not proclaim victory until the plan is adopted.

The elected officials gathered Sunday at the foot of the bridge on the Rockaway side to urge their colleagues in state government to support Cuomo’s proposal.

Then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani instituted a rebate program in 1997 for Broad Channel and Rockaway residents who used the Cross Bay Bridge that gave residents a $2.26 rebate on their E-ZPass statements each time they made a round trip.

But in July 2010, citing budget woes, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority partially rescinded the rebate, only reimbursing residents after they made one round trip in a day.

State Assemblyman and Rockaway resident Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park), who made ending the toll his top priority during his campaign, said the fact that the governor was in favor of scrapping the charge was a big step toward its elimination.

“Our families could not and should not bear the burden of filling the budget holes of the MTA,” the assemblyman said.

Goldfeder and state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) introduced a bill in Albany that would end the toll for all Queens residents.

Cuomo’s budget proposal would only spare Rockaway residents from the charge.

Goldfeder’s predecessor, Queens County Clerk Audrey Pheffer, said the toll is unfair because it charges residents to access another part of the same borough.

“It’s an added tax to those residents that are here,” she said. “We’re the only borough that has to pay to go to our beautiful ocean.”

Smith said elected officials who represent the peninsula should not rest on their laurels.

“We have to make sure the MTA doesn’t back off” of the plan, he said.

The senator also said outgoing MTA Chairman Jay Walder, a Rockaway native, let the community down by not trying to scrap the toll.

“We know that Jay Walder claimed to be from Rockaway, but he forgot about us,” Smith said.

U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Middle Village), who wrote to Cuomo about ending the toll, said he had discussions with the MTA about the unfairness of the toll, but said the agency was “not interested in fairness.”

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said he was “delighted” to hear Cuomo was siding with Queens residents.

“We’ve been fighting for so long,” he said.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz at 718-260-4573 or at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com.

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Reader Feedback

Matt Killmoto from USA says:
Notice how most of the people in the picture are overweight. AFAIK, crossing the bridge on foot or by bike is free.

They can do themselves two favors at once by walking: dodge the tool, lose some weight.
Jan. 27, 2012, 9:26 am
D from Rockaway says:
Hey rich people! Just take the Q53 or Q21 bus like the rest of the middle class.
Jan. 27, 2012, 9:58 am
S from Queens says:
So...fat people in cars in the rockaways want the rest of New York to pay for the upkeep for a bridge that only they use.
Jan. 27, 2012, 11:53 am
Norman Silverman from Rockaway says:
Rockaway residents have fought the discriminatory toll for over 20 years. We are glad to be one step closer to success. Led by Democratic District Leader Lew Simon we have marched over the bridge and back almost every year. Sometimes the group was small, but recently a couple of thousand people participated. In nice weather the walk over the bridge is quite enjoyable. North -south mass transit is sorely lacking in Queens. Reopening the old Rockaway Beach LIRR line would reduce congestion on Woodhaven Blvd. and allow thousands of visitors to get to Aqueduct Casino and Convention Center without causing gridlock all through southern Queens. Help us end the toll and reopen the Rockaway Beach line and come down to enjoy our beach and boardwalk with us this summer.
Jan. 28, 2012, 11:19 pm

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