Author Topic: Protests to dissuade MTA from abolishing toll rebates for the Cross Bay Bridge.  (Read 432 times)

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Drivers, pols gear up to fight for bridge toll break


Sunday, December 7th 2008, 9:49 PM

Rockaway and Broad Channel motorists are planning two large-scale protests this week to dissuade the MTA from abolishing toll rebates for the Cross Bay Bridge.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and other local leaders plan to demonstrate Monday near the toll plaza, and six busloads of residents are slated to pack Wednesday's MTA meeting in Manhattan.

The MTA is facing a budget crisis and hopes to save $3.6 million a year by rescinding the rebate.

"We fought this battle once already, and thought it was over," said Frank Harnisher, 70, a Broad Channel resident who was a vocal leader against the tolls in the 1990s. "People will only be bitter if they have to pay that toll again."

Rockaway peninsula and Broad Channel drivers with E-ZPasses are charged $1.03 every time they cross the bridge, and the fee is remitted back to them in a rebate.

The program was instituted in 1998 after decades of protests.

Broad Channel shares a post office, police precinct and firehouse with the peninsula. Many Broad Channel residents also send their kids to school in the Rockaways. For Rockaway commuters, the bridge is the only connection to mainland Queens.

"Putting a toll on this bridge is the equivalent of putting a toll in the middle of Queens Blvd.," said Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who met with local civic leaders last week about the issue. "This is the only intraborough toll in the city."

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon is organizing bus trips to voice community concerns to MTA brass.

"This is a local street that connects the same community and the same zip code," said Simon. "Everyone thinks this is a slap in our face."

The community also is planning other targeted protests to disrupt the toll plazas.

"We're going to pay in pennies and hundred-dollar bills - whatever it takes to upset their daily operations," Simon said.

Local leaders said that rescinding the rebate also would harm businesses.

"This is going to affect 120,000 people who rely on that bridge," said Dan Tubridy, who owns Pier 92 Restaurant.

"Our population has increased 20% since the toll was removed. There are people who live here who have never had to pay before."