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Rockaway drivers keep Cross Bay toll rebate

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Queens leaders and residents who live and work near the Cross Bay Bridge celebrated a major victory Friday for commuters who have to use the inter−borough roadway.

The state Legislature’s bailout plan for the MTA helped to keep the Cross Bay Bridge Rockaway⁄Broad Channel Resident Rebate program, which reimburses resident and motorists who live in Broad Channel and the Rockaways.

If the plan had not passed in the state Senate and state Assembly, the residents would have had to pay $2.50 to get to the other side of the borough, according to Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D−Rockaway Beach), who waged a fierce campaign to have the rebate retained.

“To say it would be eliminated would have stunned growth in the Rockaways,” she said.

The bond covenant that finances the bridge mandates that a toll be put in place on the road, Pheffer said. For the last 11 years, the residents who live within the jurisdiction of Community Board 14, which covers Breezy Point, Belle Harbor, Neponsit, Arverne, Bayswater, Edgemere, Rockaway Park, Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway, were exempt from paying the tolls through the rebate program.

State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D−St. Albans) said as he and his fellow legislators were drafting the bailout plan, Pheffer was adamant about keeping the program because, if it was dropped, residents would have to pay to see their neighbor, go to the post office or visit the police precinct.

“It was the 11th hour when we thought we were done with the MTA when your assemblywoman was steaming,” Smith recalled. “She said you find a way to bring it back.”

The senator said he shared Pheffer’s frustration over the Cross Bay Bridge toll and worked the rebate program into the state’s plan.

Smith, who was joined by Assemblywoman Michelle Titus (D−Far Rockaway) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D−Howard Beach), said he and his fellow leaders would continue to push for a proposal that would eliminate the tolls altogether.

CB 14 chairwoman Dolores Orr said tolling Queens residents for access to their own community limited visitors to their side of the borough.

“As the summer season begins, it’s only the residents of Queens who have to pay a toll to go to their public beach,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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