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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But in July 2010, citing budget woes, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority partially rescinded the rebate, only reimbursing residents after they made one round trip in a day.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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