Tag Archives: whitestone bridge

Queens legislators balk at plans to toll East River bridges

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A plan to reduce five Queens bridge fares by nearly half is not worth tolling free city crossings, some borough lawmakers say.

Under a proposal by transportation coalition, Move NY, drivers in the cash lane would have to pay $7.50 one way and $15 round trip to travel across the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Ed Koch Queensboro bridges. 

It would also cost the same amount to cross 60th Street in Manhattan, north and southbound.

As a trade-off, E-ZPass tolls on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial bridges would be lowered by 47 percent. Cash fares on those bridges would go down by 33 percent.

“We toll nearly every single crossing between every borough in the five boroughs of New York City already, yet we’re giving over half a million folks a free ride,” said Move NY Director Alex Matthiessen. “It’s not fair to transit riders and certainly not fair to other drivers, who are paying through the nose in tolls.”

The electronic tolling plan, which would require no booths, would raise $1.5 billion in net revenue toward improving the state’s mass transit infrastructure, create 35,000 new jobs and restore bus service cut in 2010, Matthiessen said.

Motorists paying cash would be billed by mail, easing gridlock by dispersing traffic throughout the city, according to Matthiessen and Kendra Hems, president of the New York State Motor Truck Association.

But some Queens legislators balked at the idea.

“I am skeptical about tolling the free bridges because once the free bridges are tolled and the infrastructure is in place, we all know from experience that it would be very hard to reverse that,” said Assemblymember David Weprin.

The plan also failed to get support from Councilmember Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who have been fighting to eliminate the $3.75 cash toll residents have to pay on the Cross Bay Bridge to enter the Rockaways.

“Imposing tolls on motorists on bridges that are currently free is not the right way to go,” Ulrich said. “The two are not mutually exclusive. It’s not ‘take this or that.’”

While the Cross Bay Bridge toll has been a “major thorn” in the community’s side, Addabbo said the swap is not enough.

“At this point, cutting it in half would ease the pain by half,” he said. “It would still be half the pain.”

It also costs residents on the peninsula the same amount to get into Brooklyn on the Gil Hodges.

State Senator Tony Avella said the rates, while discounted in the first year, would only increase annually. He plans to introduce a bill that would prohibit tolls on East River bridges.

“The two things for sure in this world are death and taxes,” he said.

Move NY is led by Sam Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner. The ambitious tolling plan is in its drafting stage, officials said, and still requires public input.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have tolls at all,” Hems said. “But, unfortunately, we do and we have this inequity right now.”

THE COURIER/File photo by Walter Karling



Whitestone Bridge project angers homeowners

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Wider Bronx pier 2010w

Homeowners in Malba Gardens are feeling the toll of the $109 million project to widen the Whitestone Bridge.

“Our homes in Malba Gardens, we take great pride in them. We put a lot of money into these homes, and the last thing we want to see is our values decrease from this expansion,” said resident Antonio Melone. “That is my domain, and I will do everything to protect it. And every resident in Malba Gardens is willing to do the same. If it takes for us to protest on that bridge, we will do that.”

According to MTA Bridges and Tunnels, the project will provide wider 12-foot lanes on the bridge with new emergency breakdown lanes. Reconstruction efforts also promise a brand new playground and new location for Francis Lewis Park, which is expected to open by early May.

But while construction may mean brand new swings, a jungle gym and newly-planted trees for the neighborhood’s children, parents are saying the overall picture is far from perfect.

“The bridge is actually moving 18 feet closer to the homes,” Melone said. “We also lost a lot of trees that were 40, 50 years old. There are a lot of issues and concerns that we have about this.”

Resident Alfredo Centola said losing the trees has not helped alleviate the growingly-noticeable noise issues since the project’s groundbreaking. The construction, he fears, will also lead to increased traffic and pollution. “As of right now, it’s an inconvenience, and there is a negative impact with the noise,” Centola said. “We just want to make sure when the construction is over that they’ll build an eight-foot wall to mitigate the noise.”

Malba Gardens homeowners said there was talk earlier about building a barrier to block out racket from the bridge, but officials said they could not verify the possibility due to the project’s premature stage.

That’s unacceptable. We can’t wait until the end of the project to know,” Centola said. “They’re stringing us along.”

MTA Bridges and Tunnels officials said construction on the Queens end of the bridge began in the fall. Ongoing work will take place for over two more years.