Is it a bridge toll too far?
Hizzoner hopefuls Sal Albanese, Anthony Weiner, and John Liu sparred at an Aug. 22 Democratic debate over the controversial idea of charging a toll on the bridges over the East River.
Albanese argued that levying a fee of $2 or $3 on motorists using the iconic spans linking Brooklyn and Queens to Manhattan — a proposal Mayor Bloomberg failed to sell in 2006 and 2008 — is necessary to lower the $15 toll imposed on the Verrazano Bridge, the highest in the nation. The former Bay Ridge city councilman pointed out that northern Brooklynites living near the three cross-river bridges enjoy numerous trains and buses. Meanwhile, residents in the southern end of the borough and in Staten Island have only a few.
“You want to have tolls where there are more mass transit options, and lower tolls where there are less,” said Albanese. “It’s only fair.”
Weiner jumped on Albanese’s remarks, calling him a Bloomberg clone and accusing him of selling out the people of his home borough.
“I’m against the Bloomberg plan for tolls on bridges, I’m against the Albanese plan for tolls on bridges,” the said the former congressman and city councilman from Sheepshead Bay. “We should not tax people from Brooklyn to go to Manhattan.”
Liu used the opportunity to pitch his own plan — placing a toll on the bridges exclusively for people coming from outside the five boroughs.
“Only non-residents of New York City would have to pay,” the city comptroller said.
Albanese immediately questioned the plan’s plausibility.
“Impossible to enforce,” the rival contender shot back.
But Liu suggested that his plan could use EZ-Pass stickers like the ones Rockaway residents use to receive a discount on the Cross Bay Bridge — or, possibly, a kind of license plate scanner.
“The mechanisms are already in place,” Liu said.
But Albanese still disputed the proposal’s feasibility, noting the number of city residents with out-of-state plates, and pointing out that a plan utilizing EZ-Pass or license plate registrations would have to combine city and state computer systems.
“It sounds good, but it doesn’t make sense,” Albanese said.
The National Restaurant in Brighton Beach hosted the debate, and Russian-language Davidzon Radio and Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island) organized it. Nearly the entire slate of candidates present — which included Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, the Reverend Erick Salgado, and former comptroller Bill Thompson — vowed to appoint a Russian-American to a prominent cabinet post, except for Weiner. He said that he didn’t believe in ethnic quotas, but noted that his grandfather was born in Russia.
“So, you would have someone from the Russian-American community in the highest levels of government, if I am elected,” Weiner said.Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderma