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Verrazano-Narrows Bridge 50th anniversary celebration boycotted

Bridge birthday bash botched, boycotted

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Photo gallery

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Salute: Cannons at Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth fired a 50-gun salute to the bridge.
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Book drive: Gay Telese, author of a book about the building of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, poses with George Scarpelli, one of the first people to drive over the bridge when it was completed.
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Park and ride: Joshua Laird, commissioner for New York Harbor for the National Parks Service, spoke at the ceremony. Staten Island’s Fort Wadsworth, where the ceremony was held, is part of the National Parks Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area.
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Class trip: Students from PS 22 braved the cold to help celebrate the bridge’s 50th birthday.
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Memory lane: George Scarpelli, one of the first people to drive over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, poses in a 1964 Cadillac.
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Bridge bake: Cookies celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge were served at the ceremony.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 50th anniversary celebration for the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge turned out to be mostly a celebration of itself — and rather a lonely one at that.

Authority honchos, engineering enthusiasts, and even some of the men who built the iconic span attended the celebration at Fort Wadsworth on bucolic Staten Island on Nov. 21, but only transit bigwigs delivered remarks, largely crowing about how their agency has maintained the bridge since its completion in 1964.

Politicians from both sides of the span were conspicuously absent from the party, however, in the wake of the days-earlier announcement that the Authority may raise tolls on the $15 crossing.

“There is nothing to celebrate until our city’s commuters can finally receive the Verrazano toll relief that they deserve,” said Borough President Adams.

Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R–Bay Ridge), Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), and state Sen. Martin Golden (R–Bay Ridge), along with Staten Island elected officials, also issued statements that they would boycott the festivities in protest.

“Fifty years after Robert Moses’s last great project in New York was completed, our community, which has been in the shadow of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, is hurting every day with the tolls,” said Golden.

On Nov. 17 the transit agency unveiled plans to raise the E-ZPass fare for cars by 42 cents, possibly hike the commuter cash fare by $1, and charge large trucks significantly more to help fill a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall. The Authority’s board will vote on the toll-hike proposal in January.

Gentile also panned the Authority for focusing celebration on Staten Island and overlooking Brooklyn in its official events.

“The MTA completely ignored Bay Ridge in this historic half-century celebration of a bridge that we share with Staten Island,” Gentile said.

Indeed, there was no mention during last Friday’s fete of the great scar carved through the neighborhood in the early 1960s when the city razed 800 homes and businesses to build access ramps for the bridge.

Transit leaders called the pols’ cold shoulder a snub to the workers who constructed the span.

“This event is about celebrating the structure and honoring the engineers and workers who built it,” said Bridges and Tunnels chief of operations James Fortunato.

But the agency seemed to contradict that message at the event with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque — not to the three men who lost their lives building the span, or the hundreds of ironworkers who erected the marvel, but to the workers who have maintained the structure and collected tolls from drivers since it opened on Nov. 21, 1964.

Regarding the proposed toll hike, the Authority’s chief executive officer said the agency has to make ends meet.

“It takes a lot of work to keep a bridge that handles more than 180,000 vehicles daily safe and in good shape,” said Thomas Prendergast. “That’s why we spent more than $540 million in capital improvements at the Verrazano-Narrows alone in the last [five-year] capital program, and another $431 million is proposed in the 2015–2019 capital program.”

The span’s average daily revenue is $936,000, according to a transit spokesman.

Rounding out the ceremony was a performance by a Staten Island public school choir, a fire boat display, and a 50-gun salute from two Fort Wadsworth cannons.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
The MTA should be required to go through an independent audit before ever raising tolls/fares. They constantly cry broke even though mass transit ridership is at an all time high AND the fare is going up as well.
Nov. 24, 2014, 8:26 am
Ben from Bay ridge says:
Its because the unions have them in a stranglehold with their antiquated rules and absurd benefits.
Nov. 24, 2014, 10:58 am
Charles from Bklyn says:
Staten Island is a part of NYC, and therefore should not have tolls separating the boroughs. Tolls on this bridge is not fair nor right. And yes, that means the tri-borough as well.
Nov. 24, 2014, 11:53 am
ty from pps says:
Charles, what about the Staten Island Ferry? Should the DOT start charging a fare once the tolls for the bridge are removed?

As someone pointed out in the comments of the previous article about this bridge, the E-Z Pass toll for Staten Island residents is cheaper than subway fare once you figure in all of the discounts for SI residents.
Nov. 24, 2014, 1:40 pm
ty from pps says:
And is a free bridge to an island some sort of "right" in your mind? Why don't the residents of SI get boats?
Nov. 24, 2014, 1:40 pm
jay from nyc says:
well ty consider this, its not just regular people who use the bridge, its also a lot of trucks hauling things, that can't go on the ferry, but they have to pay the toll too, and that cost not only gets passed on to consumers, it also is a drag on economic activity. Why should everyone else pay for the MTAs garbage and irresponsibility?
The bridge was paid off a long time ago and so this really is more of a tax based on geography that is used to finance other "activities" (or rather boondoggles) of the MTA.
The tax, I mean toll, should be lowered to be inline with the actual cost for upkeep of the bridge, not to finance cost overruns and straight up theft in other sectors of the MTAs "operations".
Nov. 24, 2014, 6:09 pm
ty from pps says:
No, Jay... You're right. And the subway should be increased to $9 per ride and the monthly Metro-North pass should be raised to $1,500... ya know, to be in line with the actual costs of that segment of the MTA's system.

I'm sure these changes would make traffic flow soooo nicely and the 18-wheelers (as they rot on the clogged bridge) would be happy to know they just saved $30. Especially after several subway and train lines have be shut down for lack of ridership...

I'm no shy about criticizing the MTA for its crappy management... but to not look at the MTA as a "system" is just ridiculous. The bridges and tunnels are part of a whole. It's not just about maintenance costs of one particular item, it's about making the whole system work!!

Do you honestly think $58 per trip is a lot for an 18-wheeler full of goods? I'm sorry, but I don't think I really "feel" that cost when it's passed onto the consumer. $58 for a truck full of TVs? $58 for a truck full of milk? We're talking a few pennies or fractions of pennies per item.

What about the rents and other revenue streams the MTA receives? Perhaps rent for a subway kiosk should only be ask much as maintenance costs... right? Would $50/mo for the Times Sq tunnel newsstand be too much? We wouldn't want the rent to be subsidizing other aspects of the MTA!!
Nov. 24, 2014, 7:14 pm
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
MTA should build a tunnel connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn
Nov. 24, 2014, 9:17 pm
jimmy from Prospect Hts says:
Maybe they should build a magic space bridge.
Nov. 24, 2014, 11:14 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
The toll on this bridge should have been removed decades ago after it was paid off, which was the original purpose. Making it a revenue source was a bad idea, because doing this made them go up more constantly even when not needed. Before even thinking of raising anything, the amount collected should be tracked first to see where it's really going. The reason why Staten Island residents have wanted that VNZ toll removed is because they feel left out from the rest of the city being that their only connection within the state requires a huge tolls, which is why they were the biggest opponents to congestion pricing when it was thought of at the time, and I knew that from attending a hearing there, not to mention that they would be paying the majority of it. In reality, I find tolling to be more of a double tip in that motorists are paying to pass something on site when their tax dollars are already paying for it. BTW, before mentioning the free crossings, they aren't exactly free, they are paid for via taxes for infrastructure. One other thing, I could never understand why the state of NY has among both the highest in tolls and gas prices, but the road, where these are supposed to going to, are always in bad shape and the only solution is to keep raising them with no possibility that they will be going to where they are supposed to go to.
Nov. 25, 2014, 4:30 pm
jay from nyc says:
Ty actually yes, the subway fare should reflect the actual cost of operation, its called accountability, and there is none when it comes to the MTA.
The underlying problem is that the MTA is so screwed up the cost is inflated because of the corruption, theft, lousy and criminal management practices that kill people, pension fraud, employees who get paid full time but only work actually 4 hours or less a day, etc etc. And yeah you'd better believe the cost of the toll and everything else lousy about the MTA gets passed on to the consumer.
Ty, I also really like how you play fast and lose with other people's money, and expect them to just fork it over because you don't think its that "much" for one truck, which completely ignores the fact that its for every truck and it all gets passed on to the consumer.
News flash Ty, Staten Island is not exactly doing very well and could use a break from yet another soaking from the MTA.
And No Ty, rent on property the MTA owns is NOT the same thing, and your argument/analogy is garbage to try and suggest that a kiosk, or perhaps more to the point a major retailer paying rent for prime location property in Manhattan is the same thing as the MTA being unable to properly manage itself is laughable.
Nov. 25, 2014, 6:47 pm
ty from pps says:
Jay -- You're just WRONG. If all corruption was exposed and the MTA was running like a well-oiled machine, the subway system would still need to be subsidized somehow! There is absolutely no public transit system on earth that is funded solely by the fare box. None.

And if you tried... good luck with the traffic. As I said, I'm sure NYC would be a regular ol' commercial boon-town if people stopped using or didn't have access to public transit!!

(btw, Have you heard any significant protest from companies that ship goods over the VZ bridge?! Nope. The last thing they would want is lower tolls. Those pennies or fractions of a penny cost per item is MUCH MUCH cheaper than being stuck in a sea of idiots incentivized to drive more!)

I'm really curious why you think public transportation infrastructure should be cheap for the things putting the most burden on the city (cars), but far more expensive for the least burdensome (buses and trains)??
Nov. 25, 2014, 7:56 pm
jay from nyc says:
where did I say public transportation should be cheap for cars but more expensive for buses and trains, I didn't and that makes you a liar ty. I said that they should cost what they actually cost, not the same thing. TRY READING.
Oh and Hong Kong's system pays for itself so you are wrong about that.
Nov. 25, 2014, 8:33 pm
ty from pps says:
Jay -- I'm very very aware of how the Hong Kong system manages to pay for itself.... the high farebox ratio has much to do with the huge capital investments made possible by taking a significant tax from businesses (and owning and operating large swaths of commercial real estate)! Do you see how that works? Revenue and expenses function within a system... oh so similar to the revenue and expense system found within the MTA -- just different revenue streams.

OK, Jay. You're so clever. I'd love to hear how you would expect the subway system to function without subsidy from other parts of the MTA or from the government? Do you want to the MTA to buy large amounts of commercial property and be a landlord like the Hong Kong MTR? Or perhaps ridership will be fine if fares are doubled? Actually, it would have to be more than doubled since, surely, ridership would fall... so, $7-9 per ride? I'm sure that wouldn't have any effect on the roadways... and the efficiency and costs passed on to the consumer, right?

And since you are so concerned about things costing what they should... Why am I paying for the Staten Island Ferry?! It's not free. Damn freeloaders! The DOT should stop using my tax dollars to pay for the ferry... start charging $5-6 per trip! (the current actual cost to ferry the 21 million riders per year) Wait... $12 a day?! That's crazy! How could SI residents afford that... oh, right, because we all pay for it.
Nov. 25, 2014, 10:19 pm
ty from pps says:
(And before you have a fit -- I'll use your line -- TRY READING. I said clearly, "There is absolutely no public transit system on earth that is funded solely by the fare box. None." This holds for the Hong Kong MTR. Funding is not limited to just operating costs.)
Nov. 25, 2014, 10:23 pm
jay from nyc says:
yes ty lets make the fare 7 dollars, if that is what it costs, that is still LESS than the cost of ownership of a car and would be a good deal.
I would be happy to pay 7 a ride if that meant the MTA stopped sucking so much all the time every time.
I also agree that the Staten Island Ferry should not be free, but its there because the MTA won't build a subway to it.
Bottom line is that everything with the MTA takes longer than it should, costs way more than it should and works less well than it should and is less safe than it should be.
And news flash TY, MTA is a landlord, they just spent over a BILLION dollars on ONE station which houses retail and office space which they are renting out. And despite that, they still can't make the numbers work.
You could give them 100,000,000,000 dollars more a year and they would still not be able to make it work, they would just steal more.
For some reason Hong Kong can figure it out but we can't, f-ing commie China figured out and yet you wanna defend the MTA which is clearly crap. That says everything that needs to be said about your position. We need better and the MTA Da** sucks.
Nov. 25, 2014, 10:42 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I have always found it an irony from the anti-car fanatics when it comes to subsidies. At the same time, they feel that public transportation should be heavily subsidized while none should be for those who drive. In reality, driving is hardly subsidized. The only thing in driving that is subsidized is the infrastructure that is being used, not the vehicles themselves. and I do pay a lot whenever I have to pay fees for yearly inspections and registrations, but that's just the tip of the iceberg plus they aren't that cheap. I could never understand why the MTA needs so many sources especially those that have nothing to do with transportation to fund it yet they are still in bad shape. I do feel that the MTA needs to be audited to see where the money is going before they talk about raising anything. Overall, I am tired of tolls from crossings being used as if it's their cash cow when they were supposed to be removed decades ago after being paid off when originally promised, which makes me annoyed of having to foot the bill considering how little the MTA does for much of downstate NY, which they are supposed to be covering as well since my taxes also go to them. As for why Staten Island never got subway service, it would have gotten it as part of the 4th Avenue Line, but the TA reneged after seeing how expensive it was to build either a bridge or tunnel connecting that, so it was primarily the costs that killed it, not the NIMBYs as some would like to say.
Nov. 26, 2014, 6:50 pm

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