NEW YORK—A new toll proposed for the Brooklyn Bridge has received backlash from the Brooklyn community.
The Ravitch Commission, which was appointed in June to find a solution to the MTA's $1.5 billion financial crisis, will recommend collecting tolls at some or all of the of the East River bridges. City representatives gathered at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan on Nov. 16 to call for a better solution to fund the MTA.
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz said that it would be wrong to single out Brooklyn to solve the MTA's financial problem. “It's discriminatory of Brooklyn,” said Markowitz. “Don't burden one part of the MTA region.”
“Forget about it. We will not accept the tolling of our bridges,” he said.
New Yorkers have enjoyed free passage over the East River bridges since 1911, yet debate about the tolls has been a continuing subject. In the past, there were tolls on the Brooklyn Bridge, including those for horse-drawn carriages, yet they weren't too well welcomed even in those days. More recently, in 2002, Mayor Bloomberg also proposed tolling the four bridges, when the city was facing a $3 billion budget gap.
A suggested alternative to the tolls is to reinstate the commuter tax, which was rolled back in 1999. If brought back, it is being proposed that the commuter tax use its former tax rates on earned income of 0.45% for commuters and 0.65% for those who are self-employed. It has been speculated that by 2009, the commuter tax would increase the city's personal income tax (PIT) collection by $713 million.
Standing by the idea of reinstating the commuter tax, Council Member Bill DiBlasio said, “This is not new. It is something that worked for many years.”
“The commuter tax is a fairer tax,” said DiBlasio. “This is a regressive idea to toll the bridges.”
In order to be set into place, the bridge tolls will still have to go through an approval process by the city. DiBlasio expressed his hope that the city will recognize the benefits of the tax. “They'll see in the final solution that the commuter tax is a better solution,” he said.
According to the New York Post, an addition to the new toll, the Ravitch Commission will also be suggesting a rise in subway, bus, and train fares, as well as additional taxes for employers.
Concern has arisen with local business owners in Brooklyn over the tolls. “We've been long opposed to the tolls,” said Corey Bearak, president of the Queens Civic Congress. “There are strong alternatives.”
“Tolling the bridges is really an impediment to economic activity,” he said.
Adding to the impact the tolls would take on business owners, Josh Beinstock, from the board of directors of the Queens Chamber, added, “It would have a severe impact on small businesses.”
“They use these crossings to do business,” said Beinstock.