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Staten Islanders Rally Against Steep Tolls, Call For Fixed Rate

By: Amanda Farinacci
 
Staten Island residents rallied in Port Richmond Saturday against what they call unfair tolls, and a petition seeking a fixed rate for residents has already reached over 1,000 signatures. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.
"Honk if you hate the Port Authority's toll hike" was the cry from Staten Islanders outside a rally protesting the steep increases Saturday.
Residents and business owners gathered at the foot of Bayonne Bridge to express their frustration.
“Between the traffic and the tolls, what is the point of coming to Staten Island? It's a really inconvenient, unpleasant place to travel to, and that's just gonna keep happening. It's just gonna get worse and worse and worse,” said resident Steven Grillo.
Nearly two months ago, the Port Authority raised the tolls on all of its crossings to help fill a budget gap. For Staten Islanders, that means it now costs $12 in cash or $9.50 with E-ZPass during peak hours and $7.50 during non-peak hours to cross the Goethals, Outerbridge and Bayonne Bridge.
For businesses, the hike has been crippling.

“The owner told me ‘you're X amount of dollars off,’ and I said that's my mobilization charge. I have to pay tolls for my trucks to get to and from the job. I'm $10,000 more than the next bidder. I lost that job because of the built-in overhead,” said business owner Steve Margarella.
Residents are offering what they call an obvious solution to their problem. They want a permanent $4 toll for all residents—no peak or off-peak hours—and an investigation into the Port Authority's bank books.

“You can't always do things in off-peak. Sometimes you have timelines to make, you have to be there. There needs to be a consistent price for Staten Island businesses. There really needs to be some relief, and they really need to look at other areas throughout the city and New Jersey regionally and see, compare us to other areas and make sure that things are fair and equitable across the board,” said Lidna Baran of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.
So far, about 1,300 residents have signed a petition asking for help, and the Port Authority said it’s working with elected officials to get residents some relief.

Marie Waudnock, who started the petition, said, “I'm hoping that they will now feel our pain, hear our voices, and do what we need,”

Staten Island Business Owners, Residents Protest Port Authority Toll Fees

Elected officials joined residents and business owners near the base of the Bayonne Bridge Saturday morning to protest what they call the sky-high and ever increasing toll fees.
“Manhattan has three free bridges and I have to pay to go home,” said one Staten Island resident. “I have to pay to go home. You’re holding me hostage. You’re limiting what I do.”
“I run currently six or seven trucks a day. Based of the current increased tolls, it will cost me $2,200 a month more,” said business owner Bob Catrone.
Catrone said a number of other owners are planning to move their businesses to New Jersey to cut back on costs.
Officials say Staten Island business owners pay about $78 a day per truck to drive to and from New Jersey. With the planned Port Authority increases, they say that number will go up to $165 a day by 2015.
The new toll rates went into effect back in September for the George Washington Bridge, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, the Goethals Bridge, the Outerbridge Crossing and the Bayonne Bridge.
Many are now asking for special discounts from the Port Authority for Staten Island-based businesses.
Crossings that now cost $12 are expected to climb even higher to $15 by 2015. To see all the new rates, click here

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