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Staten Island Residents to Get Long-Awaited Break at Verrazano

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Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a deal Thursday that would allow residents and some commercial drivers to pay less to cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

The plan calls for E-ZPass drivers who live on Staten Island to only pay $5.50 when taking the bridge onto Staten Island with no minimum required for the discount.

Staten Island residents currently pay $6.36 for one or two trips a month, and $6 for three or more.

Non-residents with E-ZPass will still have to pay $10.66.

"Anybody living on this island would welcome that," said one Staten Island resident.

"I go to Brooklyn then I head out to Jersey, it's another $13 in New Jersey then to Staten Island. So it's always getting to me. So hopefully now that it's cutting back $2, it will help me out," said another Staten Island resident.

Commercial drivers with a New York state E-ZPass will get a 20 percent discount once they make 10 or more trips over the bridge per month.

The discounts actually bring the tolls lower for Staten Island residents than they were in 2011, the last time there was a toll hike.

"It's less than what it was in 2011," said Assemblyman Michael Cusick of Staten Island. "In 2011, it was $5.76, so we actually lowered it to below 2011 rates."

Cuomo said that toll discounts for Staten Islanders this year was a no brainer.

"It's a break that can be a real asset to the family budget, and we're pleased to do it," he said.

Bob Cutrona says his contracting business Project One pays $26,000 to $28,000 a year in tolls. He and dozens of other small to medium businesses lobbied their state legislators in Albany for a year to get the toll break and help all Staten Islanders out.

"It's about building an economic base on Staten Island. We cannot compete with people in Brooklyn and Queens or in New Jersey because of the high cost of our transportation, traffic, trucks and so on," Cutrona noted.

Although this is a re-election year for Cuomo and members of the state legislature who were on hand for the announcement, they all took pains to emphasize that this was not an election-year gimmick, and that the discounts were in the works for quite some time.

"Somehow, for Staten Island, it's an election-year gift. This was in the makings for over a year," said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo.

"It's a bit cynical to say that this is an election-year ploy," said state Senator Diane Savino of Staten Island. "The truth is, when you're in the state legislature, every other year is an election year, so I try not to focus on those things."

The fact that Cuomo is up for re-election this year put the proposed toll break into perspective for some residents.

"Politics, huh? That's why. That's OK. Savings, still. A dollar's a dollar," said one Staten Island driver.

"I'd vote for him. Thanks for lowering the tolls," said another Staten Island driver.

Under the plan, the state and Metropolitan Transportation Authority will each contribute $7 million to make the discounts possible.

The MTA board will have to approve the funding at its next meeting later this month.

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