Queens Leaders Speak Out Against Tolling Proposal

Local leaders gathered in Queens on Sunday to say that traveling across the East River should remain free. NY1's Angi Gonzalez has more on both sides of a proposal to charge all drivers traveling to and from Manhattan.

Politicians and local leaders gathered in Long Island City on Sunday for a press conference opposing a plan to add tolls to all East River crossings, such as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge.

"There are many middle-class people, as well as small businesses and seniors, that rely on those free bridges, and it would just be unbearable for them to have to pay the tolls," said Assemblyman David Weprin of Queens.

In exchange for introducing fees on bridges from Queens and Brooklyn into Manhattan, Move New York's Fair Plan says that tolls at other bridges could be reduced.

It's an effort that supporters of the plan say would also help ease roadway congestion. By removing the free option, those behind the proposal say drivers would more evenly use access points into the city.

"You go into Manhattan in the morning, and the Queens Midtown Tunnel is as packed as anything," said City Councilman Barry Grodenchik of Queens.

Supporters of the plan, including Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, argue that the move could also generate as much as $1.5 billion a year. They say that money could be used to help improve roads, bridges, and expand transit service.

Opponents are skeptical of that claim as well.

"You cannot mandate dedicated revenue anymore. There's even a lock box for transportation now in Albany, and it gets raided every year," said state Senator Tony Avella of Queens.

Organizers say they just want the proposal to add new tolls on bridges that are now free off the table.

They added that there are other ways to boost revenue for infrastructure projects.

"Let's legalize sports betting. It’s a huge amount of money. Why not recoup this money and have it go to infrastructure?" Avella said.

Right now, Move NY's "congestion pricing plan" is still just a plan. The earliest it could be introduced in Albany would be when the new session begins next month.

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