Good evening everyone. My name is David Carr, and I am a candidate for the 50th Council District here on Staten Island.
I have testified over the years at a number of toll hearings held by the MTA and the Port Authority in my capacity as Chief of Staff to the man I hope to succeed, Minority Leader Steven Matteo. But never before have I been so concerned that these hearings could lead to such a terrible outcome, namely the reduction or even elimination of the Staten Island Resident discount on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.
We all know that these are unprecedentedly difficult times for businesses and government agencies alike, and the MTA is no exception. But we cannot hope to balance the MTA’s budget difficulties on the backs of Staten Islanders.
Over 120 years ago, Staten Island was promised a rail connection to the rest of the region as part of the campaign to incorporate the Five Boroughs into the Greater City of New York. Over a century later that promise remains unfulfilled. Staten Island continues to be the most underserved borough in terms of transit in our City, and we are the only New Yorkers that have to pay for the privilege of leaving and entering our home.
One of the most important steps forward for borough equity has been our resident discount and its enhancement in 2014 that brought tolls down to $5.50 round-trip. While it may not make up for our lack of transit options, it was a huge step forward for Staten Islanders and saved them thousands of dollars since.
Any proposal to reduce or do away with this hard-won discount ignores the fact that Staten Islanders can ill-afford to be paying more out of pocket when their businesses are forced to close or reduce service or when employees are laid off because government support has dried up or never materialized. Some estimates for these proposals put the potential yearly toll bill nearly as high as $3,000. This cannot stand.
I implore the MTA to do the right thing and seek their savings elsewhere and preserve the Staten Island Resident discount as is.