STATEN ISLAND — Elected officials on Staten Island have called on candidates in the upcoming race for mayor to address the rising tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which climbed to $15 this year.
Councilman James Oddo and Assemblyman Michael Cusick urged the candidates on Wednesday to announce concrete plans for the bridge's tolls before election day, since the issue is a major one for many Staten Island residents.
"I want to hear plans from all that's running," Oddo said. "Something real. The MTA has two toll increases scheduled in the next four years, you're staring at a $20 toll. It's devastating to Staten Island in so many different ways."
Three candidates have already announced plans to address the tolls: Republican Joe Lhota, the former head of the MTA; Republican John Catsimatidis, the wealthy founder of the Gristedes grocery chain; and former City Councilman Sal Albanese, a Democrat.
Lhota wants full mayoral control of the city's bridges and tunnels, arguing that if the city controlled the bridges, officials could make the Verrazano tolls cheaper by using funds that the city currently spends on rail mass transit.
Albanese's plan is to put tolls on East River bridges that are currently free, like the Brooklyn Bridge, to reduce tolls on other bridges, like the Verrazano-Narrows.
Catsmitidis has called for a 10-year freeze on all bridge and tunnel tolls in the city.
Oddo said Staten Islanders should use this chance when candidates are seeking their votes to voice their concerns to the next mayor.
"When you represent an outer borough, particularly the smallest one, elections are the fleeting moments of leverage and you need to use them," Oddo said. "We have a window between now and election day."
In March, the MTA raised the fare to cross the Verrazano Bridge from $9.60 to $10.66 for E-ZPass users, and from $13 to $15 cash. For Staten Island residents, the tolls increased from $5.76 to $6.36 with an E-ZPass and $7.72 to $8.52 without one, something residents rallied and petitioned against.
Oddo said Staten Islanders should use meet-and-greets with the candidates to respectfully demand help against the toll hikes.
"When they come for your support, your votes, your donations, when they come to shake your hands, demand to hear what their specifics are," he said.