BLOOMFIELD — Candidates vying to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg voiced support for transportation improvements on Staten Island at a forum hosted by the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation Wednesday.
Both Democratic and Republican candidates praised the SIEDC's proposed West Shore Light Rail Line, which has been under discussion for years, during the forum at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bloomfield.
“If we are both going to make Staten Island an easier place for people to commute to and from, make Staten Island a place with more economic development potential,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, “we need this West Shore Light Rail to move forward.”
The light rail aims to shorten the commuting times to Manhattan for residents in the middle and southern part of the island, who are farther away from the Staten Island Ferry, according to the SIEDC. The line, which does not have yet have funding, would connect to New Jersey’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, which would lead to Manhattan.
Former MTA chairman Joe Lhota said Wednesday that the light rail would help develop Staten Island, beginning "the process of building the West Shore."
The candidates also discussed the rising tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, something local leaders have said would be a major issue for voters in the borough.
Comptroller John Liu and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson have previously supported lowering tolls, and on Wednesday Lhota described his plan for the city to take over the bridges and tunnels in the five boroughs from the MTA as a way to keep the tolls down.
“It’s outrageous that it costs $15,” Lhota said. “Nothing at all reduces economic development like the price of these tolls."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who at the last debate said he needed to see a study before he took a position on the bridge toll, this time said something needed to be done to lower it.
“This is not a sustainable path,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to have to figure out a different way of doing things going forward.”
Other Staten Island topics discussed by the candidates at the debate, who also included Gristedes founder and Republican John Catsimatidis, were the lack of a public hospital in the borough, Hurricane Sandy, the development of the West Shore of Staten Island and help for small businesses.