In January, Chamber President & CEO, Linda Baran, met with Pat Foye, Executive Director of the Port Authority to discuss the toll increase. Ms. Baran requested that Mr. Foye sit down with Chamber members and hear first hand how the tolls are having a negative effect on local businesses. On February 28, Mr. Foye and Ken Adams, President of Empire State Development, sat down with Chamber members to discuss the economic impact of the tolls on Staten Island.
At the meeting, Mr. Foye stated that the Port Authority is close to announcing a truck toll discount for businesses. Ms. Baran explained to Mr. Foye and Mr. Adams how Staten Island businesses are put at a competitive disadvantage due to the high price of tolls and that a discount is badly needed for businesses to remain open on Staten Island. The Chamber is advocating for a volume discount to be implemented regionally and predicated on the amount spent. Staten Island businesses would see the greatest benefit from a discount because they use the bridge the most frequently.
Chamber members discussed that the enormous impact tolls have on their businesses and brought EZ Pass statements to show solid examples of just how much money is spent on tolls in a month. Upon reviewing the statements, Mr. Foye and Mr. Adams acknowledged the issue. That being said, they countered saying that the cost is necessary for reinvestment, such as raising the Bayonne Bridge and keeping the Goethals Bridge in a state of good repair.
The Chamber has been working on several toll proposals and the members in attendance requested a toll discount similar to the recently enacted commuter plan where drivers are given a 50% discount on 10 trips in a month. Mr. Foye informed the group that the Port Authority was in the process of conducting a number of studies and they are looking at offering a commercial discount. Mr. Foye said he will continue to have dialog with Ms. Baran during this process. The Chamber is actively working to get a business toll discount and is looking forward to working with Mr. Foye and the Port Authority in this endeavor.
The Chamber would like to thank all the members who attended the meeting at the Port Authority: Solomon Chemo (Richmond Group Wealth Advisors), Bob Cutrona (Project One Services, Inc.), AnnaMarie Gentile (Anguili & Gentile LLP), & Steve Margarella (Margarella Industrial Construction Corp.). A special thank you also to those members who helped to prepare for the meeting by providing input and information: the Small Business Committee, Dennis Gaeta (Gaeta Int. Demo Inc.) and Thomas Virga (Abco Maintenance Corp.).