Island Fights Back As Port Authority Seeks To Price Gouge

Danny Panzella

UPDATE 8-17-11 7:58pm : Rich Vezzuto of Fast Signs on Forest Ave has donated 3 banners. We still need to purchase more to hang them on every overpass on the Staten Island Expressway and West Shore Xway. Please chip in to help us purchase these banners to educate Staten Islanders about this travesty.

The Port Authority of NY & NJ is proposing a 50% toll hike on the Staten Island bridges to New Jersey. Reported:

Port Authority COO Ernesto Butcher said the hikes were necessary to overcome a struggling economy, the cost of security post-Sept 11, and the price of rebuilding at the World Trade Center site.

The proposed capital work to be funded by the hikes — the raising of the Bayonne Bridge, a new Lincoln Tunnel helix, 592 new cables on the George Washington Bridge — will create 167,000 jobs, he said.

The Port Authority will vote later this week on a proposal to hike the typical E-ZPass toll from $8 to $12 in September and up to $14 in 2014 — for cash payers, it would be $15 in September and $17 in 2014.

Off-peak hours will be raised to $10 in September and $12 in 2014. The commuter package will also jump from $80 to $120 for 20 bridge crossings in 35 days. You can read the full plan here:

The real story here is the fact that the Commissioners Board of the PA are volunteers and are made up of Fortune 100 millionaires. Many of them are Wall St. Bond traders, who also have close political and Union ties.

When you understand how the PA funds projects you can start to see where to corruption and cronyism come into play. To finance projects the PA issues bonds. Those bonds are sold to investors on Wall St. Traders make commissions on those bonds. And we the toll payers are left to pay the interest on those same bonds. There is so much opportunity for these commissioners to make sweetheart deals with Wall St. firms that they do business with or are invested in it will make your head spin.

Another interesting fact is Goldman Sachs involvement. In may of 2008 The NY Daily News Reported:

New Yorkers are on the hook to hand over $321 million to Goldman SachsAmerica‘s richest investment bank, because the Port Authority failed to rebuild the World Trade Center as fast as promised.

Under the hidden terms of a deal that then-Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg approved in 2005, the city and state agreed to pay huge penalties to the firm if the Port Authority didn’t complete major portions of the Ground Zero redevelopment by next year, a target now impossible to meet.

So not only is Goldman and its related firms presumably going to be profiting from PA bond sales, they are getting $321 million bailout on top of that. All paid by NYC commuters.

Then you have the World Trade Center site that has taken 10 years to build. Larry Silverstein the leaseholder of the site has been receiving “loss of income” insurance payments for every month that the freedom tower is NOT in operation, so Larry boy is in no hurry to rebuild it.

46% of the Port Authorities budget is going towards the World Trade Center site. We all want to see the Freedom Tower built, but there are bridges and tunnels that are in need of major repair. Do New Yorkers need to be paying so much towards the reconstruction of the Freedom Tower? Isn’t that Larry Silversteins responsibility?

This week the NY Comptrollers office released a report about overtime abuse in the PA. While I’m sure there are abuses this is a red herring meant to distract from the real issue, the Port Authorities major debt problem (owed to Wall St. banks.)

“Overtime flows like water at the Port Authority and management has no clear strategy to achieve its own benchmarks and goals for curbing costs,” the comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, said in a statement. “Every agency in this state is tightening its belt. Before the Port Authority asks for more money to fund its operations, the agency should take a long, hard look at whether its business model for managing overtime really makes sense.”

The Port Authority says everyone needs to tighten their belt and chip in. Exec Director Christopher Ward pulls in $304,902 annually, while COO Ernesto Butcher makes $251,758. Anthony Shorris who was Exec Dir. prior to Ward but was removed from his position by Gov. Paterson is still on the payroll as a “senior advisor” making $246,362 per year. Maintenence Supervisor Julio Baez makes $84,916 and clocked a whopping $145,878 in overtime last year.

Last nite Staten Islander met at the Michael J. Petrides School on Ocean Terrace to discuss the PA new toll hikes. As one Staten Island pol pointed out the meeting was “theater” and would not have even happened if Borough President James Molinaro hadn’t demanded it.

See video of some of the comments made at the meeting by Staten Islanders as well as Elected Representatives. (Coming soon)

So what can Staten Islanders do to STOP the toll increase? A lot.

Governor Cuomo promised no new taxes or fees during his campaign. Call his office and remind him of that promise. ((518) 474-8390) Ask Governor Cuomo to investigate the PA and it’s Board of Commissioners for crony capitalism and sweetheart deals. Tell him to VETO any proposal that the PA makes to raise tolls even ONE DIME! You can contact the governor by clicking HERE. Please remember a phone call only takes a moment, but is much more effective than sending an email.

Staten Islanders DEMAND:

1. NO TOLL RAISE! NONE AT ALL! We are ALREADY paying too much!

2. AUDIT and INVESTIGATE the fraud, crony capitalism, sweetheart deals and conflicts of interest at the Port Authority! Specifically the PA’s relationship with Goldman Sachs and Silverstein properties.

3. VETO ANY PLAN the PA proposes to raise tolls on Staten Islanders.

Then CALL your state Representatives and tell them to introduce legislation to AUDIT and INVESTIGATE the fraud, crony capitalism, sweetheart deals and conflicts of interest at the Port Authority! Specifically the PA’s relationship with Goldman Sachs and Silverstein properties.

State Senate:

Diane Savino:

Andrew Lanza:

State Assembly:

Michael Cusick:

Matthew Titone:

Nicole Malliotakis:

Lou Tobacco:

SPREAD THE WORD to your fellow Staten Islanders.

Visit the “Protest 2011 Staten Island Toll Increases“ FACEBOOK for more info and up to date information on protests.

Media Contact: Danny Panzella 646-481-1776




    Leave a Comment


    You must be logged in to post a comment.


    Restore The Republic