I had the pleasure of accompanying five of my colleagues from the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce on our annual trip to Washington, D.C., on May 9 and May 10. As a member of the Board of Directors at the Chamber as well as the Executive Board's Treasurer, and co-chair of the Chamber's Small Business Committee, I was well aware of the work we had in front of us to convince our legislators that serious consideration of a plan to relieve Staten Island businesses and residents from the tremendous burdens imposed by the recently increased tolls connecting Staten Island to New Jersey and the rest of New York City was warranted.
The drastic increases imposed by the Port Authority in 2011, if left unchanged, will result in as much as a 125 percent increase by 2015! In meetings with Congressman Grimm, Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand's office and Governor Cuomo's office, as well as with our counterparts in the New Jersey — the offices of Senators Menendez and Lautenberg — the Chamber's resounding message was that failure to take immediate action to remediate the toll increases will force businesses to leave Staten Island, resulting in a loss of jobs for residents as well as a lack of overall economic activity on the Island, and ultimately increased prices to our residents, who will no doubt have the toll increases passed on to them.
The Chamber of Commerce brought its message to Washington on behalf of all Staten Island residents and businesses, as well as in support of the concerns of the Staten Island Board of Realtors, Inc., the BUCKS business network, the Staten Island Home Improvement Contractors Association, the Building Industry of NYC, Inc., and the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation. Additionally, our plea for relief from these punitive tolls has garnered bipartisan support from our local, state and federal legislators, all of whom have signed off on a letter to Governor Cuomo, imploring him to revisit the Port Authority toll increases with an eye toward making his mantra "to keep New York open for business" a reality for Staten Island.
- Annamarie G. Gentile, Esq.