The Short History of Queensboro Bridge Tolls

qborograb.jpgIn 1909, wrote the Times, tolls on the brand new Queensboro Bridge were temporarily suspended for a "touring contest" on Long Island, described as "an enjoyable diversion for a great many New York and Brooklyn motorists."

We learned from yesterday’s Queensboro Bridge centennial commemoration that the toll was 10 cents for car crossings in 1909. But it wasn’t long before motorists were granted the free ride they enjoy to this day. In the midst of the 2002 fight over East River bridge tolls, the Times reported:

All four city bridges had tolls in the early 1900’s, including one for
pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge. But they were abolished in 1911
under Mayor William J. Gaynor, who called them ”inconvenient and
irksome” and declared, ”For my part, I see no more reason for
tollgates on the bridges than for tollgates on Fifth Avenue or
Broadway.”

Gaynor, a one-time Tammany favorite and apparent inspiration to future city leaders, was also opposed to expansion of the subway system, according to his official bio. In 1910, Gaynor was shot in the throat by a disgruntled city employee, an injury that would end his life three years later. Months after the attack, the mayor ordered the East River bridges to go toll-free, recounted Aaron Naparstek in 2006, prompting speculation in local transpo circles of a link between the two incidents:

While "there’s never been a serious connection drawn between the assassination attempt and Gaynor’s tolling policy," says former Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, "I’m suspicious."

Check out Aaron’s full post, written upon the advent of the city’s latest congestion pricing debate, for more on the sordid, sometimes violent, and seemingly interminable struggle to preserve the privileges of New York’s motoring class.

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