New York and New Jersey commuters are debating the latest scheme to help pay for rebuilding the World Trade Center, destroyed in the “9/11” international Al Qaeda terrorist attack on the United States.
There is only one month to go before the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack that stole the lives of some 3,000 people, most of those at what is referred to as “Ground Zero” in New York City – the gaping cavity where the World Trade Center's massive Twin Towers once stood.
Over the past decade, numerous proposals to replace the buildings have been presented and discarded for various reasons.
Now commuters are facing pleas by labor union members desperate for jobs, advocating for construction projects managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The new World Trade Center building complex is slated to cost $11 billion.
The problem: the new projects would be paid for by doubling the already high cost of the tolls to enter New York City's island borough of Manhattan.
Public hearings were held for only one day on the issue -- Tuesday -- with angry commuters taking turns at the microphone to express their outrage, interspersed with union workers who described their own hardships.
If proposed plans for construction projects are approved, vehicle tolls to enter the city would leap from the current $8 to more than double – to $17 – by 2014. Rider fees on the PATH subway trains from New Jersey, under the Hudson River, would jump from $1.75 to $2.75 in each direction.
The only way for a car to reach Manhattan is via a bridge or tunnel. Although the three bridges linking the borough of Brooklyn to Manhattan are still free, the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is not. Nor is the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that links the borough of Staten Island to the borough of Brooklyn, or the Goethals Bridge that links New York City's borough of Staten Island to Elizabeth, New Jersey. It can be similarly expensive to commute to the Big Apple through the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, all of which are toll roads as well.
The $33 billion proposal is estimated to create 167,000 jobs over the next 10 years, according to the Port Authority, whose board is to vote Friday on the plan. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and/or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have 10 days within which to veto it.
“Why are the people of northern New Jersey paying for the attacks that were against all of America?" Jersey City resident Brook Wiers pointedly demanded at a meeting near the Holland Tunnel, according to the Associated Press.
Richard Brescher, 47, expressed similar sentiments at a hearing at the Port Authority Bus Terminal across the river in Manhattan. “It should be on a national level,” he said. “When New Orleans had a problem the government stepped in to help New Orleans. Every time there's some kind of national catastrophe the government steps in. But here it seems like it's just us paying.”