By Jimmy Vielkind
The M.T.A. rescue bill passed the State Assembly by a comfortable 30-vote margin Wednesday night, but it didn't get any votes from Staten Island.
All four members who represent Richmond County—Lou Tobacco, Matt Titone, Michael Cusick and Janele Hyer-Spencer—voted no on the measure. Tobacco, the lone Republican Assembly member from New York City, introduced a hostile amendment to exempt the Verrazano Narrows bridge from a 10 percent increase on fares and tolls.
That was the principle sticking point for the members.
"I felt frustrated that I had no seat at the table," Tobacco told me by phone. "I tried, respectfully, for a few months to get my input to those who were negotiating and I felt I was making no impact. I felt the statement needed to be made, and all of my colleagues needed to hear about the inequity that Staten Islanders' face."
Tobacco has also been passing out the above bumper stickers to frustrated residents.
Titone voted for the amendment, and against the eventual bill, which passed the chamber 86 to 56.
In the Senate, the State Islanders split along party lines. Senator Andrew Lanza, a Republican, voted against the bill while Senator Diane Savino, a Democrat, voted for it. It passed by a much narrower margin in that chamber: 32 to 29.
I spoke with Titone about his votes this morning.
"It is a good bill, even though I did vote against it. Something had to be done, and this is responsible, and I'm really, really pleased with taking these first steps toward reform. But for Staten Islanders, even that one extra dollar is a lot. We cannot get into a car without paying," he said. "The dissenting vote was based on principle and nothing else, and fortunately being in the Assembly majority we have that luxury."
Jimmy Vielkind can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org