MTA wants NYC Marathon to pay $750K for Verrazzano Bridge tolls

April 3, 2024

The TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr

The New York City Marathon‘s spectacular starting point on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge may have a spectacular price tag. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants the New York Road Runners, the organizers of the race, to cough up $750,000 a year to make up for lost toll revenue when the bridge closes to traffic for the marathon, as the New York Times first reported. The MTA threatened to restrict the race to just one level of the bridge if the organization refused to agree to some form of payment.

Photo courtesy of Marc A. Hermann / MTA on Flickr

The New York Road Runners (NYRR) officials agreed to negotiate but have still not committed to a payment, prompting the MTA to give them an ultimatum. If the race is limited to one level of the bridge, organizers say they might allow fewer people to run. They could also make the race longer, keeping the bridge and local streets closed for an extended period and forcing more participants to run in the dark. The marathon, which expects to feature over 50,000 runners in November, has used both levels of the bridge since 1988.

According to the Times, the MTA also told Bike New York, an organization that uses the bridge’s lower level in the final section of its Five Boro Bike Tour, that it must pay the agency if it wants to use the bridge.

In 2021, the MTA required Bike New York to pay $62,500 for “personnel costs” related to closing a section of the bridge, the first time such a requirement has been asked of them since the event began in 1977. These costs have risen dramatically over the past three years, increasing to $88,000 in 2023.

The five-borough race is Bike New York’s main source of income, which is then put towards free cycling lessons and training formerly incarcerated New Yorkers to become mechanics for bike-share systems like Lyft and Citi Bike.

“It’s nothing less than a money grab that will impact the thousands of New Yorkers we serve who are mostly from under-resourced communities,” Kenneth Podziba, president and chief executive of Bike New York, told the Times.

NYRR began paying personnel costs in 2021 and was charged $150,000 for last year’s marathon.

Rob Simmelkjaer, chief executive of NYRR, penned a letter in February to Gov. Kathy Hochul, arguing against the MTA’s requirement and claiming that the marathon is now in danger, as reported by the Times. Simmelkjaer also said the event draws more than one million visitors to the city and provides major economic benefits.

Although the MTA has benefited from an increase in subway ridership on Marathon Sunday, the agency said it still expects “full reimbursement.”

“New Yorkers love Marathon Sunday, but taxpayers cannot be expected to subsidize a wealthy nongovernment organization like the New York Road Runners to the tune of $750,000,” Catherine Sheridan, president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, said in a statement. “The MTA is prepared to continue working toward a final agreement with the NYRR, provided it leads, over time, to full reimbursement for the lost revenue.”

Editor’s note 4/10/24: Gov. Kathy Hochul has ordered the MTA to stop its effort to charge the NYC Marathon for its use of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.


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