The Short History of Queensboro Bridge Tolls
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.