The sky looked ominous–with that deep gray harbinger of possible thunderstorms–as the sun set on Tuesday, October 5. Hundreds of fed-up residents of Rockaway and Broad Channel were undaunted. By 6:30 p.m., a revved-up crowd had gathered along Beach Channel Drive at the foot of the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge in Rockaway Beach.
The drive-through at McDonald’s Restaurant was all but shut down as the assemblage pressed forward toward the ramps. The bullhorn was alternately “manned” by two of the best practitioners on the peninsula–Democratic District Leader Lew Simon and Congressman Anthony Weiner. Reporters and camera crews from New York 1 and WPIX Channel 11 made the trek to cover the event, as did both Rockaway newspapers.
An unofficial cheering contest had a clear outcome–Rockaway Beach and Broad Channel had sent the largest (or at least the loudest) contingents. Informative and inventive signs and banners caught the breeze. The message I wrote on my placard (which WPIX featured for a moment on the 11 o’clock news broadcast) was this: “Far Rockaway’s median income is $27,800. Does MTA Care?”
The rain held off, and the spirited group chanted “No More Tolls” in unison, ascending up the ramp. Greeted by supportive waves and horn blasts from numerous passing cars and buses, the marchers seemed to enjoy the short jaunt over the span.
Arriving at the toll booths on the other side, the crowd assembled again for another bullhorn rally and a long stretch of chanting and cheering. Rally organizers advised all to return via the footpath on the east side of the bridge. A few rabble-rousers lobbied to return in the car lanes (against the terms of the assembly permit); the effort was quickly squelched, so nobody had to be arrested.
Landing back on the Rockaway side, marchers were handed complimentary 16 ounce cans of Monster Mixxd Energy Juice donated by a sponsor. If you can decipher the list of ingredients on the side of that can of stuff, you stand a chance of figuring out how the MTA manages to stay in business. Their “success” in running the buses and railroads is as artificial as the ingredients in the “juice.”