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N.Y., N.J. port retirees: Give back free bridge, tunnel crossings

January 6, 2012 |  6:55 am

Gw bridgeWhoever thought bridge tolls could go so high? Certainly not retirees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. They're now embroiled in an ugly fight with their former bosses after they lost perks that included lifetime free rides over the bridges and through the tunnels the authority manages.

Coming at a time of unprecedented toll hikes by the authority, it's questionable whether the plaintiffs will win a lot of public support. A series of toll increases, which began taking effect in September, eventually will lead to $15 fees to enter New York from New Jersey at some crossings. In fact, the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., on Friday said the angry retirees win the week's award for chutzpah.

"It is the entitlement mentality gone wild," the newspaper's editorial said in part.  

But the man who launched the class-action suit, Thomas Westfield, says he's simply demanding the perk he was promised before he retired from the Port Authority police force in 1998.  

His suit says the authority promised employees free passes over the Hudson River crossings linking New Jersey and New York, which the agency manages, as well as free parking at the area's three major airports: La Guardia, John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty. They also are managed by the Port Authority. The perks were to be enjoyed during employment "and for life upon successful retirement," said Westfield's suit.

"It was a lifetime promise," the New York Post reported Westfield as saying.

Last year, the authority revoked the perks for financial reasons. Westfield's suit was filed in December and about 400 plaintiffs have joined the class-action. The Port Authority's executive director, Patrick Foye, has come back swinging, calling the lawsuit "offensive" and vowing to have officials investigate whether the retirees who have enjoyed the free rides in the past reported the savings to the tax man.

-- Tina Susman in New York

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Photo: Nice bridge, but is it worth paying to drive over? The George Washington Bridge linking New Jersey to New York City is among those that some retirees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey say should be free for retirees. Credit: Julio Cortez/Associated Press

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