Borough legislators pressed the mayor last month to extend Rockaway ferry service for a fifth time before it expires by the end of October.
But now, more than a month later, little is known about the fate of the ferry based out of Beach 108th Street.
The boat service launched as an alternative to the A train, which was knocked out in 2012 in the wake of destruction to the peninsula caused by Superstorm Sandy. Area residents hailed the ferry service as a good way to jump-start flagging economic growth throughout the Rockaways. But the city said it was unconvinced that the ferry’s financial cost was sustainable, and indicated that the service would not run past October.
The current one-way fare for the ferry to lower Manhattan is $3.50, but it is highly subsidized by the city’s Economic Development Corporation—to the tune of $25 to $30 per trip; among the most expensive in the city, according to EDC officials.
Michael Scholl, a spokesman for Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, said that “The BP is still pressing for the extension of the service, although its current end date is still next month.”
Scholl pointed to a recent letter Katz wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling for the service to be extended through next summer. Katz argued that an extension of the ferry’s service would allow the city to better measure ridership. The borough president’s letter also requested a continuation of all service, including weekends, which have not been part of the current plan.
“It is difficult to assess ridership when the city has decreased the opportunity for the ferry to be used… making the ferry available to riders on the weekend opens the Rockaways up to new avenues of much needed tourism to the area’s beaches, business and cultural events,” Katz wrote.
She added that the ferry would provide more opportunities for economic development, vital to small communities that continue to recover and rebuild from Sandy.
Moreover, Katz said that “… A direct line of permanent transportation gives residents more adequate access to the Manhattan job market, providing better opportunities for growth and prosperity among Rockaway residents.”
State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) has been a vocal supporter of the ferry service.
“The ferry service is not a luxury, but a necessity for our families and small businesses,” Goldfeder said. “It became evident after Sandy that we need to increase public transit options and improve our transportation infrastructure for our geographically isolated communities in southern Queens and Rockaway. Like every other borough in the city, we deserve an affordable, efficient and reliable means of transportation.”
Goldfeder also said that while the Rockaway ferry service was not included in the final city budget, the community will not give up the fight.
“I am optimistic the mayor will make the right choice, and I will continue to work with the community and my colleagues in government to pressure the Mayor to support our struggling neighborhoods,” he said.
De Blasio’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the fate of the ferry.
Transportation advocates previously sought and won another extension of service back in February, when it was supposed to expire prior to de Blasio agreeing to a continuation.
Goldfeder and the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association helped collect thousands of signatures in an online petition calling to make the ferry service permanent.
“The ferry service is not just solely for Rockaway residents, but would increase intra-borough connectivity and help create jobs,” Goldfeder noted.
By Alan Krawitz