The Rockaway Ferry, based out of Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive, made its last official run on Friday, Oct. 31st, despite the efforts of a slew of residents, community activists and elected officials alike who campaigned for its permanent continuation.
Following a meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio last week regarding the ferry’s termination, a group of elected officials who represent parts of the Rockaways, including U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Borough President Melinda Katz, released the following joint statement:
“We are extremely disappointed about the decision to discontinue ferry service to the Rockaways. We will continue to fight for a ferry that the Rockaways deserve and need in order to connect the peninsula to lower Manhattan.”
State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who attended last week’s meeting with Mayor de Blasio, said the main issue for the administration was the cost of the Rockaway Ferry’s subsidy, which amounts to about $30 per rider, to sustain the ferry’s current one-way fare of $3.50 to lower Manhattan. City officials have said the subsidy is among the most expensive in the city.
Addabbo indicated that de Blasio was adamant, reportedly saying that “he’s not subsidizing this ferry to the tune of $30 per rider for about only 400 people.”
The mayor ended his meeting on the ferry by saying that “We’ll have better ferry service and a plan for Rockaway.” But, when pressed, Addabbo said he didn’t give any timeframe.
Calling the ferry termination a “very unfortunate” situation, Addabbo said that he saw workers just a few days ago already starting to dismantle the docking area at Beach 108th Street in Rockaway. He added, “It’s not just about the ridership, it’s about the whole peninsula; it’s isolated and has deplorable transportation options. Both the bus and trains from Rockaway are not reliable.”
Furthermore, Addabbo said that a reliable, full-time Rockaway Ferry that is operational seven days per week is central to opening up the Rockaway peninsula economically.
“It’s not about money—the mayor is just wrong on this,” Addabbo said, noting that the mayor should check into state and federal money first before stopping the ferry.
Joe Hartigan, a retired FDNY lieutenant and transportation advocate, is in lockstep with Addabbo when it comes to the Rockaway Ferry. Among Hartigan’s numerous arguments for keeping the Rockaway Ferry afloat is that nearly one-third of the subsidy for Staten Island’s free ferry comes from state money and that similar state money should also help fund Rockaway.
“Rockaway is like the Rodney Dangerfield of the city,” Hartigan said. “It gets no respect.”
In addition, Hartigan argued that former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s $15 million in federal money should and can be used as a subsidy for the ferry.
According to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit, open-government group, Weiner had requested and received $15 million in federal funding as capital to buy ferry boats for service to and from the Rockaway peninsula, but at the time the Bloomberg administration wasn’t on board with the project.
Asked whether he thinks the Rockaway Ferry may stage a comeback, Addabbo said it might be a while.
“I think there will again be ferry service in Rockaway, eventually,” he said.
In the meantime, he said he’ll continue to advocate and apply pressure to reactivate the ferry.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) said, “We will continue to do everything we can with City Hall to get the ferry back.” He added that the ferry was not a luxury, but rather a necessity for Rockaway.
By Alan Krawitz