Ferry Close To Being Reality
By John C. McLoughlin
"If we build it, they will come," Congressman Anthony Weiner said in response to news this week that Gateway National Recreation Area has agreed to provide a landing for private ferry service to and from the Rockaways.
After several meetings with the National Park Service in New York and Washington, D.C., Weiner secured an agreement from Gateway Superintendent Billy Garrett that the park will make available a docking area at the old Coast Guard Station in Roxbury (across from Ft. Tilden).
Gateway's interest in ferry service for Rockaway stemmed from plans to create water-based transportation to its parks throughout the Metropolitan area. Garrett said Gateway's objective is "increasing the ability to provide visitor access to parks, while working with the community."
The pilot program, which is expected to run from one to three years, requires no major capital investment and targets multiple ferry operators.
"We're being as flexible as possible for ferry owners to explore this site as a viable market," Garrett said.
At a meeting sponsored by the Friends of Gateway, a presentation was made to several ferry operators from the Metropolitan area and out-of-state. John Finley, business manager of Gateway National Recreation Area, said there was "a very positive response" by the ferry operators to this proposal. Finley and Friends of Gateway will be following up with each of these ferry operators and contacting other companies that did not attend this first meeting.
"For years we heard it couldn't be done," Weiner said. "But, with a docking area available, a major infrastructural obstacle to Rockaway ferry service will be out of the way. We are now one giant step closer to seeing ferry service in the Rockaways. Now the ball is in the private sector's court."
Part of the plan by Gateway includes the creation of a hub, using the former maintenance site next to the Coast Guard Station. This hub would house concession stands and provide transportation and complimentary visitor services. Hub and ferry operations could be separate.
Parking for ferry riders would be in Riis Park, which offers 9,000 parking spaces. Presently, Gateway has secured an electric tram, which is one possible means of transportation from parking to ferry.
Gateway will commence formal solicitations of ferry service providers to begin service in the summer of 2000.
"We don't want factories or an obscured view of the water," Finley said. "We want to return the waterfront to the people."