2000-09-02 / Front Page

Ferry Landing At Gateway

Commuter Service In The Future?
By John C. McLoughlin

Exactly 10 years after ferry service from the Rockaways to Manhattan was cancelled, Gateway National Recreation had a ceremonial "christening" of a new ferry site this week at the old Coast Guard station in Rockaway Point.

Officials from the National Park Service announced in late March that Gateway National Recreation Area would provide a landing for private ferry service to and from the Rockaways as part of a one to three year pilot program. At the time of the announcement, Gateway Superintendent Billy Garrett said their objective was "increasing the ability to provide visitor access to parks while working with the community." Gateway’s interest in ferry service for Rockaway stemmed from plans to create water-based transportation to its parks throughout the metropolitan/tri-state area (Staten Island, Sandy Hook, etc.).

According to John Finley, business manager of Gateway, the project is being "funded and solely under the direction of the National Park Service to provide an alternative transportation network between National Parks and New York Harbor."

Since March’s announcement there has been underwater demolition and relocating of slips in an effort to prepare the Coast Guard site for possible ferry service. This pilot program does not require major capital investment by National Park Service.

Finley told The Wave that several ferry operators have "expressed an interest" in the proposed ferry service, including Seastreak America, Inc. Seastreak provided a test voyage around Jamaica Bay for those who attended the unveiling ceremony on Thursday, August 31.

Although the ferry slip is "good to go", there have been no firm commitments or contracts arranged between private ferry operators and the National Park Service. Finley said that Parks needs to "work out details -- schedules -- frequency [of service] -- with operators."

Gateway’s primary reason for ferry service is transporting visitors among its parks, but they have also agreed to keep the community’s interest of commuter service in mind. This week Gateway received an electronic tram, similar to those used at Disney, to transport riders of the ferry from the parking lot at Riis Park to the Coast Guard station.

As for the cost to individuals riding the ferry, Finley said, "We haven’t determined that yet." There are no plans to subsidize the ferry at this time.

It was 10 years ago this week that ferry service came to a halt in the Rockaways. For five months, Metro Marine Express offered a 327-passenger ferry running from an Inwood terminal at Jamaica Bay to Wall street in Manhattan with stops at Breezy Point and East 34 street.

At that time, Gregory Mendenhall, president of Metro Marine Express, said that failure to attract enough passengers was the reason for stopping service. Many residents said that the cost of the ferry was too expensive. Although the ferry provided a faster ride than subway or bus service, the high cost was a sour note with the working class residents of the peninsula.

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