2001-05-05 / Front Page

City Council Bigs Bid $300,000,

City Council Bigs Bid $300,000,

Ask, "Who Will Raise The Ante?"

By Howard Schwach

City Council speaker Peter Vallone and Noach Dear, the chairman of the powerful council Transportation Committee have announced that they are committing $300,000 toward subsidizing the Rockaway ferry service, which is scheduled to begin on June 1. The ferry, which will provide commuters with a quick mode of travel from the old Coast Guard Station to Wall Street, will have an initial cost of $13 each way.

"This cost is out of reach to anyone but the most affluent New Yorker," Vallone said. "If this new service is going to survive and flourish then the city and state must help cut the cost to passengers until ferry service providers have generated enough market demand to lower the cost on their own.
While the $300,000 will begin to address the subsidy issue for Rockaway commuters, Dear believes that both the state and federal governments have to raise the ante by kicking in their share.

"The money the city has put into the pot is just enough to give us some time to work out a way for the state and the federal governments to give their share," Dear says. "(Representative) Anthony Weiner and the Federal government have the power to allocate the money needed for the subsidy," he says. Where is Al Stabile? Where are the people who represent Rockaway in the state and the federal government? Why haven’t they been heard from? They are the ones who have the ability to get this done."

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer believes that the state will be able to respond to Vallone and Dear’s challenge. In fact, she has already been working on getting state funds for the ferry subsidy.

"I sent a letter last week to the speaker and the chair of the Ways and Means Committee," she told The Wave. "I asked them to budget money to help subsidize the Rockaway Ferry. The Ferry will help revitalize Rockaway at the same time it helps commuters get to work in a timely fashion. Even $5 or $6 for a one-way ride is too much for most Rockaway residents."

Dear, however, believes that Rockaways is wrong to focus on the ferry service to improve the lot of commuters.

"The ferry plan takes Rockaway’s eye off the ball," he says. "The focus should be on reopening the subway’s Q Line, the line that runs through White Pot Junction."

"All of the energy dedicated to improving transportation should be focused in that direction, not on a ferry."

Vallone does not agree.

"The Rockaways have been underserved for far too long," he says. "The ferry service could help stimulate a revival for a community that has not reaped the rewards of the city’s recent economic boom."

Vallone urged other groups to secure matching dollars.

"We are going to make this commuter ferry service a reality," he added.

The announcement comes on the heels of a prior announcement by Dear that the city would not subsidize the ferry service because it was not considered to be a commuter ferry.

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