‘Significant Opportunity For Ferry’
By Howard Schwach
The on-again, off-again plan for a commuter ferry service that would bridge Rockaway and Manhattan possibly moved one step closer to fruition last week as local officials and politicians took Arthur Imperatore, Jr., the President of New York Waterway, on a bus tour of Rockaway.
The tour, which included the Playland development, Riis Landing, Arverne By The Sea and Beach 116 Street, was designed to show Imperatore that there was lots of development in Rockaway that could bring ridership to his ferry company.
After the tour, Pat Smith, a spokesperson for New York Waterway told The Wave that Imperatore "saw significant opportunity for ferry service in the area."
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who was on the tour, said that she told Imperatore that "the people are lined up on the dock waiting for your service."
The Borough President and other politicians have asked the Port Authority to fund a feasibility study to find out if a commuter service between Rockaway and Manhattan is feasible, the first step to the city’s approval for the service.
Congressman Anthony Weiner told The Wave that he was looking to the Regional Plan Association to do a study as well.
"Imperatore showed some level of interest and enthsiam for the project. He has always been against taking subsidies because he doesn’t want to become a ‘city service.’ Obviously, he wants to see some numbers," Weiner says. "We have to show him what the demand will be and what the price point will be before he can make any decision on starting a service from Rockaway."
Borough President Marshall said that she and Congressman Anthony Weiner would be working to see if there is any money available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for the ferry due to the fact that so many Rockaway residents were impacted by the World Trade Center Attack and by the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Belle Harbor.
She said that Imperatore was impressed with the Arverne By the Sea project and by the amount of housing going up all over the peninsula.
Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska was on the tour as well.
He told The Wave that Imperatore seemed interested in the old Coast Guard site at Fort Tilden, a site that housed Riis Landing, a reconstructed ferry landing.
He also indicated that Imperatore was interested in finding another ferry landing further east at a later date.
"This is really the last frontier of growth for ferries in New York City," Gaska said. "He was really interested in pursing the project."
Gaska said that New York Waterway does not usually require subsides to run a service, but that he might need one to begin a Rockaway service because of the low ridership potential at the present time.
A year ago, a $300 thousand subsidy was put into the city budget, but Mayor Guiliani removed it prior to his leaving office.
City Council members James Sanders and Joe Addabbo placed the money back into the council’s budget this year, but the mayor has yet to act on that budget.
Transportation experts have argued that a subsidy was necessary for any ferry service connecting Rockaway with Manhattan.
Among those who took the May 9 tour were Congressman Greg Meeks, Congressman Anthony Weiner, State Senator Malcolm Smith, Assemblymembers Audrey Pheffer and Michele Titus, Councilmembers James Sanders and Joe Addabbo, Borough President Helen Marshall, Chamber Executive Director Liz Sulik,14 CB District Manager Gaska, RDRC Executive Director Curtis Archer, Arverne By The Sea developer Les Lerner and Marc Koenings, the superintendent of Gateway National Park.