2004-05-14 / Front Page

Boat Ramp Back In Business

By Brian Magoolaghan

The Beach Channel High School boat ramp will reopen to the public as soon as a quick fix-up is completed at the popular watercraft launching spot, City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. told The Wave.

The city will spend about $450,000 over the next few weeks to restore the ramp and the school’s private dock so it can return to service on or about the official start of summer – June 21, said Addabbo, who secured the majority of the funding from the City Council’s "rainy day fund." The ramp will be open to everyone – just as it had been since the school was opened in 1973, according to Addabbo and a Department of Education spokesperson.

"I was only interested in pushing for the project if it would be open to the public," said Addabbo, who added that the DOE had a "liability concern."

News of the reopening is sure to be as sweet as a summer breeze to the many displaced trailer boaters and local business owners negatively affected by the ramp’s closure two years ago.

"Without that ramp there’s no reason [for boaters] to come to the area," said Buster of Buster’s Marine in Broad Channel. Local bait and tackle shops, marine supplies – even oil suppliers and delis – were negatively affected as boaters were forced to look to Long Island or Staten Island in search of water access.

"It is definitely welcome news... it will make things nicer for the majority of my customers," said Buster, who told The Wave he created a petition and collected a long list of signatures of people supporting a reopening.

Trailer boating has become a popular alternative to using a marina – especially in New York City, where dockage fees run upwards of $60 per foot for the boating season, with additional fees for launching and hauling.

Nick Annese, a Rockaway resident who sold his 19-foot Wellcraft and trailer a few years back said he has thought about purchasing a new boat, but is waiting to see what happens with the ramp, because the cost of docking is "completely out of hand."

Annese pointed out that boaters also used the ramp to pull their vessels for repair.

Neither Addabbo nor the School Construction Authority was sure if or when a full renovation of the ramp and dock would happen, but Addabbo estimated that such a project would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile, State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer has cosponsored a bill to establish the "boat launch preservation act," which would provide funding of about $5 million per year for ramps throughout the state.

Photographs of a crane pulling a wrecked car and a three-axle trailer, among other debris, from the waters of Jamaica Bay in front of the 30-year-old ramp appeared in The Wave last week. The boat ramp was closed in 2002 and remained shuttered through all of the 2003 boating season.

"We got a lot of calls when it closed…I know how important it is to the community," Addabbo said. "It’s part of Rockaway life."

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