Ferry Plans Wrought With Variables, Hang-Ups
There was no ferryboat in sight – literally and figuratively – on Wednesday when Representative Anthony Weiner, Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and City Councilman Joe Addabbo Jr. held a press conference to talk about ferry service to/from Riis Landing.
Weiner called the conference to trumpet his allocation of $15 million dollars to buy three ferries for Rockaway in a huge transportation bill that is being finalized between the House of Representatives and the Senate. But the numbers the legislature is batting around are billions of dollars above what President Bush has indicated he would support, so the chance exists that the $15 million could be trimmed like fat from a pork loin.
Weiner, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, optimistically said the money would be used to purchase three boats for the city – eliminating what he called the “main obstacle” to ferry service in Rockaway: the cost of buying the boats. The ferries would bring commuters from Riis Landing in Rockaway’s western end, to either the 69 Street Pier or the Brooklyn Army Terminal and then continue on to Manhattan. The charge would be $3.50 to $4. one-way – competitive with express bus service and Weiner said he would push for free parking.
If the funding survives, the ferries could be running as soon as 18 months after Bush signs off on the bill if the city agrees to come up with an additional 20 percent, less than $4 million, Weiner said.
Meanwhile, Addabbo spoke about his separate effort to bring ferry service to Rockaway. “The dock is beautiful,” he said of the new $1.7 million ferry landing completed early last month. “It’s missing one thing – a boat,” Addabbo continued.
For the last three fiscal years Addabbo has watched a $300,000 subsidy languish unspent and now says the Department of Transportation is dragging its feet in spending the money for political reasons. Mayor Bloomberg may be saving a ribbon cutting so it happens during his reelection campaign, Addabbo charged.
The DOT released a notice to prospective private ferry service providers last month promising to subsidize a portion of the provider’s operating cost using the $300,000, but a spokesperson says the agency is still “just in the beginning stages,” of finding a provider. The DOT notice carries no deadline.
Addabbo, who called the situation “deplorable,” asked for the DOT to set a “definitive timeline.”
Weiner said ferry service is an obvious choice for Rockaway but conceded there could be rough seas ahead. “This is not a done deal yet,” he said.