Rockaway Deserves A High-Speed Ferry Service
It is most encouraging to note that the newly created website rockawayferry. com has attracted significant interest in ferry service for the Rockaway Peninsula. Over 4,000 people were curious enough to find out about this new mode of transportation for our neighborhood, indicating an interest in this type of transportation.
Now that the Rockaways has finally gotten the much-needed attention from New York City officials to turn this idea into reality, and as one who has worked on this project for more than eleven years, I urge the peninsula residents to consider the following vital points related to its design and implementation.
First, we must expect a high-speed boat for our neighborhood. If we were to settle for a vessel similar to the one featured on the website, this new service will be doomed to failure. I participated in several test runs between Rockaway and Wall Street. One run conducted by SEASTREAK FERRY COMPANY took 32 minutes via a 300 passenger boat. On January 11, 2005, NEW ENGLAND FAST FERRY completed the Wall Street to Riis Landing run in 28 minutes, then continued on to the Arverne by the Sea vicinity, totaling 37 minutes. We cannot allow anything but a highspeed boat to provide us with this service.
After all, if the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation can provide a $4.6 million subsidy and the operator can provide a new highspeed catamaran boat between Yonkers and Wall Street, we certainly deserve the same set-up.
Sometime ago, Congressman Anthony Weiner announced that he secured $15 million of federal funds for the development of a Rockaway ferry service. Two years ago, I contacted Mr. Weiner's office to inquire about the fund's whereabouts - via telephone and registered mail, but as of today, I have not received a response! The reason why this question must be answered is due to the fact that NEW ENGLAND FAST FERRY could build three new high speed boats with these funds. I am sure Tom Pollidano of TWFM could also secure new vessels with this amount of funding. So, I ask, whatever happened to this money?
This new transportation service must include stops at three locations: Riis Landing, Beach 110 Street and Beach Channel Drive, and at the Arverne by the Sea vicinity. At Beach 110 Street, the City of New York owns 1,400 feet of bay-front property and on both sides of the street along Beach Channel Drive, approximately 60 cars could park. Also, if New York City would permit parking around the LIPA site there would be room for an additional 200 vehicles. Shuttle service along Shore Front Parkway from Beach 72 Street to Beach 108 Street could be developed and since this Beach 110 Street ferry stop is within close distance to many residents, they could choose to walk or bike to catch the boat. Bike racks at the docks and on the boats could be installed to encourage this "green" way to commute. Furthermore, Arverne by the Sea purchased property on the bay which could easily accommodate 500 vehicles. A ferry dock would also enable these new tenants and homeowners to walk to the ferry. A barge with pilings connected to a ramp from the street could be quickly installed at both Beach 110 Street and the Arverne site. After all, since the majority of the peninsula's population growth is occurring on the east end, it is only logical and economical to establish service at locations beyond the WEST END. These other locations would also guarantee commuters an express bus or train option in the event he/she misses the last ferry, which is a real concern for commuters.
Again, we need to consider where the housing/apartment development is occurring. As confirmed by representatives from West End Realty and Walsh Properties, there are currently over 150 available apartments between Beach 80 and Beach 120 Streets with an additional 500 units under construction. Surely we should not be designing a ferry service that would force people to drive to Riis Landing!
I also urge Rockaway residents to voice their concerns related to the type of ferry operator selected for this new transportation option, i.e., How is the company's safety record? What about the operator's on time performance? How often are boats out of service for repairs or violations?
Finally, the residents of Rockaway must insist on a test run with the two top bidders, for the purpose of confirming their advertised commuting times. Rockaway residents have been promised so much over the past years when, at the end of the day, we were shortchanged. Fortunately, we now received a promise from Mayor Bloomberg that we will be provided with an efficient and affordable transportation alternative. If Staten Island can receive a FREE ferry service along with more than 400 express buses into Manhattan, I sincerely believe Rockaway deserves a subsidized high-speed ferry service for all the peninsula residents. It is about time we are given a respectable transportation alternative that will not take 20 years to implement.