2007-11-02 / Community

Rockaway Gets Some Waterfront Ferry Support

By Nicholas Briano

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces his plan for ferry service to Rockaway on the boardwalk in early May. Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces his plan for ferry service to Rockaway on the boardwalk in early May. The dream of commuter ferry service from the Rockaway Peninsula to Manhattan gained some much- needed support from The Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance (MWA), whose spokesperson testified before the City's Congestion Mitigation Commission this week about the benefits of the proposed service linking Rockaway with JFK Airport and Manhattan.

The MWA is a growing network of more than 300 organizations dedicated to helping parts of New York and New Jersey connect through ferries and other water-based modes of transportation. They also happen to be a big supporter of ferry service in the Rockaways.

MWA President and CEO, Roland Lewis, went before the committee on October 30 at York University in Queens. He said that the addition of ferry service throughout New York City will yield great dividends towards a cleaner environment and less traffic. The traffic strain on Manhattan is the main principle of Mayor Bloomberg's controversial Congestion Pricing Plan that would charge people to enter Manhattan with motor vehicles during certain times of the week.

"Ferries make great practical sense for the everyday commuter and economic sense for our public transportation system," Lewis said before the committee.

Lewis' testimony comes on the heels of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, which revealed earlier this year that $40 million would be dedicated to the development of ferry service throughout the city by the start of 2011. $20 million will be spent on 10 new boats, three which will be for Rockaway, and the remaining $20 million will go towards ferry landings, integration with bus and subway, and biodiesel fuel docks.

Lewis mentioned that the commuter woes that many people face now can be cured with a modest investment in ferry transit.

"The Mayor's $40 million generated through congestion pricing as proposed in PlaNYC would be a solid start," Lewis said.

Joe Hartigan, retired firefighter and Belle Harbor resident, has been supporting the notion of city-wide ferry service, including service to Rockaway, for more than eight years. He believes the Congestion Pricing Plan will work if it supports and improves New York City's transportation system, making everyone's commute to the city time and cost-effective.

MWA has suggested operating boats that would service Rockaway and JFK, and other areas of Brooklyn and Queens that would run in a type of inner New York Harbor loop. Hartigan believes, however, that he has a better idea.

"Instead of an inner harbor loop, the city should connect ferry service into larger parking lots throughout the outer boroughs of Manhattan," Hartigan said.

He wants cars and express buses to stop at shorefront parking lots, such as Rockaway's Riis Park, so that commuters can board a ferry to Manhattan, thus according to him, eliminating traffic and congestion.

Support has also come from Congressman Weiner in 2004 when he secured $15 million in funding towards the building of three new ferry boats that would service Rockaway. However, until the mayor finalizes his congestion pricing plan, nothing is likely to happen. In 2011, as the mayor told Rockaway earlier this year at a press conference, the city will go through a two-year testing period monitored by The Economic Development Corporation to see if the service fits appropriately with Bloomberg's PlaNYC.

It is also fair to point out that previous attempts at ferry service throughout the city have been denied because of high costs and lack of ridership support. However, Lewis believes that the time is right to finally move ahead with water-based commuting through congestion pricing.

"Congestion pricing translates into mass transit investment," Lewis said.

The investment will yield great dividends in a healthier and a stronger mode of transportation we can enjoy."

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