2009-10-09 / Top Stories

Local Dems Come Out To Support Gulluscio

By Nicholas Briano

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Democratic District Leader Lew Simon joined City Council candidate Frank Gulluscio outside the ferry landing this week, demanding better transportation in the Rockaways. State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Democratic District Leader Lew Simon joined City Council candidate Frank Gulluscio outside the ferry landing this week, demanding better transportation in the Rockaways. Local Democratic elected officials came out this week at Riis Landing to put their support behind City Council candidate Frank Gulluscio in his bid to defeat Republican incumbent Eric Ulrich.

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and Democratic District Leader Lew Simon joined Gulluscio at a press conference outside the ferry landing Tuesday afternoon calling on better transportation services to and from the Rockaways.

"Transportation is the key to our growth," Gulluscio said at the press conference. "This is not an empty promise."

With the ferry pilot program scheduled to come to an end in late spring of next year, Gulluscio claims he is the man to get better and more adequate means of transportation to the Rockaways.

But with that said, questions circulated about suspected campaign literature anonymously handed out the day before to ferry riders claiming that Eric Ulrich is pulling the funding for the ferry. Gulluscio and his campaign denied any involvement in such literature, stating he is running a clean campaign.

When asked if it was true that Ulrich was indeed planning to pull the funding, Gulluscio replied that he didn't know but insisted he had nothing to do with the claims.

The ferry has already been funded for a two-year pilot run by the current mayoral administration. Whether or not the ferry service will continue past May 2010 is contingent on several factors including ridership and whether or not the ferry service can be self-sustained without any government subsidy. It is unlikely, unless ridership improves dramatically, that the ferry will be capable of paying for itself without any subsidy while still keeping it affordable, officials have said.

The next councilmember, whether it be Ulrich or Gulluscio, will have a difficult time convincing the city that the ferry deserves subsidies when the ferry only serves a limited number of people per day.

Tom Fox, president and CEO of Harbor Enterprises, the company that operates New York Water Taxi and the Rockaway Ferry, said back in May that service can't survive unless it becomes subsidized like all other forms of public transportation. "We're hopeful of it becoming permanent," Fox said. "But not without subsidies. It's needed to keep the ferry at an affordable price."

Subsidies are important because at this point, ridership is contingent on the weather. During the winter months, Fox says, they only average 130-170 riders a day, as opposed to the summer months when ridership averages between 350 and 400 per day.

The peninsula as a whole is growing at a rapid pace, but the ferry isn't reasonably accessible and time effective to most residents east of Beach 116 Street, which may be an explanation for the ridership thus far. Community activist and ferry enthusiast Joe Hartigan has suggested that in order to make ferry service work it has to be done the right way, which includes high speed boats with additional stops along the peninsula, giving residents better access to the ferry.

The city has still refused to use the $15 million in federally allocated funding from Congressman Anthony Weiner to purchase two high speed ferry boats that could be used to get residents into Manhattan.

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