2010-09-17 / Top Stories

Searching For Happy Ending To Ferry Tale

By Howard Schwach

The last Rockaway commuter ferry, the American Princess, ended in July. The last Rockaway commuter ferry, the American Princess, ended in July. Never give up the ship, especially when that ship is a commuter ferry from Rockaway to Manhattan.

As soon as the subsidized American Princess ceased operation in July, those locals who rode the ferry and appreciated the service went to work looking for a new ferry provider – one that was not subsidized by the city and therefore subject to the mayor’s whims.

“We need an alternative way to get off the peninsula,” said John Lepore, the president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways. “We set out to find somebody who would operate a non-subsidized service that would draw people from all over the peninsula and that would connect to the ferry service in Manhattan so there could be multiple destinations.”

“The key,” Lepore added, “will be a service that those who now drive to Manhattan can afford, that is reliable and that makes multiple stops in Rockaway.”

Lepore says that he believes he and the others pushing for a new ferry service have found that operator, but he won’t say who it is.

“He’s a legitimate player,” Lepore said, “but it’s not fair to make an announcement until the deal is done, which may be soon.”

The chamber president believes that problems still exist.

One is the cost. “We will not be able to keep the cost to $5 or $6,” he said. “But people who now drive to Manhattan and have to park their cars might find a 30-minute ride from Rockaway to Pier 11 an attractive alternative.”

“We’re trying to work it out so that the ferry will connect both to JFK Airport and to the water taxies that service midtown Manhattan,” he said. Rockaway ferry activist Joe Hartigan, who never missed a chance to call the former ferry service, “the wrong boat in the wrong place with the wrong schedule,” told Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska that he had put the boat owner together with local ferry activist Ellen McCarthy-Coyne.

“Basically, it’s like a car service for ferry riders,” Gaska said. “Get together 100 people who will split the cost each day and the ferry runs to Manhattan and back.”

Meanwhile, ferry activists continue to seek the perfect solution, a boat that can utilize several terminals throughout the peninsula, that will get to Manhattan in 45 minutes or less, and that will cost about $5 dollars.

So far, that dream has not been realized, but Lepore hopes that it will be realized one day.

“We’re really trying to get something that Rockaway badly needs,” Lepore said wistfully.

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