2013-07-05 / Editorial/Opinion

Pols Have To Get Onboard, Too

The Rockaway Ferry has been extended through Labor Day. This is good news, of course.

But it’s already time to start demanding permanent ferry service. And the City and our elected officials should be looking at options that can make this happen.

Historically, a Rockaway ferry has not gotten a fair shot. The last time there was regular ferry service it was operated out of Fort Tilden and departed at 5:30 a.m. The City said it required too much of a subsidy to continue. Well, yeah. Running a ferry at one end of the peninsula at an hour when most commuters are still in bed is a great way to run up a subsidy.

Staten Island has four times the population of Rockaway. Staten Island has a free ferry that runs 24 hours a day. In rush hour it runs every 15 minutes! Did we mention that it’s free?

The Staten Island ferry is subsidized to the tune of $108 million dollars a year. With a population of one fourth of Staten Island it would be reasonable of Rockaway to ask for one forth of their subsidy. We could have a very nice ferry service for $25 million a year.

But we won’t be so greedy and have the gall to ask the city for fairness.

We ask the City and our elected reps to be smart. A subsidy will be needed to float a Rockaway ferry. We know that. So why not consider tying the ferry route to Kennedy Airport. Let travelers pay $20 or $25 for the one way trip to downtown or East 34th Street. You’re a tourist and land at Kennedy and your choice is an expensive cab in snarled traffic or a crowded subway trip involving hauling your luggage up and down stairs.

Why not begin your New York vacation with views of the skyline from the water?

Or say you’re a businessman leaving or arriving in rush hour. A taxi has to fight traffic the whole way. A ferry offers another option.

Let such travelers pay a fare that will keep the cost for regular commuters at a reasonable level. Let tourists and out of town business people subsidize the ferry.

Joe Hartigan, the longtime ferry advocate, had that idea and has another that makes sense. The Casino at Aqueduct is doing fantastic business. But that place could benefit from ferry service as well. He suggests that our electeds get with management and spell out the benefits of a ferry that could bring people from the airport or parts of Manhattan to Aqueduct for some gambling. As it is, tourists must take the A Train and a shuttle to get from the City to Aqueduct. We bet few tourists do that. Offer a ferry there and people will look at the trip a whole lot differently.

Lastly, a ferry could possibly make multiple stops in Rockaway allowing for even more passengers to get onboard and thereby reducing the subsidy.

If a permanent ferry was established people who work on Wall Street and mid-town would look to live in Rockaway instead of Westchester and New Jersey. Every neighborhood on the peninsula would flourish.

We’ve been told The City is doing a ferry study. We must be skeptical of their findings. Remember the stuff about subsidies and the Fort Tilden ferry? Be on guard for their damn lies and statistics. A ferry study without considering a JFK or casino stop is shortsighted and inadequate.

Lastly, we’d like some proof time that our politicians were actually doing something instead of just saying they’re in favor of ferries. Of course, they’re in favor. But are they meeting with the Port Authority to discuss a JFK option? Are they meeting with different ferry operators? Are they talking with the casino? Are they serious about improving transit options for Rockaway? We demand that they actually to do something. And the first thing they should do is listen to Joe Hartigan.

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