2013-12-06 / Top Stories

A Ferry Strong Commitment

By Katie McFadden

Rockaway finally has its ferry, but come January 31st, it could sail away forever. Bayswater resident Laura Deckelman is doing her part to make sure the ferry stays by committing to ride it every day until it is made permanent.

Deckelman doesn’t work in Manhattan. Yet every day, she pays the $2 fare each way and rides Rockaway’s newest form of transportation to make sure that another person is counted towards the ridership numbers. The numbers are being monitored by SeaStreak, the company that provides the ferry service, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which subsidizes the costs to run it, to see if the ferry is worth keeping around.

“I’m trying to urge other people to ride the ferry because we need to get ridership up to keep it permanent,” Deckelman said. “I can’t tell other people to get on the ferry, but if I do it every day and they count how many people, then it’s an extra person and it is important to get those numbers up.” She has noticed that there has been a big drop in ridership from the summer months.

Even though Deckelman doesn’t particularly have to go anywhere when she takes the ferry, she has her own reasons for why she rides every day, besides being counted as an extra rider. The scenery can’t be beat, and for a professional photographer, the stunning sunrises, sunsets, bridges and buildings that are seen along the way are the perfect subjects to be caught on camera.

Deckelman brings her camera along for every ride to capture it all, no matter what the weather is like. “I found that every time I went on the ferry, even though it rides through the same places, the pictures are different. The mood is different,” Deckelman said.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy, Deckelman has documented Rockaway every step of the way, from the destruction to the recovery. Her Facebook account is flooded with albums of scenery from

Rockaway and different events that have taken place, from the opening of the MoMa PS1 Dome, to the September 11th ceremony at the Tribute Park, to the Rockaway Rising event that was done to commemorate the first anniversary of Sandy. Her photographs are often published by The Wave and have been featured in some art galleries.

Deckelman started taking photos on her ferry rides and posted them on Facebook, making sure to tag SeaStreak in them. A few weeks ago, the company contacted her and asked her for permission to use her stunning photos to promote the Rockaway ferry ride. She granted the company permission, without asking for compensation. “Anything I’m doing for the Rockaways, I wouldn’t want to be paid,” she said. SeaStreak has shared several of her photos featuring sunrises, sunsets, the Verrazano Bridge, the Freedom Tower and more.

Deckelman hopes that through her photos, people will be inspired to ride the ferry as well. “Maybe they don’t realize what the ferry ride is like. This is to bring attention to the ferry, to promote it, to bring people on so they can see how awesome it is,” she said.

Another rider who appreciates the quick, inexpensive and scenic route is Deckelman’s own husband, Paul, who works around Wall Street and takes the ferry every morning.

“I used to take the A train in. The A train is nice. It’s pretty scenic, but once you’re back on the mainland after Broad Channel, that’s about it. You’re looking at backyards and gas stations and it’s a boring ride,” Paul Deckelman said. “The ferry is great for scenery. You look out the window and see the ocean and ships going by. No two rides are exactly alike.”

Paul also spoke of the other advantages of certain amenities on the ferry, which the subway lacks, such as widescreen TV’s to watch the morning news, a cash bar, padded seats and a restroom. He also spoke of what it would mean if the ferry would cease to exist after January 31st.

“It’s a vital and important part of the lives of many people. If the city and SeaStreak are not able to work out an arrangement to make it permanent, many people will be disappointed,” he said. Laura Deckelman’s passion for the Rockaway ferry is apparent through her actions of riding every day, attending rallies to support it and photographing each ride. “If we lose the ferry, and I’m optimistic we won’t, I feel it would be a tremendous blow to Rockaway,” she said. “This community lost so much during Sandy. There are only two good things that came from Sandypeople who didn’t know each other became close friends, and the Rockaway ferry. The ferry just brings happiness.” Deckelman is one of the eightmember strong “Rockaway Committee to Save the Ferry.”

The other members, John Cori, Joe Hartigan, Phil McManus, Barbara and Eddy Pastore and Danny and Linda Ruscillo, have all dedicated their time and passion to try to make the ferry permanent by organizing and attending rallies, handing out flyers and urging politicians to make the ferry a permanent staple in the Rockaway community.

The committee, along with the Beach 116th Street Partnership and the new Hospitality and Entertainment Association for Restaurants and Taverns (HEART), have all sent letters along with Deckelman’s photos to New York City’s next mayor, Bill de Blasio, urging him to commit to keeping the ferry going. Incoming Queens Borough President Melinda Katz passed the letters along to de Blasio and will write one herself. De Blasio has given mixed opinions on the ferry. When first asked about the ferry in August, de Blasio’s campaign staff said he was committed to keeping it. However, when it got closer to election time, he seemed to backtrack on his commitment, telling Wave editor Kevin Boyle, “I am a big believer in ferries but I’m gonna be honest with people – until I look under the hood of the budget situation I’m going to be careful not to make commitments I can’t keep.”

While de Blasio may be afraid of commitment, Deckelman is sticking to hers and her fellow committee members are right behind her. “What she’s doing is unbelievable,” Rockaway Committee to Save the Ferry member Linda Ruscillo said. “It’s very self-sacrificing. It shows her passion for this ferry and what should be done if you want to keep the numbers up.”

Deckelman has created a special Facebook page to help promote the ferry. Search for “Rockaway United to Save Our Ferry!!” to keep updated on the progress of the ferry fight.

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