Cruise To Somewhere
During my first week as the new editor of The Wave, I immediately began immersing myself into the pressing issues of Rockaway. The fate of the ferry and the obvious need for a long-term solution to a complex problem seemed a logical place to begin my understanding of the peninsula. So perhaps it was more than random circumstance that landed me on a stranded ferry boat in the middle of Jamaica Bay on Wednesday afternoon.
Let me be clear; in no way should the mishap be viewed as anything other than what it was, a random hiccup. What should have been a small victory in a long-waged battle by ferry activist and local resident Joe Hartigan, has instead been categorized by some media – local and otherwise – as some kind of “trial ferry run gone wrong.”
That is both uninformed and unfair.
“This minor incident should not and will not deter our community from fighting for permanent ferry service,” Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder agreed. “Rockaway is severely underserved by public transportation and for many families and small businesses still struggling to recover from Sandy, the ferry has become a lifeline.”
We got stuck, got inconvenienced for an hour or so, the FDNY “rescued us,” and I was back at the office by 2 p.m. No harm, no foul, and certainly not an event that should in any way, shape or form distract anyone from the core issue at hand: Rockaway needs a permanent solution to its ferry situation, and it needs it sooner rather than later.
Before getting stuck in the mud, Barker was very accessible to both the press and concerned residents onboard the vessel – which is smaller than the actual boats that make the Manhattan commute by more than half – answering many questions about the short-term and long-term issues facing any future ferry service.
Barker admitted that weekend trips, adding stops along the way, the potential for a JFK airport run were all reachable goals, but no tangible talks have been proposed for any of those services in the foreseeable future.
“I do what the EDC tells me,” he said. “No one has discussed anything like that with me.”
Hartigan – who according to a local business owner who was along for the ferry ride is the “most informed person in Rockaway on the peninsula” – had negotiated for weeks to get Seastreak to come and interact with residents, business owners and the media. He felt if he could “get them down here, maybe we could start getting some answers to our many questions.”
The process was going wonderfully until an uncharted shoal – which Barker said may have been formed by the aftereffects of Superstorm Sandy — interrupted the informative Q & A session. Barker was available during the entire time we were “stranded” and his people acted with the utmost professionalism and ability. When New York’s Bravest showed up to take us off the disabled ship, the transfer went smoothly and without incident. To even suggest that this was a foreshadowing of things to come is irresponsible and simply not true.
A flat tire on the Belt Parkway can strand you for a couple of hours, too. Doesn’t stop anyone from taking the Belt, does it?
The real concern is the inaction of the city and its agencies to rectify a growing and obvious problem.
And to Joe Hartigan, Jim Barker and the Seastreak folks, let me know what time the next cruise leaves, I’ll be there.