Eye On Rockaway
No one should be surprised at the decision made the by city’s Economic Development Corporation late last month to end Rockaway Ferry service. Responding by email to concerned residents who contacted his office about the ferry, Kyle Kimball, the EDC president, sounded like he had already made his decision.
Kimball pointed out – via form letter — how the ferry was supposed to be a transportation alternative after Superstorm Sandy. He also said the continued extension of the ferry has come at a “considerable cost that is unsustainable for the City in the long term.”
He provided numbers: the Rockaway Ferry costs approximately $30 per passenger to run (not deducting the $3.50 the commuter pays). The Staten Island ferry costs the city about $4.86 per rider with no cost to the commuter.
Then, he added the trump card by saying, “Over the course of a year this operating subsidy equates to several million dollars of added expense to the city’s budget — the same budget we use to pay teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers and police and provide other essential services.”
So there you have it. The Staten Island Ferry, which is wholly subsidized and where riders do not pay a cent and which carries thousands of more people than the Rockaway Ferry — so in theory must cost more to operate — can be afforded. So it is okay to take that same money out of the budget that would “pay teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers, and police and provide other services.”
I’m not even going to get into the fact that many of those who ride the Staten Island Ferry are tourists who want to experience one of New York’s most famous landmarks, while the Rockaway Ferry is used mainly to get people from transportation challenged Rockaway to work in the city.
The problem is, Kimball just doesn’t get it, especially when he says, “While we recognize that the ferry service provides a higher level of convenience and comfort that may not be available on these other forms of transportation, in our world of limited public resources, it is important to also consider issues of fiscal responsibility, sustainability and transportation equity; we should strive to serve as many New Yorkers as possible with our public dollars.” The history of the ferry shows it wasn’t meant to be temporary. With that comes the questions where the hundreds of thousands of dollars that State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. put toward the ferry when he was city councilman? Where is the millions of dollars former Congressman Anthony Weiner allocated for the ferry? Where is all this money that former Mayor Bloomberg refused to use? Does anyone know?
The ferry can still be saved. During an interview on a recent “Riding The Wave” podcast, Councilman Eric Ulrich told The Wave’s editor Mark Healey that “because it is an executive budget the mayor can still put the money in.” (You can download the podcast in full at www.-blogtalkradio.com/ridingthewavewithmarkhealey/ 2014/07/18/- interview-with-new-york-city-councilman eric-ulrich.)
Let’s hope that is what happens because it is more than “convenience and comfort.” As Ulrich said, the Rockaway Ferry is “not a luxury. It’s a lifeline.”