Rockaway’s Ready For The Ferry
Members of the Community Board 14 Transportation Committee met with representatives from New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Hornblower Cruises and Events, the San Francisco based company charged with operations for the new Citywide Ferry Service, on Monday, to present the first scale-model of the new 149 passenger ferry superstructure recently completed by contractors with Horizon Shipyard and Metal Shark.
According to a NYCEDC spokesperson, the citywide ferry service will operate a total of 19 vessels at 21 different landings across the city and will carry an estimated 4.6 million riders per year.
Shuttle bus service will be provided free of charge, at both ends of the peninsula, and each trip on the ferry will cost approximately $2.75, the same as the current price of a Metro- Card.
For members of the Transportation Committee, one of the big concerns was a request for an earlier ferry, one which would depart at approximately 5:30 a.m., an hour before the first ferry is scheduled to leave.
“We really need, at the beginning of the ferry service [launch], a 5:30 a.m. boat,” said CB14 Transportation Committee Co-Chair Danny Ruscillo.
Much to the discontent of residents hoping for the earlier boat, NYCEDC said ferry service will depart from Rockaway every hour, from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Dolores Orr, Community Board 14 Chairwoman, suggested that instead of looking at the departure times, Hornblower should look to the time of arrival to make sure that Rockaway’s earliest ferry would arrive at Pier 11 in lower Manhattan by 7 a.m., so workers will be better able to get to work on time.
Citywide Ferry Project Manager Cameron Clark, reassured residents that the ferry system will have a handful of high capacity vessels available to use, should Rockaway need it for the upcoming summer season.
“There are some nuances between the core vessels and some of the ones designed to operate in Rockaway in a year round situation,” Clark said. “While all of these vessels will be interchangeable, we understand there are certain times of year with winds and currents and ‘sea state’ coming in, where the vessels in the Rockaways will actually have a taller freeboard. So, from the outside they look the same, feel the same, but are taller in the water.”
According to Clark, while the system is designed to fluctuate based on the frequency of ridership, the vessel designed for Rockaway will include an engine that is twice the size and horsepower of the others, to provide the propulsion capability necessary to traverse the waters around the peninsula year-round.
In addition to the state-of-the-art ferry system, barges are currently being constructed for the ferry landing. Although the barge requires permit applications from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, residents could see a ferry landing appear as early as January 2017.
Shuttle Bus Stops
Earlier this month, NYCEDC told The Wave of its plans for a free shuttle bus that will connect residents with the Citywide Ferry terminal at Beach 108th Street.
According to NYCEDC, the routes were developed based on a year-long community engagement effort and are in close proximity to densely populated areas and NYCHA developments.
The shuttle stops, which will stretch across nearly seven miles of roadway, will connect residents from as far east as Beach 35th Street and as far west as Beach 169th Street to the ferry landing at Beach 108th Street.
Transportation Committee Co- Chair Marty Ingram said that while the shuttle service would stretch across the peninsula, it does not include any stops in Broad Channel.
“We want to provide ample time on both ends,” an EDC spokesperson said. “This way the ferry is never waiting for the bus and the bus never misses the boat.”
Noreen Ellis, a fellow member of Community Board 14, said she felt that restricting access to the bus in Broad Channel would be a disservice to the community.
“Leaving Broad Channel out is like cutting off one of our arms,” Ellis said.
After further discussion with members of the committee, Orr suggested that the EDC include a third bus route, which would serve residents in Broad Channel and Howard Beach, and when it is not in operation, be made available as a spare for the other two routes.
As for rumors of an additional shuttle stop at Beach 116th Street, representatives of NYCEDC said they were targeting the areas of highest population density to make sure the ferry services the entire peninsula, including Breezy Point and Far Rockaway.
No Free Parking
Contrary to what NYCEDC had previously told members of the community, parking provided at the former National Grid site, along Beach Channel Drive and Beach 108th Street, will cost a “nominal fee.”
According to NYCEDC, in order to obtain the site, the ferry operator brokered a lease agreement with the natural gas and electric utility service provider.
“National Grid is undergoing their own remediation for the site itself,” EDC told members of CB14’s Transportation Committee. “We’re just looking at providing a surface on top that is good for people to park on and is ADA compliant.”
In light of the new information, which Hornblower failed to notify committee members about prior to the meeting, several residents in attendance voiced their concern with the additional fee.
“There should be no fee on parking whatsoever,” said CB14 Transportation Committee Co-Chairman Danny Ruscillo. “We also cannot allow people to park unless it’s for the ferry service.”
In regard to the $18.75 million in federal funding secured by former U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner, the EDC says there are a variety of solutions for what they can do with it. As part of the agreement, the funds will go toward capital expense costs associated with the ferry.
According to a spokesperson with the office of the Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, the BP feels the community should play a major role in the determination of how this money should be spent to better enhance the ferry-going experience.
“EDC and Hornblower were very much in agreement with this determination,” the spokesman said, “and both entities made a commitment to make sure that the community had a seat at the table when discussing how all available capital funds could and would be spent.”
In addition to the aforementioned issues, several additional topics were discussed, including pollution, local hires, MTA transfer policy and the protection of sea life.