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A Boat to Shea: A Ferry Good Idea?

With both the Mets and the Yankees expected to finish in the top of their divisions this year –possibly setting the stage for the first Mets-Yankees series ever–a new phrase may be added to the old description of a "subway series." It could very well be the first "ferry series" also.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani has decided to approve a ferry service from Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport to the World’s Fair Marina on Flushing Bay a five-minute walk to Shea Stadium when the Mets are playing. The service would make additional stops at East 34 St. and East 90 St. before arriving at Queens some 30 to 40 minutes prior to the game.
The service will be called the "Mets Express" and will be similar to the "Yankee Clipper" ferry service which started in 1996 as a way of getting to Yankee Stadium from Manhattan. That service has proved to be highly successful and like the Yankee Clipper, the Mets Express will offer food and beverage service, all for a round trip price of $10 on weekdays and $15 weekend and holiday service.
The service will be operated by NY Waterways, the largest privately-owned commuter ferry service in the U.S. They currently operate a weekday ferry service from Long Island City to Manhattan as well as other metropolitan area routes.
On hand to christen the Mets Express on Wednesday were Giuliani, NY Waterways President Arthur Imperatore, Jr. and 1969 World Champion Mets legends Art Shamsky and Ed Charles. They jointly announced that the service will begin on March 31 in time for the Mets Opening Day game against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Mayor enthusiastically declared the new service as another phase of the City’s overall commitment to encourage the growth of private ferry service as a pleasant, comfortable and reliable way to travel in New York City. But some other officials and community leaders seem to be not as certain that the idea is a good one.
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman appears to have been caught off guard by the proposal. A spokesperson said that Shulman had reservations about the ferry service and its effects on the pollution of Flushing Bay. "She has a lot of concerns about this," the spokesperson said. Two boats with a total capacity of 700 passengers will be available, depending on demand. Overcrowding at the marina was another concern of the Borough President. However, the operator of the World’s Fair Marina, Vinnie Coccoli said he was not concerned. "I like the idea. The more the merrier," he said.
Community Board 3 has taken a stand against any ferry service coming in, reacting also to NY Waterways’ plans to have ferry service from Manhattan to LaGuardia Airport in the future. That proposal is awaiting state and federal permits. Shulman has opposed in part a proposed ferry service from Connecticut to Queens. Other local marina operators are wary of the ferry’s efforts on local smaller pleasure craft who might be in danger when caught near the ferry’s wake.
Community Board 7 has also voiced frustration over the long-time pollution problems in Flushing Bay as has Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United County Civic Assoc. which covers Astoria and parts of Jackson Heights. There is poor water circulation caused by an earlier dike built during the World’s Fair to create a safe harbor for arriving boats. Also waste spills from the city’s storm waste system produce a rotten-egg odor that spills into the local community. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is planning a $2.2 million three-year study of the Bay’s natural flushing system. The project is being funded in part by both the City and the Port Authority.
Shulman and Giuliani usually have a close personal working relationship, so it’s somewhat surprising that the Borough President was apparently kept out of the loop in the planning of the ferry service to Shea. Imperatore gave $7,700 — the top allowable amount –to Giuliani’s recent Mayoral re-election campaign. Giuliani has dismissed critics’ concerns, saying that it will be safe and successful.
"New York Waterways" is pleased to provide safe, convenient, environmentally sound service for Amazin’ Mets fans," said Imperatore. "We are committed to providing hassle-free commuting and to opening up the beautiful vista of Queens and other areas of New York which can be experienced from the water."
"The New York Mets and NY Waterway have teamed up to provide a great experience for fans, making a trip to Shea Stadium an even more enjoyable outing," said Mets legend Ed Charles. Art Shamsky added, "This is an easy double play–take a relaxing boat ride and then enjoy the excitement of New York Mets baseball."
The ferry will leave Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport 90 minutes before the start of all Mets games Monday through Friday. The ferry will depart 30 minutes after the last out of the game from the World’s Fair Marina. For Saturday, Sunday, and holiday games, the Mets Express will leave from Port Imperial in Weehauken, N.J. two hours before game-time and travel directly to Shea Stadium.

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