Far Rockaway may get ferry service once more

By Alex Davidson

Prospects for a permanent commuter ferry from the Rockaway peninsula to Manhattan were bolstered Monday, when two borough officials announced they had secured a provider and dock space to launch a yearlong trial service.

Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Borough President Helen Marshall made their comments during a borough board meeting in Kew Gardens at Borough Hall. Addabbo said Rockaway resident Tom Paladino will run the boat route and has guaranteed to provide the round-trip service regardless of monetary profits or losses.

“We could go tomorrow if we had to,” Addabbo said. “It (the ferry service) is economical, cost-efficient and saves time.”

The proposal is to be presented to Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the next few weeks but is contingent upon his approval during the ongoing budget discussions, Addabbo said. The councilman said he wants the commuter ferry for Rockaway residents to prove there is a demand from both Queens and Brooklyn residents.

“I am just asking for a shot here,” Addabbo said. “But we are ready.”

The councilman said the new ferry service to Manhattan would launch from Riis Landing in the Gateway National Recreation Area at a total cost of $5 for a one-way trip. He said Gateway officials have pledged to resurface a nearby parking lot to accommodate ferry passengers’ cars.

“We have a provider and a dock, and we’re ready to go,” Marshall said. “We need this for everyday people.”

New York Waterway, the private firm that operated a recreational ferry service last summer between Riis Landing and Manhattan, said last month that it will not bring back that service, which public officials had hailed as a possible precursor to a permanent commuter route for borough workers.

Nadine Woloshin, with the public relations firm of Rubenstein & Associates, said another summer of private ferry service was not profitable and financially unfeasible.

Rockaway residents, who had complained that the $26 fee for the summer ferry service was too high, started to propose alternative routes following New York Waterway’s announcement that it would not bring back the recreational ferry.

The district manager for Rockaway’s Community Board 14, Jonathan Gaska, had said an existing pier at the former Edgemere landfill site could be transformed into a permanent launch pad for a ferry, a mode of transport that would better connect the isolated part of Queens to Manhattan.

Gaska said it is quicker for residents of Westchester and Long Island to commute into Manhattan, with a travel time of about 40 minutes, as compared with Rockaway residents, who spend an hour and 25 minutes to get to work in the other borough.

Addabbo said Paladino’s ferry service could be supplemented by a van or shuttle that would cart passengers from along the Rockaway peninsula to Riis Landing. The councilman said residents from southeast and southwest Queens would use the ferry as well as those people living in parts of Brooklyn.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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