By Matthew Monks
The likely candidate for mayor said that trips from the southeast Queens peninsula to the city soared to 2 1/2 hours after a Jan. 23 blaze inside a key switching room in Lower Manhattan reduced A line service to 60 percent. The C line, which terminates at Euclid Avenue in Brooklyn, was taken entirely out of commission. The A train serves the Rockaways, Howard Beach and Ozone Park. Transit officials initially said it would take five years to get the lines back to normal, but after a public outcry Transit Authority President Lawrence Reuter said both would be running at 70 percent by Wednesday. The A line carries 470,000 riders a day. Weiner said it was unreasonable to underserve the Rockaway's 8,000 residents for a prolonged period. “It's truly an impossible situation,” Weiner said at a news conference Friday at the 90th Beach Street station on the A line. “We are in a crisis and the people in the Rockaways are literally cut off.”State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Far Rockaway) agreed. “Two and a half hours is unfair, certainly in this weather. We need an alternate means of transportation,” she said. “Ferry service is something we need.” Weiner pledged to introduce legislation that would get the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide six months of ferry service from the Riis Landing ferry dock in Far Rockaway to docks at Pier 11, East 34th Street and West 28th Street. Seven ferries carrying 149 passengers each could make the trip in about 25 minutes, Weiner said. Ferry service to Queens is not a new idea. The Port Authority decided in December to hire a cruise company to operate a ferry between Pier 11 on the East River near Wall Street in Manhattan and the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport.Weiner has been pushing for ferry service in the Rockaways since August, when he secured $15 million to purchase three vessels. He said the venture has been stalled because Mayor Michael Bloomberg has not committed $3.75 million in legally required matching funds. “If the mayor had gone along with my ferry plan in August, we'd be a lot better off today,” he said. Rockaway Beach resident Israel Ortiz, 48, said a ferry to Manhattan would be a lifesaver because he makes a twice weekly commute for a special hair treatment. “It would put an end to this nonsense out here,” he said. And Wendell Greer, 44, of Brooklyn, said that his reverse commute to work in the Rockaways has become a nightmare since the fire. The city needs to do something to remedy the situation, he said. “This is an iceland right now,” he said. “It's crazy.” Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.