De Blasio extends Rockaway ferry serivce, agrees to study long-term contract

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Sarina Trangle

Linda and Daniel Ruscillo planned to spend today rallying to demand the city maintain the Rockaway ferry route.

After Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday the ferries would sail on for at least three more months, the Ruscillos said their Committee to Save the Rockaway Ferry intends to organize a demonstration of appreciation instead.

“People get together to complain, but it’s nice to get together to say thank you to the new mayor who gave us something the old mayor never did,” Linda Ruscillo said of the city’s plans to study whether a permanent ferry is financially feasible.

De Blasio’s administration agreed to extend weekday ferry service between the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan through May, with an option to continue the arrangement until August. The one-way fare will increase from $2 to $3.50.

The mayor also announced the city’s Economic Development Corporation would issue a request for proposals next month to determine whether it was viable to sign a long-term contract for ferry service.

“We are committed to the Rockaways’ recovery. From accelerating rebuilding programs to today’s ferry extension, we are going to keep our focus on communities hit hard by Sandy to ensure no one is left behind,” de Blasio said in a statement.

The city instituted ferry service from the Rockaway Peninsula to Pier 11 at 34th Street in Manhattan when the A train underwent post-Superstorm Sandy repairs.

In August, the ferry operator, Seastreak LLC, began stopping at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park to accommodate commuters contending with R train disruptions.

Officials previously opted to extend the ferry service three times because ridership was high after it was launched in November 2012. About 200,000 passengers have taken the ferry since it launched, according to the mayor’s office.

Elected officials from Queens and Brooklyn applauded the announcement alongside Rockaway residents.

“Increased transit options, including the ferry, will allow our community to thrive and our small businesses to grow,” state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) said in a statement. “I want to thank Mayor de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz for their steadfast commitment to the families of southern Queens and Rockaway, and for their long-term vision for our community,”

Similarly, Phil McManus, a Rockaway resident who founded the Queens Public Transit Committee, said he had started to grow concerned that the contract might not be renewed because it was set to expire Jan. 31.

“A lot of people in Rockaway, they feel like they’ve been left out. The hurricane was an example of that because we’ve been begging for sand and protection for years,” McManus said. “When we see that de Blasio is listening to us, everything seems to be turning around.”

McManus said a more permanent ferry plan would spur economic development, with merchants feeling confident enough to open new businesses, families seeking to invest in real estate and job seekers enjoying access to a quick commute.

He also pointed out that the views are unparalleled.

“I call it a cruise. I don’t call it commuting to work,” McManus said.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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