By Sarina Trangle
Mayor Bill de Blasio has three weeks to make good on his commitment to continue the ferry route servicing the Rockaways.
Elected officials said they were confident de Blasio’s administration would renew the ferry contract for a few more months before it expires Jan. 31, but they were less sure about whether it would float on long term.
When de Blasio was campaigning in the Democratic primary, his staff told The Wave newspaper “he would commit to not cutting the ferry” and propose a rapid bus corridor for the Rockaways.
After securing the Democratic Party line, de Blasio hedged, saying he needed to examine the budget before agreeing to sustain the ferry service. Now that he has assumed the mayoralty, de Blasio’s press staff said he needs more time to analyze the finances.
“The mayor is eager to find room in the budget to extend Rockaway ferry service,” spokesman Wiley Norvell said in an e-mail.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) said they had discussed the ferry’s future with de Blasio’s team and expect the service to continue, at least for a few months.
“I’ve had extensive conversations with the new mayor and his staff and I’m optimistic that our current service will get extended at least short term,” Goldfeder said. “Ferry service is very important to all of southern Queens and Rockaway and we’re going to continue to fight until it’s permanent.”
The city instituted ferry service from the Rockaway Peninsula to Pier 11 at 34th Street in Manhattan to temporarily replace the A train during post-Superstorm Sandy repairs. Then a second Rockaway departure point and a stop at Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park were added. Officials said service was extended after subway lines were repaired because ridership was high.
In a December policy paper on ferries, the city Economic Development Corp. noted that Rockaway ferry ridership increased the summer even after subway service was restored. From November 2012 to December 2013, 130,000 passengers used the ferry to commute, according to the report.
A one-way ride on the ferry costs $2, less than the $2.25 fare for a bus or subway trip.
Phil McManus, a Rockaway resident who founded the Queens Public Transit Committee, said he would like to see the ferry become a permanent fixture of life on the peninsula.
“Bloomberg extended the East Side ferry for four years, so that’s pretty permanent for a ferry system. It creates a lot of economic development when you have long-term support. That’s what we’re hoping for,” McManus said.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.