Queens has a major resource that is unlimited, free and accessible: the East River.
Three City Council members from the borough want to take advantage of the waterway and are pushing for ferry service from Fort Totten and Citi Field to Manhattan. They’re on to something that the northern half of Queens desperately needs.
Public transportation from northeast Queens is a challenge. There are no subways and the buses — even the Bay Terrace expresses — are frequently paralyzed in traffic jams during the commute back and forth to Manhattan. Parts of College Point near the water might as well be in Idaho since they are so far from bus routes.
East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Corona have the No. 7 line, but they are not transportation meccas either. And the long lines of straphangers jammed on the platforms to board Manhattan-bound trains in the mornings cry out for more alternatives.
The Long Island Rail Road cuts through this part of Queens, but service is half hourly and more expensive than the bus and the subway.
Enter the proposed ferry service.
Council members Paul Vallone, Peter Koo and Julissa Ferreras, who represent the Queens coastline from Bayside to East Elmhurst, are asking the city Economic Development Corp. to run a pilot study on establishing permanent ferry service.
They point out there are already docks at Fort Totten in Bayside and Citi Field in Flushing that could be used as part of their game plan to help reduce the overcrowding on the No. 7.
Their proposal calls for separate runs from Manhattan to both northern Queens sites with no connecting service in between.
Water travel has already racked up big points in other parts of the borough. An East River ferry route from Long Island City to Manhattan is drawing more riders than expected, and calls are mounting to add another ferry line from Astoria to Manhattan and the Bronx.
The Rockaway ferry, revived after Superstorm Sandy knocked out the peninsula’s A line, remains a draw after the subway’s restoration. Advocacy groups are pressing for the ferry to be a long-term service.
Queens has enormous potential as a water power. Rich with rivers, bays and an ocean at its doorstep, the borough is in an ideal spot to exploit its natural boundaries by providing clean, efficient travel in boats as another option to commuters weary of cars, buses and trains.
More ferry routes should be considered.