Rockaways ferry not scheduled to return until 2017

By Sadef Ali Kully

After Rockaway residents were stranded in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Bloomberg administration introduced a subsidized ferry service from the peninsula—a service that ended in the first year of the de Blasio administration.

The Bloomberg administration started the ferry Nov. 12. 2012 less than a month after the superstorm knocked out A line service to the Rockaways. Subway service was not restored until May 2013

The rebuild included 1,500 feet of washed out tracks, replacing miles of signal, power and communications wires, rehabilitation of two flooded stations and a weakened embankment, all of which took months.

The A train shutdown left 35,000 daily customers without a direct rail link to Manhattan, according to the MTA.

Residents of the Rockaways, who also rely heavily on bus service, were not only surprised at how quickly the ferry service came and went but also upset.

Addabo said the ferry service was subsidized and the de Blasio administration essentially said the ridership numbers did not justify the cost.

Borough President Melinda Katz brought in statistics to appease the mayor and residents began protesting, but it was a losing battle.

Days after elected officials visited the Mayor’s office to keep the ferry, Rockaway residents watched workers taking the ferry landing apart.

“[The mayor] pulls the ferry service on Oct. 31, that Monday at 7 a.m. they are dismantling the dock. And you really want to put salt in a wound—it was incredible,” state Sen. Joseph Addabo (D-Howard Beach) said in an interview with the TimesLedger earlier this year.

In February Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that a wider ferry service to Manhattan from the Rockaways and from other parts of the city was set to launch in 2017. To many, the announcement came as a relief of sorts.

Although the city has worked out a plan, many residents are not happy with the scheduling of the launch for 2017.

“For my Rockaway residents, they don’t believe they should have to wait that long and they are savvy. It was in full operation during Sandy, so we know it’s possible,” Addabo said in an interview this week. “They told me ‘we know 2017 is an election year.’”

In 2012, ferry service departed from Beach 108th Street and Beach Channel Drive and stopped at Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan with free transfers as the same cost of a one-way Metrocard, which was $2.

The city Economic Development Corporation is working with the de Blasio administration to launch the upcoming Citywide Ferry Service. NYCEDC is expected to build ten new ferry landings, renovating six others, and selecting an operator to run the service. The Citywide Ferry Service is slated to be fully operational in 2018.

Citywide Ferry Service will launch in two phases across five points in the city. The first phase of the service will begin on routes from Astoria, South Brooklyn, and Rockaway by 2017, while the Soundview and Lower East Side routes will be up and running in 2018.

In a September Borough Board meeting at Borough Hall, the EDC gave the specifics of the new ferry service line in the Rockaways. The EDC was the first group to launch the first ferry service pilot in the Rockaways in 2008.

The EDC said it took lessons from the post-Sandy ferry service in its plans for the Citywide Ferry Service. All vessels and landings will be ADA-compliant.

“The service will be for seven days a week, from early morning until 10 p.m,” EDC Vice President and Director of Ferries James Wong said during the board meeting. “And there is some flexibility there, too.”

The costs will be the same as a one-way Metrocard, $2.75.

“The actual ferry proposal was fleshed out more than before,” Addabbo said. “But I still differ with the mayor—we could have done anything now, even the minimum for the Rockaways.”

Addabbo pointed out additional transportation proposals, such as reviving Rockaway LIRR line, were too expensive to construct, especially when the state and city are fighting over the MTA’s capital budget,

“They have no intention of doing a Rockaway line—it just won’t happen,” he said.

Reach Reporter Sadef Ali Kully by e-mail at skull[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4546.

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