BY CLAUDIA COGER, PRESIDENT OF ASTORIA HOUSES RESIDENT ASSOCIATION
Astoria Houses, a community in Hallets Cove that I have called home for over 60 years, has long had a transportation problem. Like many waterfront communities in Queens, we are twenty minutes from the nearest subway. Geographically, we are a stone’s throw from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, but a trip there can take up to an hour on the train, and involve multiple transfers. Travel to Lower Manhattan, a commute many of my neighbors make daily, is often especially challenging.
The official launch of NYC Ferry’s Astoria Route, which originates just steps away from Astoria Houses, has been a game-changer for our community. Last month, many of Astoria Houses’ 3,000 residents became much closer to Manhattan, along with their jobs, families and friends across the East River. The water used to be a physical barrier between the opportunities of Manhattan and our corner of the city, where public investment has historically lagged behind. Now, the river serves as a superhighway to Midtown and the Financial District, and a critical connector to other waterfront neighborhoods across the city.
Although NYC Ferry’s Astoria Route launched just three weeks ago, the line has already served more than 28,000 riders. Since the inaugural ride, the impact on our neighborhood has been tremendous. Friends’ daily commutes into Manhattan have been halved, and their walk to the bus stop is now history. Astoria Houses residents will no longer feel compelled to turn down a job in Manhattan because of a multi-hour, multi-leg commute.
Local parents who used to have to plan complicated day-trips to take their children to Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Rockaways, now feel encouraged to make the trip regularly. Not only does the ferry make these attractions more accessible, but the boat ride itself provides an adventure for young New Yorkers, all for the price of a subway ride.
And seniors and disabled residents of Astoria Houses, perhaps those most affected by the lack of transportation options, have enjoyed a newfound freedom. Bus and subway stairs can be hard to navigate for even the most able-bodied among us. NYC Ferry’s proximity and accessibility make it a welcome option for travel. With Manhattan’s museums, parks and sights now a short ferry ride away, these residents have found their city, and their world, have expanded.
One of my neighbors, Jerelene Fitzgerald is 94, and has been living in Astoria Houses since 1953. Last week, she was one of the first passengers to board the first boat departing from Hallets Cove, just steps from our apartments, and made her way into Manhattan. For years, Jerelene found this trip exhausting. The walk to the bus was long. Subway stairs were hard to navigate with her cane. Yet now, with NYC Ferry service at her front door, she sees a new future for herself, one with more travel and less hassle.
Opportunities like this don’t always knock. Sometimes, they dock.