With the clock ticking on the Rockaway Ferry service, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park) has come up with a possible plan to save it.
If the city won’t kick in the subsidies to make it affordable, maybe another entity will.
Goldfeder sent a letter to Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, asking the agency consider the possibility of funding permanent ferry service between the peninsula and Manhattan, and possibly JFK Airport as well, through grants the Port Authority issues to communities affected by noise and pollution from airports.
“Our families live in the shadows of JFK Airport and as good neighbors, I’m asking the Port Authority to consider supporting this critical service,” Goldfeder said in a statement. “The ferry service is not a luxury, but a necessity for our families and small businesses. It became evident after Sandy that we need to increase public transit options and improve our transportation infrastructure for our geographically isolated communities in Southern Queens and Rockaway.”
In his letter to Foye, Goldfeder promoted permanent ferry service as a means to not only pave the way for a speedy Sandy recovery for families still struggling, but also to stimulate the economy, create hundreds of jobs for local residents and significantly increase pedestrian traffic to rejuvenate small businesses and bring in economic activity to the peninsula.
Goldfeder also noted that ferry service to JFK Airport had been discussed with the Port Authority in the past, and that could be part of any permanent service in the future funded by the agency, which operates the airport.
Joe Hartigan, a Rockaway resident and advocate for public transportation and ferries, said funding the ferry service would be a good way for the Port Authority to pay residents back for the effects JFK Airport has on South Queens and the Rockaway Peninsula.
“Rockaway and Jamaica Bay are severely impacted with noise and air and water pollution by Kennedy Airport,” he said. “The Port Authority could help Rockaway in a positive way to improve transportation by supporting ferry service from Kennedy Airport to Rockaway to Manhattan.”
The Rockaway Ferry service, operated by Seastreak, is due to shut down in October because the city said the cost to subsidize the route, which runs from Beach 108th Street to Pier 11 in Lower Manhattan with a stop in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, is too expensive and it is not heavily used despite its popularity.
The fare is $3.50, but the city Economic Development Corporation says the city subsidy is more than $30 per passenger, twice as high as the MTA’s express buses, which operate as the city’s priciest mode of public transportation, and nearly 10 times as high as the Staten Island Ferry, one of the busiest in the world.
The Port Authority did not respond to a request for comment on the letter by press time.