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Queens Chronicle

OPINION: Ferries are important for Astoria and all of Queens

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Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:08 am, Thu Jun 26, 2014.

New York City is one of the most unique places in the world; and not always for the reasons people think.

It’s more than our food, our neighborhoods and our amazing entertainment options that make us special.

Our city possesses 520 miles of coastline — more than Miami, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco combined — according to the 2013 report “A Stronger, More Resilient New York.”

Four out of our five boroughs are islands and our fifth borough is a peninsula, surrounded by “blue highways.”

These blue highways, our rivers, not just our subways and our buses, can help solve our transportation challenges in the years ahead.

For this reason, as we continue to rezone and redevelop our waterfronts in places such as Astoria Cove, we need to make sure these projects include the infrastructure — such as boat slips and piers — that make waterborne transportation possible.

Queens Community Board 1 held a hearing last week to gather public comments on the Astoria Cove project.

This week, during the board’s monthly meeting, members voted against the original plan and said they would like an amendment for a ferry study to be included.

If realized, the Astoria Cove development would create thousands of residential units, a supermarket, restaurants, cafes, a school and substantial waterfront open space for people to enjoy.

The large amount of waterfront development and focus on green space makes this development tomorrow’s gem of Queens.

But the biggest challenge will be getting people in this community connected to other parts of the borough as well with neighboring boroughs, especially Manhattan.

Current residents of the Astoria and Ravenswood public houses in the area must walk more than a mile to get to the nearest subway.

Affordable and frequent ferry service would help those Astoria residents and many others.

Additionally, our subways, buses and commuter lines are already operating at capacity, even before all of the new developments, such as Astoria Cove, are built.

The popularity of the East River ferry and growing popularity of the Westside ferry demonstrate that people are willing and eager to use ferries as part of the way they get around, and Astoria Cove should be no exception.

Furthermore, ferry infrastructure is important to have in place as a part of our overall emergency preparedness efforts.

We saw in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the blackout of 2003, the transit strike of 2005 and 9/11 that ferries weren’t just a transportation choice, they were a necessity.

Ferries were able to help provide emergency transportation services to people who would not have been able to get to work or to get home.

For all of these reasons, the community board must make sure the developers keep the plans in place to include water taxi piers as part of the Astoria Cove project.

Otherwise, we are missing an opportunity to continue building a water infrastructure that will eventually connect all waterfronts into one large community.

The benefits are too large to be ignored.

Roland Lewis is President and CEO of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.

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