City to stop Rockaway ferry in March
Wednesday, February 24th 2010, 4:00 AM
The Rockaway ferry won't see its second birthday.
The $6 ferry was subsidized with about $1.5 million in City Council funds. But the cash dried up as ridership dipped below a mandated threshold of 300 daily passengers, city officials said.
Elected officials immediately opposed the ferry's discontinuation.
"I'm personally outraged," said Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach). "The Rockaway ferry is a lifeline for so many people who rely on it to get to and from work each day."
A spokeswoman for Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a key proponent of the Rockaway ferry, said that she remains "fully committed to a five-borough, year-round ferry system."
The Economic Development Corp. maintained that the ferry averaged 160 weekday commuters, with far fewer riders during weekends and the winter.
Fare collections recover no more than 30% of the ferry's operating costs, said EDC spokesman David Lombino.
As a result, the city subsidizes the ferry as much as $100,000 every month - or about $25 per rider, Lombino said.
But the ferry's operator, Tom Fox, insisted the passenger average was 176. He also said that ridership jumped 2.3% from 2008 to 2009, while ferries declined in popularity citywide.
"I saw it trending very positively," Fox said. "It has tremendous potential."
Many riders prefer the ferry, which departs from Riis Landing three times daily and returns thrice a day, over the long A train ride into Manhattan.
Susan Malley, who lives in Breezy Point and commutes by ferry to her secretarial job near Wall Street, said she might "cry" without the reliable sea service.
Asked to describe her emotions, Malley replied: "Upset is putting it mildly. They [city officials] must be joking. The A train takes an hour and a half to get to downtown alone."
Fox blamed the ferry's demise on a lack of marketing since its 2008 debut. He also bemoaned the inability to easily transfer to the subway.
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, meanwhile, targeted the hefty fare.
"We're not giving up on ferry service, but we will have to see how an alternate means of transportation can be achieved with a fare that is not $6 one way," she said in a statement.
The EDC is conducting a citywide ferry study that includes Rockaway and potential landing sites in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, Lombino said.
Long Island City is among the Queens options, Lombino said, adding the city aims to start "sustainable" East River ferry service in 2011.
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