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No Answers Provided For NY Rising Ferry Funds

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Although $7 million has been allocated to fund the Rockaway ferry, there have been no answers provided as to why that money hasn’t been used to save it before service is terminated next week.

After Hurricane Sandy struck, 45 communities throughout the state were promised funds from the Governor’s office for recovery projects through the NY Rising program.

One local committee, Rockaway West, which comprises Neponsit, Belle Harbor, Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach, was allotted $21.3 million through Community Development Block Grants. After nine months and several meetings and public hearings, the committee members developed a list of several projects for which they would like to use the state funds. Those projects include bioswales, improvements to Beach 108th Street – and long-term ferry operations.

At the last NY Rising West meeting, in July, the governor’s staff and other consultants said that the projects had entered the implementation phase. Implementation for some projects can be complex – this can include choosing designers and architects, performing background checks on contractors and completing environmental assessments.

But that arduous process isn’t necessary to continue funding the ferry, committee member Danny Ruscillo, said, because the ferry is already up and running.

At a press conference on Monday, the Rockaway Times asked Mayor de Blasio if he would prevent the state from using NY Rising funds for the ferry.

“I very much make it a point not to deal in hypotheticals, but I’ll say if the state of New York has money they want to offer us, we’re certainly going to work with them to see how we could use it, but I have not heard that offer to date,” he said. “I would welcome it if it’s there.”

Requests for comment made to representatives of the governor’s office were not returned.

Joanne Smith, co-chair of the committee, said it is disappointing that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has not stepped forward to discuss the ferry with the mayor.

She said Cuomo approved the plans in March 2014.

Smith said the committee’s plan called for the revamping of the pier as well as cleaning up the gateway between the bay and the beach to make the area more attractive for visitors.

“It was the perfect plan,” she said. “This is a benefit to the peninsula. It makes all that work seem fruitless.”

The committee has received no guidance from the governor’s office about where the $7 million will be reallocated.

Ruscillo said, at one point, there had been radio and TV commercials advertising the NY Rising program.

“Now you hear nothing,” he said. “It’s like it’s gone.”

He said his experience serving on the committee was a positive one, and that government officials seemed very willing to work with community members.

“The governor formed the committee,” he said. “We did our job. And we, the community, got nothing for it.”

 

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