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Rockaway summer ferry will not resume service

Nadine Woloshin, with the public relations firm Rubenstein Associates, said another summer of ferry service would not be profitable and was financially unfeasible.

"New York waterway will not be going to Riis Park this summer," she said.

Borough President Helen Marshall, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) and state Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaway) said last summer they hoped the ferry service from Riis Landing to Manhattan would encourage riders to establish water as their usual commuter route. But after a summer of rain and a host of cancellations, Woloshin said the private firm was not going to bring back its summer route.

Councilman Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said he and other legislators were hoping to negotiate a deal as summer approached, but prospects for the ferry's return seemed doubtful.

"It is unfortunate," Addabbo said. "But I will always believe that Rockaway is a prime spot for a ferry service. I think it will become viable."

Addabbo said the rain plus the ferry's high roundtrip fare of $26 contributed to its failure. He pointed out, however, that the price for a ride was unsubsidized and could cost less in any future endeavor.

Figures released in November showed that because of bad weather, only 704 people took the ferry ride during its three months of operation from June 14 until Sept. 14.

Despite the loss of the summer ferry route, the residents of the Rockaways are still calling on the city to develop a permanent travel path to Manhattan.

The district manager for Rockaway's Community Board 14 said an existing pier at the former Edgemere landfill site could be transformed into permanent launch pad for a ferry, a mode of transport that would better connect that isolated part of Queens to Manhattan.

Jonathan Gaska, speaking last week at a meeting with other community board managers and Marshall, said that travelers using the Edgemere site could, based on his estimates, cut their commuting time by more than half by not taking the A train.

"It exists. It is there," Gaska said. "That is one location that would clearly be useful."

Gaska said the launch platform was originally built so waste intended for the 141-acre Edgemere landfill in Far Rockaway would not have to be taken by car on city roads and could be put on a barge and offloaded. He said the community's successful lobbying of the city Department of Sanitation to not destroy the platform following the landfill's closing was seen as a crucial step in securing a ferry.

The district manager also pointed out that there is a nearby lot that could accommodate up to 100 cars at the formal landfill that officially closed in 1991.

Last summer's private New York Waterway ferry route from Riis Landing to both Lower and Midtown Manhattan took passengers from one place to another in about 40 minutes. Despite the community's wishes and $300,000 in city funds appropriated to establish a regular Rockaway ferry service, Marshall said none of those funds have yet been put to use toward a profitable permanent water route.

"This is a work in progress," Marshall told Gaska in response to his comments about wanting a Rockaway ferry.

Gaska said it is quicker for residents of Westchester and Long Island to commute into Manhattan, with a travel time of about 40 minutes, compared with Rockaway residents who spend an hour and 25 minutes to get to work in the other borough. He said Westchester residents use Metro North and many Queens commuters travel on the Long Island Rail Road, but Rockaway residents must contend with the A Train because they are not connected to the LIRR.

That subway line, according to Gaska, does not run regular rush-hour trains and is the reason behind the long commute time. He called on Marshall and the city to study the possibility of initiating early morning and evening commuter trains to directly carry subway passengers between Manhattan and stops along the A line in both Broad Channel and the Rockaways.

"Let's do a true a.m., p.m. rush hour service," Gaska said. "Maybe three or four trains every 15 minutes."

Gaska said there is a sense of urgency building among Rockaway residents for an efficient commuter service because of a construction boom on the peninsula, which includes the new Arverne development that could attract an additional 6,000 to 10,000 more residents - a portion of whom would need some way to get to work in Manhattan.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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