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Beep, Weiner urge action on Rockaway ferry plans

Since New York Waterway's announcement last week that summer ferry service would not be resumed this year because of weak profits and low ridership, southwest Queens politicians have been speaking up about the $300,000 in city council funds allocated in 1998 that have not yet been put to use.

"It (the money) has been there ever since," U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) said in a phone interview last week. "We need to find a practical way to use it."

Former Howard Beach Councilman Al Stabile, a Republican, spearheaded a drive in the late 1990s to get a permanent, daily ferry service from the Rockaway peninsula to Manhattan. His efforts led to the city council vote that earmarked the $300,000 as a future subsidy for a Rockaway service.

Unfortunately, no private or public endeavor has succeeding in establishing a ferry route to or from the isolated part of Queens, most of which is only accessible by the A-Train.

Borough President Helen Marshall, who voted for the $300,000 subsidy, said at a borough board budget meeting Feb. 9 that she is still waiting for the funds to be put to use. Her spokesman, Dan Andrews, said Marshall has spoken to Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff about initiating a permanent ferry service.

"It is there. The money has been allocated," Andrews said.

He said a daily service to Manhattan from the Rockaways would spare residents a one-hour-and-25-minute commute on the A-Train in favor of a 40-minute water ride. Rockaway residents have said they would like to see a port at the former Edgemere landfill site be converted into a permanent ferry launchpad.

Weiner said the upcoming debate in Congress on a federal transportation bill could yield funds for the implementation of a permanent subsidized ferry.

"Hopefully, we will be able to use some federal dollars to leverage those city dollars," Weiner said. "I have come to the conclusion that subsidies alone are not the key here. We need to provide ferry service to the Rockaways just like what is done to Staten Island."

Andrews said Rockaway residents have already proven they will take a ferry if it provides them with good service. He cited the ferry system started after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks from 69th Street in Brooklyn to Manhattan that attracted hundreds of Rockaway residents who drove to the other borough, then hopped on the ferry to save minutes in commuting.

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

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