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Port Authority floats ferry service to LaGuardia

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The Port Authority decided in December to hire Circle Line Harbor Cruises to operate a ferry service between Pier 11 on the East River near Wall Street in Manhattan and the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia Airport, said agency spokesman Steve Coleman. He said the service was slated to begin operating as soon as this summer."The idea of this service was to rebuild Lower Manhattan and take people off the highways," said J.B. Meyer, president of Circle Line Harbor Cruises, of the ferries, which will depart every half hour from the Marine Air Terminal. It will take 20 minutes to get to 34th Street and another 10 to get to Wall Street, Meyer said. More than 24 million passengers passed through LaGuardia Airport between October 2003 and October 2004, the most recent date for which data was available. Of those who live nearby, 53 percent come from Manhattan, according to Port Authority statistics. Currently, passengers can only get to LaGuardia by bus, car or cab.Last month, a New York University report sponsored by U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) found that ground vehicles both on and off LaGuardia Airport, including ground transportation, contributed significantly to high levels of noise and airborne pollution.Meyer said he expected the new ferry, which will be serviced by two or three brand-new, high-speed catamarans, to carry as many as 400 passengers a day during its first year. To begin with, the service will run only on weekdays but could expand to weekends, Meyer said. The initial contract with the Port Authority is for 18 months with the option to renew three times for three-year periods.One-way tickets on the ferry, which will stop at the Marine Air Terminal, 34th Street and Pier 11, will cost $25 for adults and $15 for children between 4 and 12 years old. A 10-trip ticket will be offered at a 10 percent discount, and corporate pricing plans also will be available.Poveromo said community activists welcomed the new ferry service as one way to combat the pollution."I think it's a wonderful idea," said Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association. "Certainly it should relieve some of the ground traffic here, and anything that will remove even a minuscule amount of air pollution is important to us." Poveromo urged more action on the airport and other sources of contamination, including the power plants that populate regions of Astoria. In the long run, she said a rail link to the airport might offer another solution - provided it did not pass through residential areas."I don't think the powers that be - meaning not only the Port Authority but the government entities in themselves - are realizing we the people are choking to death here and it's unfair and it's unnecessary," Poveromo said. Ferry service will be returning to LaGuardia Airport for the first time since another service operated by NY Waterway was discontinued in December 2000 due to low ridership, Coleman said. When the ferry was inaugurated in 1998, the Port Authority touted the connection as a "quick, reliable and traffic-free service for LaGuardia's business travelers and other airport customers.""The previous service was primarily marketed to Delta customers," Coleman said. "This service will be marketed to the entire airport community as well as the surrounding residents."Before running into financial difficulties, NY Waterway was one of several contenders bidding for the new service, Coleman said.Meyer said better, more reliable boats complete with flat-screen televisions and high-speed service will be a big draw for Circle Line's LaGuardia ferry.Meyer said the LaGuardia ferry route represents a new direction for Circle Line, which was founded in 1946 by his family. But he insisted that the company is up to the task, based on its lengthy waterfront experience and the millions of passengers it carries to the Statue of Liberty every year. "We have lots of experience moving people," Meyer said.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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