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City studies possibility of ferry service for JFK Airport

The city said it is hard at work at bringing a viable ferry service to coastline commuters in Queens, but borough leaders and residents say more needs to be done to create the perfect waterway system to fit all their needs.

Representatives from the city Economic Development Corp. and city Department of Transportation updated Borough President Helen Marshall and several community heads Tuesday on their study for a citywide ferry service throughout the five boroughs.

Marshall said the city’s five-month study, which will culminate with a overall report in October, would greatly benefit Queens because it would allow it to better plan to use its “blue highway”

“It would look for feasible site for ferries to stop and it would look for ways to connect them,” she said.

The privately run Water Taxi operates between Hunters Point and eastern Manhattan during the spring and summer months, charging riders $4.50 for a single ride. Last summer, the DOT began a two-year pilot program for a ferry service between the Rockaways and Lower Manhattan that charges commuters $6 for a single ride.

Tom Paladino, president of TWFM Ferry Inc., which oversees the Rockaway ferry, said the service, which offers three round-trips daily, has been growing popular, especially during the summer months when New Yorkers want to visit Rockaway Beach.

“Last week we carried 2,100 on the Rockaway run. On Saturday, we had 175 people go to the beach,” he said.

Jordan Anderson, consultant for the study, said they have spent many months analyzing the city’s waterways for potential and improving the current ferry options. In addition to the docks in the Rockaways and at Hunters Point, Anderson said the city is exploring the possibility of transporting commuters from LaGuardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Citi Field and Astoria by water.

Leaders from those neighborhoods had questions about opening ferry docks in some of those areas.

“I am concerned about the Citi Field site because parking will be impacted,” said Marilyn Bitterman, district manager of Community Board 7, which oversees the stadium.

Several Rockaway residents and civic leaders said the Rockaway ferryshould make several changes to improve travel to Manhattan. Although the trip lasts roughly an hour, commuters have to travel to the western portion of the peninsula to catch the boat and they only have two options in the morning to get a ride.

“It’s rather expensive and the frequency doesn’t make sense,” said CB 14 district manager Jonathan Gaska. “Where we currently have the site ... its seven or eight miles away from most of the population.

City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) urged the DOT to find ways to subsidize the ferry so it is affordable to all residents or even free like the Staten Island Ferry. He suggested the agency look into allowing the ferries to carry cargo from the airports into Manhattan as a way to cut fares.

“If we don’t figure out how to fund this, then this would be another conversation that goes nowhere,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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