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Rockaway Ferry Riders Collect Thousands of Signatures to Keep Boat

By Katie Honan | June 28, 2013 4:00pm
 The Seastreak ferry began taking riders from Rockaway to Manhattan in November. Residents hope it becomes a permanent part of their commute.
The Seastreak ferry began taking riders from Rockaway to Manhattan in November. Residents hope it becomes a permanent part of their commute.
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NEW YORK CITY — Rockaway commuters on the ferry to Manhattan Friday morning were joined by a different kind of rider: A petition filled with thousands of signatures to keep that boat afloat.

Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder rode the 9:20 a.m. ferry with local civic activists to demand an extension to the service that was introduced after Hurricane Sandy knocked out subway service to the area.

After docking, Goldfeder rolled the 3,000 signatures over to the steps of City Hall and to demand a continuation of the $2-a-ride ferry.

Ferry service for commuters has been an issue in Rockaway for decades. Riders are now trying to keep the boat as a permanent option for the peninsula, and hope the petition — which Goldfeder created in May — helps.

"We've been fighting for this for years," Goldfeder told DNAinfo New York. "It's unfortunate for it to take a natural disaster for people to wake up and say, 'hey we should do something out there.'"

The ferry, which is operated by SeaStreak, was introduced on November 12, weeks after Hurricane Sandy hit the peninsula. The tracks of the A train were damaged extensively, and residents in Broad Channel and Rockaway were left without subway service to Manhattan.

As the MTA worked to repair tracks and restore service, the city subsidized the ferry, which makes two stops in Manhattan.

In May, after the A train was restored, the mayor and the Economic Development Corporation announced a six-week continuation of the route, with the potential of an extension through Labor Day weekend if ridership was strong.

They also announced weekend service starting July 4 out of the Riis Park landing, with a stop at the Beach 108th Street dock. The cost to ride the ferry on the weekend $20, as opposed to the weekday $2. That ferry is operated through TWFM Ferry Inc, which had previously operated the weekend ferry.

Rider Susanne Rieth, who lives in Arverne, takes the ferry every day to her office on the corner of Broad and Water streets. She said the ferry is the calmest part of her day, and a change from her previous commute on the A train, which she said was "reliably unreliable" even before the storm.

It's also given her a commute time of under an hour for the first time in her life, something she didn't think was possible before the ferry was introduced.

"Its probably the calmest part of my entire day," she said. "And after everything we have all been through in the last 8 months, don't we deserve a little peace in our lives?"

She also sees it as an opportunity to assist Rockaway as it continues to rebuild after Sandy.

"If we are going to grow and a community, attract better businesses and more residents and visitors, we need to get on board with this ferry," she said.