ROCKAWAY PARK — The city plans to spend $15 million to place a second dock on the Rockaway peninsula for its upcoming ferry service — but the free shuttle buses bringing people to the ferry aren't going to extend to much of the peninsula — officials revealed on Wednesday.
James Wong, the Economic Development Corporation’s director of ferries, told elected officials and community board members at a meeting Wednesday that the free shuttle buses the city is providing to transport people to the upcoming ferry at 108th Street won't go any further east than Beach 67th Street at this time.
That means no free shuttle service for those who live in neighborhoods like Edgemere, Bayswater and Far Rockaway, some of the city's most poverty-stricken neighborhoods.
Jonathan Gaska, the board’s district manager, said the ferry ride's lack of inclusion for the east end was troubling.
"What about everybody east of Beach 67th Street?” he said.
Wong said officials determined that if the shuttle buses went any further east, the ride would take longer than the A train — or riders would miss the boat. The ferries will run seven days a week, from early in the morning until late at night, as will the buses, Wong said.
Dolores Orr, the chair of Community Board 14, said the exclusion of the eastern portion of the peninsula would likely upset those in Far Rockaway.
“They will not be happy,” she said, adding that EDC should reconsider extending the free shuttle rides, which will stop along existing bus stops.
The ferry service will also not integrate with the existing MTA system for transfers from the bus and subway, meaning people will have to pay out of pocket.
Wong also said the city doesn't plan on running extra boats in the summer, when millions flock to the miles of beaches in Rockaway — a plan Orr urged him to reconsider.
Orr also said Wong's assessment that riders are less excited about a ferry in the cold weather was shortsighted. The ferry is set to begin riding in 2017, but it may have a spring start, he said.
“If you can’t start it tomorrow, start it Jan. 1, 2017” Orr said. “I guarantee you we’ll throw a party if you do.”
A spokesman for the EDC later said they'll keep looking for ways to make the boat ride accessible for all.
"As we review proposals to the RFP for an operator and move toward the launch of Citywide Ferry Service in 2017, we will continue to look for ways to make the ferry service accessible to as many Rockaway residents as possible," the EDC said in a statement Thursday night.
Gaska, though, said while he's happy the permanent ferry is set for Rockaway, it's leaving out a large portion of it.
Transportation in Far Rockaway includes the A train, buses and the Long Island Rail Road, but it's foolish that the city wouldn't try maximize ridership for the entire peninsula is foolish, he added.
“At the end of the day, are we happy we’re getting a ferry? Yes,” Gaska said.
“Is it being used the best way it possibly can to get the most riders in Rockaway? Absolutely not.”