I would like to start by commending the city for the fourth extension of ferry service to the Rockaway Peninsula. I would especially like to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for extending the ferry service through May and keeping his word, as he remains dedicated to the recovery of Rockaway and New York City as a whole. Ferry services in the Rockaways have provided a much needed relief during an extremely trying time. The ferry has quickly become the preferred method of transportation to Manhattan for many people throughout the peninsula.
While we certainly are enjoying our time with the ferry, the threat of losing the service continues to loom over our heads. We have repeatedly been told that the service may just be temporary, that there would be yet another study or deadline, and that the service would be cut if ridership was poor. However, the ferry has continually maintained strong ridership, and it is time to put this ambiguity aside.
Rockaway needs a permanent ferry! Residents have had to deal with subpar transportation options for far too long, and Sandy has only made these shortcomings more apparent. Service may have been lacking on the best of days but became non-existent in the days following Sandy. Thousands of people were effectively stranded while still reeling from the devastation. While we simply were not prepared for a storm of that magnitude, that excuse only works once. We must never allow ourselves to be in that situation again.
While the need to improve our transportation infrastructure is obvious, there are many other ways this ferry has benefited New Yorkers. Commuters are getting to work faster; the ferry trip is peaceful, serene, and timely; the ease of travel also encourages visitors to come out and experience our beautiful beaches during the summer months, which is essential for local businesses still recovering from Sandy related losses. Anyone who has taken a trip on the ferry knows that it is as aesthetically pleasing as it is essential to our community.
The truth of the matter is that not only am I passionate about keeping the ferry, I am also very interested in creating another stop in Rockaway. While the ferry has maintained a strong ridership, this is a large peninsula. Creating a ferry stop between the center of the peninsula and Manhattan will increase ferry ridership and further address any concerns over small ridership. I have been working with the Economic Development Corporation and they have launched a study on the feasibility of extending the ferry.
I will not rest while these issues continue to plague my friends and neighbors. I know that the residents, community leaders, elected officials, and vacationers in Rockaway stand with me. I hope the rest of our city and the new administration will do the same.
Councilmember Donovan Richards represents the 31st District.