Since its departure in October 2014, Rockaway residents have been patiently awaiting the return of the Rockaway Ferry. The ferry was initially chartered to provide additional transportation options to residents in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, during which the A Train was unusable for six months. Departing from Beach 108th Street, the ferry shuttled passengers between the Rockaways and Wall Street in Manhattan, stopping at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in between. For the cost of a MetroCard, residents could regain some of the mobility they had lost during the storm.
Fast forward three years and the ferry is receiving a warm welcome, but it’s current operation makes some residents question its true purpose. For people living in Far Rockaway, the ferry is simply not a viable commuting option. Riders in Far Rockway must come out of pocket to pay for the Q22 bus to meet the free shuttle bus at Beach 35th Street and, currently, the ferry does not accept transfers from the bus or subway. Additionally, the total transportation time, which is nearly two hours, makes the ferry an unrealistic alternative to the A Train for many residents. Given the city’s interest in improving transportation options for residents, the construction of an additional ferry landing site closer to Far Rockaway could provide a suitable alternative.
More so, after nearly two months of operations, it’s very clear that the ferry caters to beach going tourist, and western end Rockaway residents who work in Lower Manhattan. Outside of these niche groups, the ferry is only a watered-down version of what could have been. Many residents already have suggestions for how the current ferry line could be improved and make the trip worthwhile for eastern end residents. Tamera Jacobs, RYTF’s Director of Operations and Programs, remarks, “While the ferry is an enjoyable ride as compared to the A Train, it becomes a hassle for those who live in Far Rockaway. However, I think there’s a huge opportunity to improve access to higher education utilizing the current route. If there was a stop added near Kingsborough Community College, travel time to and from the campus would be cut in half, making a college degree more accessible for all Rockaway residents.” In Far Rockaway, where only a third of adults have college degrees, increased access to higher education could work to improve the lives of thousands of residents. Given that the college already has a marina, the idea of adding a stop isn’t too farfetched.
While the ferry is not a perfect solution to Rockaway’s transportation woes, many hope that this is only the beginning of increased transportation options for the Rockaway community and are looking forward to supporting the ferry system as it continues to grow. The Astoria ferry is expected to open later this summer and the Lower East Side and Soundview ferries are expected to open in 2018, signaling the completion of the NYC Ferry lines.