Residents of Rockaway are lucky. In the warmer months, our little peninsula becomes a coveted summer getaway. Our beautiful beaches make our home seem a little closer to paradise. In the wintertime, while our waters are cold, the views are outstanding and our Michelin Guide recommended restaurants make the chilly whether a bit more bearable. We’re as happy as the clams found off our shore… that is until we have to leave.
Transportation to, from, and within the Rockaways leaves much to be desired. Yet, there is hope on the horizon with the resurrection of the ferry route from the Rockaways to Manhattan, with stops in Brooklyn. The ferry route was initially implemented in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. The service was meant provide relief to those impacted by disrupted A train service. While officials claim the ferry service was always temporary stop gate measure, the impact it had on residents was undeniably positive and showed the necessity of additional transportation in the Rockaways. Currently, the MTA is in the process of restoring weekday ferry service to the Rockaway Peninsula and full service should be restored in 2017.
With the implementation of the permanent ferry route, the MTA will also provide free shuttle bus service to the ferry terminus at Beach 108th street. However, the shuttle will only service patrons west of Beach 67th street, effectively neglecting some of the peninsula’s most poverty stricken neighborhoods, such as Bayswater, Edgemere, and Far Rockaway. Officials claim that expanded shuttle service to the eastern end would make the commute time to Manhattan even longer than the A train’s. Local public transportation was suggested as an alternative to free shuttle bus service. However, there would be no subsidies or transfers to the ferry. Essentially, the poorest Rockaway residents would be charged twice for ferry service.
This response to the lack of shuttle service to points east of Beach 67th Street is especially disturbing given the demographics of our community. At 74%, Far Rockaway is disproportionately Black and Latino as compared to the rest of the Rockaway Peninsula. Additionally, more than half of its population is considered low or moderate income. On top of these statistics, 48% percent of Far Rockaway residents lack personal vehicles and 46% of workers rely on public transportation or their commutes. Of these daily commuters, 40% of them have commutes of over an hour. Asking these residents to come out of pocket for efficient transportation service is effectively a tax on the poor for being poor.
More so, the benefits of expanded service to residents on the eastern end of the peninsula are vast. Increased shuttle service would offer almost 50,000 people access to faster, one-seat service. That’s three times the amount served by the proposed shuttle route. Additionally, the shuttle service would increase the access to education and work opportunities to 33,000 people under 25 and 9,700 people over 65.
Far Rockaway residents are not asking for handouts, but we will demand equal access to public transportation .We will not be discriminated against because of the size of pay checks or the color of our skin. If you agree, sign the petition. Extend the Proposed Free Ferry Shuttle Bus to Serve the Eastern End of Rockaway!
This blog post originally appeared in The Wave Newspaper