A Ferry Warm Welcome

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That’s not a mirage you see floating upon Jamaica Bay. The ferry is back! After being taken away at the end of 2014, the ferry made its triumphant return to Rockaway on Monday as part of the new citywide service.

“Where else can you see so many smiling faces going to work at 5:30 in the morning?” Arverne resident Glenn DiResto said as he joined dozens of commuters, officials and news reporters on the first official trip to Pier 11 in Manhattan on Monday, May 1. The skyline views of Brooklyn and Manhattan were hindered by fog, but the smiles on board set the tone for the much-welcomed hour-long ride.

Some utilized the Beach 108th landing’s ticket machine to buy their first hard ticket at $2.75 each, but others utilized the new NYC Ferry App, where digital tickets can be purchased. The first boat, H201, was equipped with a full concession featuring snacks, beverages, tap beer ($6) and tap wine ($8), plus random items like sunscreen, coloring books, cameras and more. The boat also had one bathroom and will have WiFi in the future. Other boats reportedly did not have a full concession, but will eventually.

A total of 1,828 people rode the Rockaway route on day one. Many boarded bright and early on Monday for the novelty of the very first ride. Others who fought hard to see the ferry return, were celebrating the comeback. One decided it would be a good way to celebrate their birthday. Some out-of-towners stumbled across the boat and saw it as a good tourism option. And many were simply overjoyed for a quick, comfortable alternative to the A train as they made their way to work.

Joel Mirrer of Belle Harbor, who works in Midtown, was on board to test out the commute. “This is a lot easier than my usual drive to Brooklyn. I’m looking forward to riding it more, especially in the summer,” Mirrer said. Kimberly Brown of Far Rockaway took the new free shuttle service from Beach 44th Street to the ferry landing at Beach 108th Street. She was on her way to the first stop at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, where she works nearby. “It works — that should be the ferry motto. It’s very convenient,” Brown said. “It feels great to ride it again. I’ve been waiting for it to come back ever since they stopped it.” For Desiree Maple, of Far Rockaway, who was heading to work in Manhattan, the ferry ride is painless. “I usually have to take two trains to where my building is. For people with disabilities or knee issues, those subway steps are brutal. This is a painless ride.”

The ride to Sunset Park or the east side of Lower Manhattan may not work for many, but some have already found ways to make it work for them. Those that work closer to midtown can disembark the Rockaway ferry at Pier 11 and get a free transfer to the new East River service, which stops in Brooklyn, and then East 34th Street in Manhattan. Others may have to connect to the bus or subway once they’re in Manhattan, which comes with an additional fare. Others took advantage of paying an extra dollar to bring their own bike on board the boat, which is equipped with bike racks. Citi Bikes are also available to rent at the Pier. Some plumbers that were on board for the first ride, had an extra mile to go to their worksite once they reached Pier 11, but they found their own unique way to make the connection. “I’m taking an electric scooter,” union plumber Robert Shaw, of Rockaway Park said, as he pointed to the folded device under his seat on the boat. “I’m glad they added the 5:30 a.m. trip, since we have to be at work by 7 a.m. This is just a quicker ride to Manhattan. Today is a trial and hopefully it works for us. I was on the first ferry after Superstorm Sandy and I’m on the first ferry back today. This is very exciting,” Shaw said. Coworker Mike Lobodi chimed in saying, “This is 100 percent better than dealing with all the stops and problems on the train. We get to bypass that all now. This is almost like door-to-door for us.”

Others who fought to bring the ferry back, were on board to check out the fruits of their labor. Laura Deckelman, who rode the previous ferry every day to take photos and promote the ride, was on board with her camera. Longtime ferry activist Joe Hartigan was also enjoying the ride. “This is great. The mayor kept his word and we were the first route back. What I’m really happy to see is that at least half of the people on the boat are actually going to work. I’m glad we pushed for the 5:30 a.m. start. I’m happy to see people from all parts of the peninsula, and to know that people even used the shuttle bus. This is all good!” Hartigan said. Marty Ingram of the Community Board 14’s Transportation Committee was also on board. “We worked hard to get this going and we’re happy to see this happen. It’s definitely uplifting for the whole community and it has given us another dimension to transportation in a transportation desert. We’re happy to see the mayor deliver on his promise, and deliver it early. To witness this is really cool,” Ingram said.

Margie Henderson, of Breezy Point, took the first ride to celebrate her 80th birthday. “I just wanted to be the first one. It’s something I really wanted to do for my birthday. I’m very grateful and happy for the young people that will have this nice way to commute to Manhattan. This is truly a gift,” she said.

While the morning rides went off without a hitch, there was some trouble on the rush hour return trips. According to commuters, dozens were left behind at Pier 11 for both the 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. trips as the boats were overcrowded. Ferry officials responded, saying, “Because the cost is lower than previous ferry fares ($2.75 as opposed to $4 -$6) and there is an increase in excitement surrounding NYC Ferry, rider turnout has been higher than expected, so boats filled to capacity.” NYC Ferry is very receptive to input and offered to provide an extra boat for the next rush hour shift if the issue continued, but by day two, the evening boats were not at capacity. Those who have concerns can contact them at www.ferry.nyc/contact.

Photos by Katie McFadden and Kami Leigh-Agard

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