At 5 a.m. on Monday morning, people line up at the Beach 108 Street terminal to pay for first run of the Rockaway Commuter Ferry service.
Rockaway resident Jim McHugh was the first to buy a ticket for the new ferry service.
The first ferry, the “Urban Journey.” docks in Rockaway, ready for the first run to Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Queens Clerk Audrey Pheffer (right) and her daughter, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, board the board at 5:30 a.m. on Monday morning.
James Patchett, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, made the early run.
Rob Schwach (right) the local representative for City Councilman Eric Ulrich, speaks with Justin, a deckhand who lives in Breezy Point.
Marty Ingram (in baseball cap), the co-chair for the CB 14 transportation committee, sits in the spacious downstairs cabin.
The ferryboat returns to the Beach 108 Street terminal dock.
At 7:30 a.m., the boat pulled out for the third run of the morning with 130 passengers and four crew aboard.
History will little note that the first ticket for the nascent Rockaway commuter ferry service that started early Monday morning was purchased shortly after 5 a.m. by Rockaway resident Jim McHugh.
Many followed his lead, and by the time the ferryboat “Urban Legend,” left its Beach 108 Street terminal at 5:30 a.m., there were 121 passengers – including more than a dozen media representatives – and four crew members aboard.
The 57-minute trip was the culmination of years of work by dedicated local residents and electeds, many of whom were along for the ride on the drizzly, chilly morning.
“This is a new life for Rockaway,” said Community Board 14 Chair Dolores Orr. “Many of us did not believe that this day would come, but here we are on our way to Manhattan on our new commuter ferry.”
James Patchett, the president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which is running the NYC Ferry Program, was on board for the maiden voyage.
He looked around the crowded ferryboat.
“What stands out in my mind is the level of enthusiasm,” he told onrockaway.com. “Everybody here is excited that this is finally happening, that they now have more than the A-Train and buses as transportation alternatives.”
Justin, a Breezy Point resident and deckhand on the “Urban Legend,” is a graduate of SUNY Maritime College. His job is to handle both lines and tickets. He even does his time monitoring the engine room.
He sees the service as a great thing for Rockaway residents.
“A nice comfortable ride in less than an hour from Rockaway to Manhattan is what the peninsula has needed for a long time,” he said.
The man who many call “Mr. Rockaway Ferry,” — Joe Hartigan, was on board.
For years, Hartigan pursued a commuter ferry for Rockaway at any meeting that would hear him – often a lonely quest – and on Monday morning he was beaming from ear to ear as he received congratulations from many of those aboard.
“I’m happy that the mayor kept his word,” Hartigan said. “We have to give him his due and thank him for the service. Now, it’s up to Rockaway residents to use the ferry and show that it really is needed and profitable.”
“And, Rockaway it first, not last as it usually does,” Hartigan added.
The ferry travels at about 25 miles per hour and the ride sometimes gets a little rough when the specially-built catamaran runs into the open ocean for about ten or fifteen minutes, but otherwise, the ride is smooth and calm. Riders can sit either inside for inclement weather or on the upper deck when the weather is nice.
There is a snack bar, with both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks available, although there was no beer in sight during the 5:30 a.m. run.
Marty Ingram is the vice-chair for CB 14’s transportation committee. Sitting in a comfortable seat on the bottom deck, Ingram said, “This is terrific, and I’m glad that it has finally come to fruition. There was a groundswell in Rockaway for this service and lots of local and elected worked hard to make it a reality.”
Riders can get free transfers to the East River ferries that dock a short walk from Pier 11, where the Rockaway ferry comes into Manhattan.
When the ferry pulled back into the Rockaway terminal at 7:30 a.m., there were 130 people waiting to board. The boat seats 149 passengers.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, sat with her mom, Queens Clerk Audrey Pheffer and State Senator Joe Addabbo and representative of other politicians, including City Councilman Eric Ulrich.
“I am beyond thrilled,” she said as she looked out at the crowd waiting to board the boat. “This is just what Rockaway needs.”
A single ride costs $2.75, but there are discounts for a monthly pass and even deeper discounts for seniors who purchase the monthly pass. In addition, parking at the Beach 108 Street site costs $8, but there are monthly discounts as well. Free shuttle buses are available throughout the west end and to Beach 35 Street on the eastern end of the peninsula. See the ferry website for information.
Channel 4 News sent a producer on a subway ride from Rockaway, starting at the Beach 116 Street station. It took the producer 62 minutes to get to the Fulton Street station, the closest station to Pier 11. It took the ferry 58 minutes, a four-minute difference. Riders of the ferry would tell you, however, that they had a lot more fun and that the ferry ride was much more comfortable that being underground for nearly an hour.