By David Brand
New York City has moved full steam ahead with a large-scale ferry expansion plan and Northeast Queens may be the system’s port of call.
On Monday, Councilmember Paul Vallone announced that he had received word from the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) that the EDC has included the Citi Field Marina in Willets Point and Fort Totten in Bayside in its Ferry Feasibility Study, which began earlier this fall.
“While the city has announced and established ferry service in other areas of the city, transportation deserts like Northeast Queens have been overlooked,” Vallone said. “I have advocated for a Willets Point Ferry and also supported studying Northeast Queens’ shoreline for other feasible locations due to the demand from local communities, economic opportunities and the lack of transportation alternatives.”
In 2014, Vallone, Councilmember Peter Koo and then-Councilmember Julissa Ferreras signed a letter to the EDC asking for the city to extend ferry service to Northeast Queens.
In August, Vallone, Koo and Councilmember Francisco Moya again called on the EDC to expand ferry service to Willets Point and Bayside.
“We will certainly consider all the feedback received along the Queens waterfront, including the locations outlined in your letter: Citi Field Marina and Fort Totten,” said EDC President James Patchett in a letter to Northeast Queens councilmembers. “We will do our due diligence through this study to determine sites that are most feasible based on ridership demand, ferry navigability, and route planning.”
In July, Moya said expanded ferry service would provide more access to northeast Queens.
“Just because you don’t live next to a train station, or can’t afford to, doesn’t mean you should be cut off from public transportation,” Moya said. “Extending the NYC Ferry service to Citi Field Park will give Queens residents more travel options, expand their radius for employment, medical care, education and leisure.”
The city’s Willets Point Redevelopment plan, first initiated in 2009 is billed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation as “a major engine for economic growth for New York City.” According to the project summary, the plan will “generate local employment and business opportunities and improve the overall quality of life for local residents.”
The redevelopment plan does not include reference to ferry service but was developed before the city began emphasizing — and funding — water travel as a vital feature of the transportation network.
Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Choe told the Eagle in July that his organization proposes a ferry stop in Flushing Creek, which divides Willets Point from densely populated Downtown Flushing.
Choe said the World’s Fair Marina, which is located along the Flushing Promenade and is separated from the rest of Willets Point by the Whitestone Expressway, could be another “fine site,” though he said it might not meet the EDC’s requirement that ferry docks be located in densely populated transit hubs.
“The existing transit system is over-capacity and ferry service would really be a boon to the population and for the small businesses in Downtown Flushing,” Choe told the Eagle.