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New NYC Ferry Service Connects Tourists with Vibrant Local Beach

By Matt Villano

May 4, 2017

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A surfer on Rockaway Beach

Photo by Roman Iakoubtchik /Flickr

A surfer on Rockaway Beach

The Rockaways were once a long, long subway ride away. Not anymore

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New York City’s new ferry service between Lower Manhattan and a string of remote beachfront neighborhoods in Queens is designed to ease life for commuters—but the new route provides a great opportunity for travelers, too.

The “Rockaway” route, as it’s called, debuted earlier this week and speeds passengers by boat between the bottom of Manhattan to the city’s most famous beaches in less than an hour. The ferries also stop in Brooklyn, at the Brooklyn Army Terminal in the Sunset Park neighborhood. The fare: $2.75 one way, which is the same as the subway.

According to the New York Times, the new ferries are operated by NYC Ferry, a city-funded outfit operated by Hornblower. The vessels serve a series of small communities on the Rockaway peninsula and offer a faster alternative to subway service (on the A line) that can take 90 minutes or more. 

Other reasons to consider taking the ferry instead of the train: The motor vessels have Wi-Fi, bathrooms, bike racks, and snack bars stocked with beer and wine.  (Also, the ferry zips past Governors Island and through New York Harbor, which always is a treat.) 

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The communities that comprise the Rockaways certainly are worth a visit. Water-sport lovers hail the sliver of land as the best surf spot (yes, really!) in the city. The beachfront community also boasts a 5.5-mile boardwalk, similar to the one in Atlantic City. And the peninsula is home to Fort Tilden, a former U.S. Army Installation, and Jacob Riis Park, with its famous art deco bathhouse. Both are administered by the National Park Service.

Technically, the new ferries mark the first time that the Rockaways have had permanent public transportation by boat. The city rolled out temporary ferry service to this neighborhood following the destruction by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, but those ships stopped in 2014, once roadways and subway lines serving the area were restored to pre-storm conditions.

The Rockaway route is one of six new ferry routes the city will launch in the next few years to serve its outer boroughs. Earlier this year, the city expanded and upgraded service along the East River among East 34th Street, western Brooklyn, and Wall Street.

Four remaining routes will come online in the next 16 months. By June 1st, NYC Ferry hopes to introduce a ferry serving South Brooklyn and, by August, another ferry serving Astoria (in the northern part of Queens). Next summer the city expects to start ferry service to Soundview (in the Bronx) and between Long Island City (in Queens) and Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

All told, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio has committed more than $330 million to new ferry service over the next few years.

>>Next: Why North Fork, Long Island, Is the Coastal Escape You Need

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