By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
If not a subway train, how about a ferry?
In response to the news that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will close the Montague Street subway tunnel for Sandy-related repairs for 14 months starting this summer, forcing hundreds of thousands of R train riders to find alternative routes into Manhattan, Councilman Vincent Gentile is reaching out to the federal government for help.
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) is calling on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to subsidize a temporary ferry for southern Brooklyn residents in order to mitigate the impact of the tunnel closure.
After all, the tunnel is being closed because of Sandy, and FEMA is leading the federal government's effort to provide all available resources and support to local communities affected by the superstorm, Gentile said.
Under Gentile’s plan, FEMA would foot the bill for a ferry service that would run from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park to Wall Street. The ferry would make an additional stop at the East 35th Street pier.
The Montague tunnel, which accommodates the R train, has been damaged by corrosion caused by Sandy's floodwater, MTA officials recently announced. The damage can no longer be ignored and the tunnel must be repaired, officials said. MTA officials stated that repairing the tunnel will last 14 months and cost over $100 million.
“I understand these repairs need to be done but we need a realistic contingency plan with viable alternatives,” Gentile said. “Telling people to basically ‘allow for extra travel time’ for the next 14 months is an insult,” he said.
“That is why I am calling on FEMA to subsidize temporary ferry service from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park to Wall Street/Pier 11 and East 35th Street. A ferry from the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park would get commuters to Wall Street in 20 minutes,” Gentile said.
“It is hard enough as it is for residents of southern Brooklyn who travel to Manhattan each day via public transportation. Closing a main artery for over a year is just unacceptable,” Gentile said. “To say this will painfully impact people all along Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue corridor – who are already hurting from a lack of reliable public transit – would be the understatement of the year,” he said.
Gentile said that his request was not unprecedented. A temporary Seastreak ferry was provided for Rockaways residents who were stranded due to crippled A train service in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, he said.
FEMA officials did not return phone calls.