By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has joined an effort by Brooklyn elected officials and transportation advocates to get a temporary ferry service established for R train riders who will be facing a transit nightmare once the Montague Street Tunnel closes for repairs and the train stops running between Brooklyn and Manhattan early next month.
In a letter to Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) President Thomas Prendergast, Quinn requested that the agency work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to bring a ferry service to the Brooklyn Army Terminal pier on First Avenue and 58th Street in Sunset Park and have the ferry service operate between that pier and a pier near Wall Street in Lower Manhattan for the duration of the tunnel repair project.
The Montague Street Tunnel, which provides the Brooklyn-Manhattan link for the R train, is scheduled to undergo extensive repairs due to damage from Superstorm Sandy, MTA officials recently announced. The tunnel is expected to be shut for 14 months, the officials stated. Manhattan-bound R trains will terminate at Court Street. In Manhattan, southbound R trains will terminate at Whitehall Street.
“Without a ferry service, R train riders in Brooklyn will be left scrambling for ways to get to and from work in Manhattan, according to Quinn.
“Denying New Yorkers the temporary ferry service that would alleviate the hardship facing Southern Brooklynites during the duration of a 14-month service outage on the R train is inexcusable,” wrote Quinn, a mayoral candidate.
Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook). Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) and Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), chairman of the council’s Waterfront Committee, co-signed the letter.
“While we understand that repair work on the Montague tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan is necessary due to the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, the MTA must provide Bay Ridge residents with real alternative service options. Simply being left to crowd onto other already-packed subway lines is insufficient and unfair,” Quinn wrote.
Gentile is pushing for FEMA to provide the funding for the temporary ferry service. Gentile said it makes sense to have FEMA foot the bill, since the agency is providing post-Sandy relief to the region and the tunnel damage was caused by the Oct. 29 superstorm.
There is a precedent for a ferry service that provides relief for passengers stranded by non-working train lines damaged by Sandy, Quinn wrote.
“When storm damage knocked out A train service in the Rockaways, a ferry service was quickly instituted to provide much-needed transit access to thousands of commuters. In fact, there’s been such a strong demand for this $2 boat ride, resulting in more than 90,000 passenger trips since its post-Sandy launch in November, that the Mayor announced this past week that he’s extending the service through Labor Day,” Quinn wrote.
“The MTA must take the lead in working with our federal, state, and city partners to ensure that a portion of the billions of dollars that have been allocated to our region in the wake of Sandy is used to bring ferry service to southern Brooklyn while the storm’s lingering effects are felt directly by thousands more commuters,” Quinn wrote.
MTA spokeswoman Deirdre Parker said the agency is willing to listen to any ideas on how to make life easier for riders during the repair project.
But Parker also indicated that the MTA is not planning to leave riders high and dry without transit alternatives. “The last four Brooklyn stops of the R train offer free transfers to 11 other subway lines heading into Manhattan, which are the fastest and most convenient alternate routes for our customers,” she told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in an email.
"We are working with elected officials and advocates to discuss other potential ways to address this vital and necessary closures, and will give full consideration to all their ideas,” Parker wrote.