By Abbott Koloff The Record
Relatives of 9/11 victims, concerned about rumors that a free state-run ferry to Manhattan for the anniversary of the terrorist attacks had been canceled, were told Thursday that the complimentary service will be available this year as it has for the past decade.
State officials said the free ferry service between Liberty State Park in Jersey City and Manhattan had never been canceled, as some people believed after reading posts to an online forum for 9/11 victims that said it was not going to be offered. As Governor Christie delivered the keynote speech at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, 9/11 relatives were being asked to write him to ask that the service be restored.
“I don’t know how that got out,” said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the state Attorney General’s Office. “The governor never cut the service.”
Thomas Meehan of Toms River, whose daughter Colleen, 26, a product manager for Cantor Fitzgerald, was killed in the 9/11 attacks, said he was told on Monday by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office that the service was not being offered. He wrote a letter asking Christie and other state officials to restore the service. That letter was posted in an online forum run by a Little Falls resident, Arnold Korotkin.
A spokeswoman for the Bloomberg’s office, Evelyn Erskine, said she could not comment on what victims were told about the ferry service. But she said the mayor’s office was notified for the first time on Thursday that it was being offered and that workers were calling family members who had requested the service to let them know about it.
Loriquet confirmed that state officials notified the mayor’s office on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, Loriquet said, state officials sent a notice to Korotkin to post on his forum: “The State of New Jersey, at the direction of Governor Christie, is pleased to offer ferry service, free of charge, to New York City’s Commemorative Ceremony on Tuesday, September 11, 2012…” it said.
Loriquet said the ferry service is donated by Seastreak Ferry, a company that runs a ferry service between Sandy Hook and Manhattan. He said the state provides state police officers to accompany riders. Letters were sent Wednesday or Thursday to inform family members that the service was available, he said. He said those notices typically are sent out toward the end of August.
Meehan, 69, said he usually receives the notice in mid-August. He said he plans to use the service to get to Ground Zero with his wife, JoAnn, who has been selected to read victims’ names during this year’s ceremony.
“I’m just happy they restored the service,” he said Thursday. “I’m not out to criticize anybody.”
Loriquet said the number of people using the ferry has dropped to between 80 and 100 after about 1,800 used it on the first anniversary of the attacks in 2002. Officials with Seastreak, the company that operates the ferry, did not respond to messages on Thursday.
The ferry will take 9/11 families back and forth between Liberty State Park and Manhattan on September 11 for the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It will leave Liberty State Parkat 6:45am and return a half hour after the end of the 9/11 ceremony.
Riders are asked to register in advance. More information is available from the state Victims of Crime Compensation Office at 973-648-7948.